DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 19: Coach Jeff Bzdelik of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons looks up at the scoreboard during a loss to the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 19, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Ed. Note: This is another take in our series projecting and detailing the future of Wake Forest basketball.
I read Robert Reinhard's satire "Wake Will Rise Again" with great amusement and delight. Finally, I thought, someone has spoofed Gold Rush and all its blind fan boy adulation! (I have nothing against Gold Rush, by the way. I'm a fan, and it serves its purpose. But to expect anything resembling loyal dissent in its pages is akin to expecting an editorial in The Daily Worker extolling the virtues of free market capitalism. Not. Gonna. Happen. I digress, however.)
Imagine my shock, then, to learn that Reinhard's piece was neither satire nor a spoof - but honest to Allah earnestness! To quote Colonel Kurtz, "The horror! The horror!"
Continued after the jump...
As pleased as I am to see Coach Bzdelik finally doing some fan outreach with the Screamin' Deacons (better late than never, I guess), I'm a little appalled Reinhard was so easily won over by one dinner. Don't be a tramp, Robby, make them earn it before you give it up. Three dates, minimum.
But enough with the non-sequiturs. As I've written for Blogger So Dear before, I do not believe Bzdelik is the answer to the riddle that is Wake Forest basketball. Let's break down (and collectively shake our heads at) Reinhard's dinner date with Bzdelik, point-by-point:
1) He [Bzdelik] wants to develop a junior-senior led team that competes for championships.
That reads and briefs well, even though it flies in the face of conventional wisdom of what it takes to win big in NCAA basketball today. (RECRUIT. TALENT.) But to get players that are juniors and seniors, you have to keep them as freshmen and sophomores -- not turn your program into a revolving door for transfers. On the other hand, keeping that revolving door revolving allows for the "We're Young!" excuse to be as persistent as an evergreen. So, there's that.
2) [Bzdelik aims to ] represent Wake Forest the right way. He will not sacrifice the values of the university, nor should he.
Oh for the love of Bones McKinney, not this straw man again. Until Premier Wellman or Bzdelik answers definitively what was wrong with Wake Forest's culture a couple years ago, rather than make passive-aggressive allusions to it like gossiping middle schoolers, I won't take this line of argument seriously. STOP. BLAMING. OTHERS. Also, stop cussing out opposing fans. Pretty sure that's not in the "Wake Forest: Be a Nice Guy and Do the Swell Thing!" handbook.
3) Indiana Hoosier comparisons.
If nothing else, this convinced me that Bzdelik knows he's on the hot seat. He's got to be if he's willing to compare himself to Tom Crean, and compare Wake Forest to Indiana. Listen, I love the Deacs and we have a proud basketball history. Indiana, we are not. And Bzdelik is not Crean.
This analogizing to Indiana's rebirth as a program needs to go the way of the dodo. Crean had a track record of success before taking over Indiana. (See: going to the f***ing Final Four.) Tangible proof that he could get it done. Bzdelik has a track record of mediocrity. Just the facts -- the next time he wins one NCAA Tournament game will be the first time.
Further, not to get ageist or anything, but my grandfather (a career Naval officer) had been retired for 16 years when he was Bzdelik's age. Forgive me for not sharing Reinhard's hope for Bzdelik's yet untapped greatness.
4) It's not inconceivable to [think Wake will] be competing for championships in the very near future.
Umm ... based off of what, exactly? If it's not inconceivable, it's certainly not conceivable. We've won a total of five conference games over two years, all against ACC bottom feeders. A quarter of our scholarship players just transferred, and it took Demon Deacon demigod Randolph Childress and all his muchos cajones to talk our best player into not joining the exodus.
Hope is not a method. Neither is praying Codi Miller-McIntrye is the second coming of CP3. (Two deity references in one paragraph! Let's move on.)
5) "Jeff Bzdelik will lead this program back to greatness."
"His humility and willingness to learn and ask questions will be integral in the turnaround process."
Opinion. And facepalm-inducing.
"He has put the correct pieces in place."
To be determined.
"The players who are on the team now want to be there."
Until they transfer. Then they'll become "bad apples."
"Wake Forest is quietly acquiring a lot of depth and talent."
As we've always done.
"We'll now have the versatility to play a beautiful brand of basketball."
Will it win? That's what matters.
Okay, momentary serious-face time: I don't begrudge Reinhard or fans like him for maintaining some optimism right now. (Well, I don't begrudge them too much.) It's what dutiful fans are supposed to do. But blind homerism that relies solely on gut instinct and hope can often be just as destructive to a program as loud, vitriolic dissent. The lemmings to the sea adage and such. Bzdelik has been given a prestigious role at my alma mater, and is being paid a lot of money in the process, to succeed -- and succeed the right way. Notice the order those words come in.
If Reinhard is correct in saying it's time "to get on the bandwagon now," I'll gladly eat crow in this theoretical, nebulous future. But I'm not holding my breath until then. Also, since free advice is being handed out like Pez on Blogger So Dear right now, my advice for Reinhard is to develop a cynical bone that appreciates the nuances of loyal dissent. It's an important thing to have, both as a writer and as a fan. My sincerest apologies if that sounds condescending or flippant -- it's really not my intention -- though I stand by it.
Like Hemingway said, "The most essential gift for a writer is a built-in, shock-proof, bullshit detector."
In the meantime -- yo, Wake Forest Athletic Department! I'm always up for a free meal! Have your people call my people! I'd like to ask Bzdelik about why he left Air Force the way he (reportedly) did.
Matt Gallagher is Senior Fellow at the nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the author of the war memoir Kaboom. He is currently an MFA candidate at Columbia University.