As we head into what appears to be perhaps the final week of the search for a new coach, it's time to cut Ron Wellman some serious slack. I have no doubt that Wake is about to hire an outstanding coach. That will be to Wellman's credit. The dark past four years are coming to a close. Those were not Wellman's fault.
I've been a university VP for 26 years, supervised a varsity athletic department for almost 20, and been a Deacon hoops fan for over 40. I can tell you, with almost total certainty, that the decision on Dino was not Wellman's alone, if in fact it was his at all. Any such decision involves or comes down from the university president. When the young woman who was sexually assaulted by members of Dino's program went on Good Morning America with her mother to tell why she had to leave WFU after the assault, that and the roster containing thuggish players with little or no interest in academics told us all we needed to know about the last coaching change. If it was President Hatch's call, he made the right call - he's charged with protecting the well-being of a university, not a basketball program. If it was Wellman's call, it came with the strong support of the President, which is not essentially much different from being the President's call.
Admittedly, the hire of Bz was an airball. But how many good coaching candidates would be interested in the job after a successful coach was let go and job one for the new coach was to run off some of his top players? There can be no doubt that Bz was hired to be the new Sheriff in town - hence the euphemisms of "culture change" and assertions of support for the "direction in which the program is headed." Any coach hired in such a scenario would have to be given at least a four-year hold-harmless guarantee - two years to de-thug and decimate the roster he inherited, and two more to build back his own roster. And that brings us to our current situation.
During what must have been the most difficult four years of his career, Wellman claimed the entire burden of the Dino and Bz decisions as his own, though they couldn't have possibly been that cut-and-dried. He never once allowed the controversy to impact the President's Office. That was not only professional, but heroic. Wellman is one of the most respected and admired ADs in the country, as evidenced by his role on this year's Tournament Selection Committee. If he was no longer at Wake, the offers from top-tier programs across the country to hire him away would be immediate.
The new coach may or may not be a name with which we're highly familiar, but we'll get a coach this time who'll be the right coach for a program such as Wake's. One reason is that that coach will inherit an outstanding junior class that will still be around as seniors when he adds his first recruiting class to the roster. There's nowhere for the program to go but up, and the new coach will get the credit. He'll also get a very generous contract. But a second reason will be the contacts and reputation of Ron Wellman. It's tough to be the fall guy for a problem that you didn't create. Wellman has done it, and done it gracefully. We're about to reap the benefits of that sacrifice.