Ed. Note: This is a guest post from Matt Gallagher. Matt is a Wake Forest graduate and author of Kaboom: Embracing The Suck In A Savage Little War, and recently was featured on The Classical with his article "A Ghost on Tobacco Road," about Skip Prosser. He is currently an MFA candidate at Columbia University.
In about a month, Dino Gaudio won't have been Wake Forest's basketball coach for a full two years. That's 24 months, 730 days and 8,090 Coach K F-bombs ago. Yet here we are in the spring of 2012, still dealing with "culture change" talk from his replacement, Jeff Bzdelik, and Wake's Athletic Director, Ron Wellman (better known as the new spokesman for the "Oh, Heavens Yes!" Doublespeak Machine -- coming to stores near you soon, overpriced and complete with shameless corporate sponsorship).
This needs to end, and end now.
Whether a culture change was needed is beside the point; there's plenty of evidence for and against. That's for the Monopoly Men of Mother So Dear that get buildings named after them to decide. It's a matter of respect, and for a school and program that takes pride in the higher road, it's about damn time for us to start walking that road, too.
Continued after the jump...
Let's start with Bzdelik. His ineptitude with the media and fan base is well chronicled -- and though it's taking great restraint to do this, I'll refrain from beating that figurative dead horse. But since he's so fond of spouting military banalities and paying homage to the troops (like his Air Force cadets that he abandoned as passive-aggressively as possible ... oops, I already failed!), I'll share some super secret squirrel knowledge I learned on Day One of the Army: DON'T TALK SMACK ABOUT THE GUY YOU REPLACED.
Was the guy you replaced a fat body that couldn't run two miles? DON'T TALK SMACK. Was the guy you replaced a walking clown car that couldn't even tie his boots, let alone qualify on the rifle range? DON'T TALK SMACK. Was the guy you replaced a gung-ho chimpanzee that waxed eloquent about Ranger School like it was more trying than the Battle of the Bulge? DON'T. TALK. SMACK.
Why not? Because it hurts the whole institution, that's why. You may very well prove a better leader and officer than the man you replaced, but that's not for you to decide. If you didn't like how the platoon operated when you take control, you change it -- quietly and professionally. You respect your predecessor because you respect the position. You keep your mouth shut. If the men want to talk smack and build you up in the process, sure, let it happen and smile about it. But keep your mouth shut.
Got that, Bzzz? Stop with the culture change references. We get it, you don't like tattoos and thought some of Dino's players were selfish and unwilling to play team ball. But you're the coach now. Hold yourself accountable for your team's performances and stop passive-aggressively blaming a guy that was fired in 2010 for YOUR team's current shortcomings. I work in midtown New York now, same lessons apply here in an office environment that I learned in the Army. DON'T TALK SMACK. Try applying them down there in your swanky on-campus office, mmmmkay, and stop acting like cashing a million dollar paycheck to coach a child's game is the most straining job on Planet Earth.
Which brings me to Premier Wellman.
It boggles the mind how convoluted Wellman's thinking has been throughout this process - a black hole of condescending Doublespeak and backwards logic. First, he referenced Dino's postseason failures as justification for firing him, then he hired a coach that had never won a NCAA Tournament game, ever. (Still hasn't.) Then, "culture change" became a staple in every Wellman/Bzdelik interview and a dog-ear in every media member's press packet.
Now it's become a joke and a caricature of itself, a phrase the fan base uses to represent our bold new LOWF vision. Socks! Culture Change! And Perpetual Mediocrity!
Wellman's the one that hired Dino, first as acting head coach, then as the full-time coach. And THEN he gave him an extension. Before Dino, he hired Skip Prosser, whose style, play and program Dino was trying to emulate, to a pretty significant degree. It seems like Wellman's need for culture change would start with him, wouldn't it? Self-loathing Freudian slips, FTW.
If Wellman doesn't want to show respect for the very program he oversees, he should at least respect the dead and stop talking about culture change. While Skip's program and culture and Dino's program and culture were certainly different, they're also certainly forever linked. A Venn Diagram if you will, and an awesome one at that, filled with wonderful memories and exciting games, even if we never got over the hump and into the Final Four.
When I was at Wake some moons ago, there was a sentiment in parts of the Athletic Department that Wake students and alumni were spoiled and entitled, and didn't "get it." (What's ‘it?' A moving definition, perfect for any topic and subject. Convenient, I know.) Perhaps related, perhaps not, very few Wake alumni were employed by the AD. Is that still the case? I'm not sure, though someone in the Dash probably does. But I do think it might explain the communications gap clearly occurring right now between the AD and basketball program with the fan base and alumni.
Maybe we are spoiled and entitled. Tim Duncan and Chris Paul will have that effect. Or maybe we just have higher expectations than being swell, nice guys that is every other fan's second favorite team. We want to win and win the right way. But winning the right way still implies winning.
I wrote a piece for The Classical last week about Skip's looming presence over Wake. That's not going to change for a long time, no matter how many "culture change!" references are made or how many favors are called in for favorable stories. So sincerely, Wellman, Bzdelik and anyone else who's used the phrase "culture change" unironically over the past two years -- please stop. Respect the institution, respect the position, respect yourselves -- and stop.
Want a new Wake Forest? Stop talking smack about the old one. Otherwise, you'll just continue to inflame those of us that cherished the old one, culture and all.