After four years as the head coach of the Wake Forest men’s basketball program, Jeff Bzdelik resigned on Thursday, March 20. Athletic director Ron Wellman announced the resignation at a press conference, confirming rumors that had been circulating for several weeks. Compiling a 51-76 overall record, going 17-51 in Atlantic Coast Conference play with only two road wins, Bzdelik decided to resign because "there needed to be new energy and leadership to allow these players to achieve their full potential," and keep the program moving forward.
Despite a disappointing record over the past four years, the basketball program is on the right path, according to Wellman. The team grade point average is the highest in the 25 years that the statistic has been kept, and both Wellman and Bzdelik are proud with the way that the players have conducted themselves both on and off the court. Wellman acknowledged that he wished the Joel would have had a better atmosphere at times but believed that when the team was playing well, that the fans were doing an excellent job of supporting the Demon Deacons.
When pressed about potential new hires, Wellman stated that there was no timeline in place as a number of possible candidates are currently coaching. With no interim coach appointed, Wellman, along with President Nathan O. Hatch and others will conduct the search without the help of an independent search firm as of now. The one major qualification Wellman is looking for in a new head coach is simple – he wants a winner – and not just someone who will win a press conference and garner public support, but someone who will win games. "We will be looking for a winner, and we are open to everything right now," said Wellman. "Obviously we have a list and whether anyone on that short list emerges as our next basketball coach remains to be seen. I'm not looking for someone who runs a particular style of offense or defense, that's not important. I'm not looking for any one style of play as much as I am the person, his track record and whether we can project that individual to be a winner."
Wellman made it clear that despite the hire, whoever will next fill the role of head coach will be subject to the same high standards of Wake Forest culture. "We are going to win the right way," said Wellman. "We are not going to take shortcuts. We are not going to put the university in jeopardy from a compliance standpoint. All of our coaches recognize that a priority in our program is abiding by rules and regulations, and our new coach will be no exception. They will win the right way and represent the university in a manner that this university deserves."
Assistant coaches Rusty LaRue, Randolph Childress and Jeff Battle are all still under contract as of Thursday, but will be free to pursue other opportunities, according to Wellman. The decision on retaining assistant coaches for the remainder of their contracts will be left up to the incoming head coach. However, Wellman did state that there is potential to hire an assistant coach for the position, either internally or from another university. Additionally, any decisions regarding releasing an incoming player from his letter of intent will be made after the hiring of the new coach.
With two post season press conferences having been held this year for both football and basketball, Wellman believes that this turnover will lead to better things for Wake Forest athletics. "We have an absolutely fabulous future," said Wellman. "When you look at Dave Clawson, he is doing a really great job in all aspects of our program, and I believe we will be able to say the same thing about our future basketball coach. When you look at the facilities and the improvements that we are looking at in terms of the sports performance center and a number of other facilities, I think this is going to be as attractive of a position as you can possibly imagine.
"I am as excited about our future as I have ever been, and I think this is a good time for Wake Forest athletics.