Manning Up

I just have to rant. Let's say Manning ends up being the next coach of WFU hoops. Here are some of his basketball accomplishments:

As a player: 1988 NCAA champion, 1988 national player of the year, 1988 number 1 overall NBA draft pick, 2x NBA all star, 15 year NBA veteran.

As a member of the Kansas coaching staff: 9 years under Bill Self when the team went 269-53, 2008 NCAA champion.

As a head coach: took Tulsa to the NCAAT in his second year (the first time since 2003). Won both the C-USA regular season and tournament championships. Named C-USA coach of the year. Finalist for the Jim Phelan Coach of the Year award. Yes, he only has 2 years as a head coach. That's a tiny sample. But at least in that tiny sample his team (which by the way was stocked freshman/sophomores, if that rings any excuse bells) has done better each year and he's been recognized by his peers. And yes, they don't really have wins against impressive teams and they have losses against unimpressive teams. But, context is everything. This is a C-USA team with C-USA recruits, so going 13-3 and winning the conference is important. To win the conference, they beat LA Tech in the finals. That doesn't mean much to us, but LA Tech narrowly lost to FSU in the quarterfinals of the NIT and ended up ranked 34th by KenPom. Also, if a school like Tulsa is considering spending $1M to try to keep their second year basketball coach, as has been reported (or rumored?), that should tell you something.

And yet so many of us are mad that we didn't get a bigger name. I get it; we were given the impression (although let's be honest, not by RW) that this was going to be a pretty universally-approved "home run" hire. The search (even assuming it didn't start until after the resignation) has taken two weeks, and we've heard nothing of verifiable substance. You can assume RW & Co. haven't bothered to ask any of the big names. I know some of you probably think so little of him that it's possible. I think, particularly with his legacy potentially on the line, RW spent this time reaching out to all the big names, unless something came up in the vetting process that eliminated anyone. The sad fact is that we apparently couldn't seal the deal with any of the so-called "top tier" guys. If you want to make that an indictment of RW, by all means. Just note that VT got Williams the day after our resignation (so the talks had surely been going on prior to our opening), and that almost everyone at that point was hollering that we needed to do whatever possible to get Shaka (or Marshall, or Howland, or whoever you fancy). In hindsight it's easy to say we should have snatched Williams, but that's the thing about hindsight. If we grabbed him, plenty of people would probably be complaining about how we didn't even bother trying to get Shaka/etc.

Also note that the opening Williams created was filled by Wojo, who is not only a filthy Dooky but also has never handled head coaching duties aside from the occasional podium fill-in. Marquette was able to pay Williams $2.8M in base salary and they ended up having to hire an assistant coach to replace him. Maybe the big names this year were just waiting for even bigger openings.

This brings up another point. All else being equal (which of course it isn't), I'd much rather hire someone who is excited to come coach at Wake than spend days trying to get the price high enough for someone else to begrudgingly come be our coach. Wake is awesome. We're a great school with a great community and until very recently a tradition of great basketball in what is or will be the greatest basketball conference in the country. If a few million bucks doesn't make a coach jump at the chance, I'm not sure I want that coach representing us.

My point is this. If Manning ends up being our coach, let's try to give the guy a fair shake. He honestly has a great resume, it's just that the head coaching section of it is short. What's there is good, but it's short. Let's embrace him as a good player, a good assistant (under a great coach), and by all appearances so far a good coach. And if he's excited to come to Wake Forest, I'm excited to have him.

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