Wake Forest Sports Under Ron Wellman: Part VII - Men's Basketball

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the much delayed anticipated seventh installment of my series looking at Wake Forest athletics under current athletic director Ron Wellman! This week, we're looking at the sport that - in my opinion - rates as the most-discussed and most-cared-about sport in the Wake portfolio: men's basketball.

As a quick refresher, this series is looking at the past 21 academic years (for men's basketball, this is from the 1993-94 season onward) due to Wellman coming aboard in October 1992. The results from each season are measured against a baseline established by the performance of the previous decade (1983-84 through 1992-93), from which the state of program prior to Wellman's arrival can be established.

***** Index *****

Part I - Football

Part II - Volleyball

Part III - Men's Soccer

Part IV - Women's Soccer

Part V - Men's and Women's Cross Country

Part VI - Field Hockey

***** Program Overview *****

Before I get into the program overview proper, I want to play a game. Specifically, I want to do a blind poll based on some simple stats to determine who are the best and worst coaches in Wake Forest men's basketball history. I am not providing context for any of these resumes, just the numbers.

I want you to rank the five candidates that I feel can be placed in the discussion for best coach and the three candidates that I feel can be considered in the discussion or worst coach. In your comment, just rank them 1) - 5) with 1) being your choice for best and 1) - 3) with 1) being your pick for worst.

I ask that you not reveal the names of the candidates if you can identify them via their resume; I will put a comment with the identities in spoiler tags if you're curious. Please do not look at the identities before voting.

Best Coaching Candidates

Coach A: .645 overall winning percentage (.537 in conference), +3.839 wins against expected per season (+3.194 in conference)

Coach B: .565 overall winning percentage (.616 in conference), +1.183 wins against expected per season (+3.958 in conference)

Coach C: .663 overall winning percentage (.563 in conference), +4.356 wins against expected per season (+3.667 in conference)

Coach D: .541 overall winning percentage (.611 in conference), +0.471 wins against expected per season (+3.75 in conference)

Coach E: .649 overall winning percentage (.542 in conference), +4.154 wins against expected per season (+3.333 in conference)

Worst Coaching Candidates

Coach X: .395 overall winning percentage (.143 in conference), -3.599 wins against expected per season (-2.667 in conference)

Coach Y: .308 overall winning percentage (.286 in conference), -5.546 wins against expected per season (-0.667 in conference)

Coach Z: .402 overall winning percentage (.250 in conference), -3.792 wins against expected per season (-1.417 in conference)

***** Program Overview (For Reals This Time) *****

Wake Forest men's basketball has a long and storied tradition... of getting the snot kicked out of it by its bigger brothers down the road. While the statistics aren't quite as extreme as some of the other sports I've reviewed lately, North Carolina and Duke are definitely on the short list of perennial college basketball powers, having combined for 9 national titles and 37 Final Four appearances. By comparison, NC State lags behind with a measly 2 national titles and 3 Final Four appearances.

And Wake? Wake has only one Final Four appearance, which occurred way back in the 1961-62 season. Still, despite the lack of March pedigree, Wake has been a feisty little brother at times, springing some remarkable upsets over the years against its hated in-state foes.

Now, this is not to say that Wake men's basketball has not had some immensely talented teams. The Deacs have been ranked #1 in the country at two different points in the past 10 seasons and has been nationally ranked at some point in 23 of the past 40 seasons.

The Deacs have had 7 different players named ACC Player of the Year (Dickie Hemric, Len Chappell, Charlie Davis, Rod Griffin, Rodney Rogers, Tim Duncan, and Josh Howard, with Hemric, Chappell, and Duncan winning twice); the 10 awards is third among ACC schools behind Duke and UNC.

Any longstanding Wake fan can recite the four ACC Tournament championship years (1960-61, 1961-62, 1994-95, 1995-96), and most can tell you that the Deacs won ACC regular season titles in 1959-60, 1961-62, 1994-95, and 2002-03. Wake's four Tournament titles rank fourth in ACC history (behind the other North Carolina schools), while the four regular season titles rank sixth (behind the other North Carolina schools, Virginia, and Maryland).

The Wake trophy case is not empty by any means.

As far as the history of the program: Wake has been on-and-off since the founding of the ACC, but in more recent times there have been decidedly more "on" years than not. After taking over for the beleaguered Bob Staak prior to the 1989-90 season, Dave Odom built the program into a frequent NCAA Tournament participant (helped in no small part by the rapid succession of Rodney Rogers, Randolph Childress, and Tim Duncan through the program). After a few years of diminishing results, Odom was run out of town left for South Carolina, to be replaced by Skip Prosser. Prosser followed Odom's general track record, with a strong first four seasons followed by a pair of down seasons. However, Prosser had not worn out his welcome despite the poor results in years 5 and 6.

On July 26, 2007, Prosser died of a heart attack (becoming the second prominent Wake coach to do so under Wellman), leaving the program in flux. Assistant Dino Gaudio was tapped to replace his mentor after lead assistant Jeff Battle declined the position, and Gaudio achieved a successful transition, culminating in a #1 ranking in his second season. However, Gaudio was shockingly fired after his third season for having an affair "basketball related reasons," leading Wellman to choose Jeff Bzdelik as his successor. And everything has been hunky-dory since.


Okay, that last part was a lie. In fact, Bzdelik's tenure rapidly devolved into a firestorm of vitriol and turnovers, and the Wake team and fanbase became something of a laughingstock. Bzdelik was fired after four seasons for being an incompetent ninny, and lord knows Danny Manning can't be any worse.*

* I hope.

In contrast to most of the other sports I've reviewed thus far, the men's basketball team has overseen a large number of coaching changes. The current record for most changes in the past 31 seasons is football, which has had 5 different coaches (if one counts current coach Dave Clawson). Men's basketball has had 7 during the same time frame: Carl Tacy, Bob Staak, Dave Odom, Skip Prosser, Dino Gaudio, Jeff Bzdelik, and new head coach Danny Manning. As a result, you can expect the subsequent graphs looking at each coach's performance to be disjointed.


Okay, lecture over. Here are the year-by-year results of Wake in the past 31 seasons.


A brief reminder - the silver line represents the demarcation between the end of the Gene Hooks era and the beginning of Wellman's tenure.

Also, please note that thanks to Bob Staak being a terrible coach, the 1983-84 through 1992-93 overall average is a bit lower than you might expect, at .521. Also, note Jeff Bzdelik being a complete ninny towards the end of the graph (trust me, the arguments of Bzdelik's ninny-dom are going to be readily apparent before this is even halfway over).

Here is the conference yearly results graph:


Yeah, that's an average win percentage of 1 in 3 in the previous decade, thanks in no part to Staak going 8-48 during his 4 years (including 0-14 in 1985-86).

The result of Staak pulling down the curve is that most seasons the Deacs are comfortably ahead of the baseline, with only occasional dips below. Even Bzdelik only had 2 of his 4 seasons below that mark (and 2 of his 4 seasons exactly hitting that mark).

Here are the four year average graphs for overall and conference:



I like that Prosser's graphs look like moustaches. Alternatively, frowny faces (presumably because he died instead of getting to coach the Johnson-Teague-Aminu team).

Also, Bzdelik, incompetent, etc. Shockingly, possibly not as incompetent as Staak though. Your votes will decide!

P.S. Here's an image I made of Skip with a carefully drawn-on (in MS Paint) moustache for your enjoyment. You're welcome.


I choose to believe that in some alternate universe there are State Farm commercials starring Skip and Flip Prosser, and that Flip Prosser looks like this.


This is an interesting graph for two reasons. First, after the first few Odom years, the overall winning percentage has generally declined. The cumulative winning percentage peaked after Duncan's senior season (1996-97) at .758, and despite the occasional blip upwards during Prosser and Gaudio it's currently at .612 (it was .662 prior to Gaudio's dismissal/Bzdelik's hire).

The second interesting thing is that, despite this gradual decline, the program is still well above the standard set by the previous decade. Part of this is Staak weighing the standard down, but part of it is that Wake has actually been pretty darn good at basketball for most of the Wellman era.

Here's how the graph looks separated by coach:


So... yeah. Way to go Jeff.


Here are the two conference graphs, with overall first and by coach second.



Same deal, lower standard. Jeff Bzdelik: still terrible.

An aside: at some point, we're all going to look back at the Bzdelik era and have a laugh right? I mean, that's what usually happens when traumatic experiences occur to a closeknit group I think. Basically, I just want to be able to laugh at this, because it really should be hilarious that we had to sit through four years of this.

Too soon?

Let's look at the net wins.


So yeah, after having to recalibrate the graph for field hockey, I had to recalibrate it AGAIN for men's basketball. That peak is at 76.1 (after 2009-2010, Gaudio's last season), although it's now down to 60.8.

Also note that, ignoring the three year stretch spanning the last two Prosser years and the first Gaudio year, there is nary a negative season to be found from 1993-94 up until 2010-11. Again, that's pretty good.


Jeff... you know what, let's just move on.

Here are the conference-only graphs for this period.




This is with the ridiculously low .333 standard, and Bzdelik still ends up in the negatives (-5.7, to be precise), All told, Wake has accumulated +55.7 conference wins, with a peak at +61.3. Not too shabby, everyone not named "Jeff Bzdelik".

***** Summation *****


Proj. Record: 193.8-178.2 (62.7-125.3)

Actual Record: 240-132 (101-87)

Net: +46.2 (+38.3)

Proj. Record under Wellman: 132.9-122.1 (42.7-85.3)

Net: +38.1 (+30.3)

Actual Record under Wellman: 171-84 (73-55)


Proj. Record: 101.1-92.9 (32-64)

Actual Record: 126-68 (52-44)

Net: +25.9 (+20.0)


Proj. Record: 47.9-44.1 (16-32)

Actual Record: 61-31 (27-21)

Net: +13.1 (+11.0)


Proj. Record: 66.2-60.8 (22.7-45.3)

Actual Record: 51-76 (17-51)

Net: -15.2 (-5.7)


Proj. Record: 348-320 (113.3-226.7)

Actual Record: 409-259 (169-171)

Net: +61.0 (+55.7)

***** Analysis *****

Jeff Bzdelik was a debacle.

***** Running Total *****

Football: -6.4 (+2.9) --> -25.8 (+17.3)

Volleyball: +20.9 (+40.8) --> +36.9 (+124.4)

Men's Soccer: +46.5 (+34.6) --> +109.7 (+233.8)

Women's Soccer: +51.3 (+28.9) --> +119.6 (+169.0)

Men's Cross Country: -9.5 (-9.5) --> -48.4 (-48.4)

Women's Cross Country: +17.3 (+17.3) --> +86.6 (+86.6)

Field Hockey: +58.1 (+20.5) --> +131.0 (+164.0)

Men's Basketball: +61.0 (+55.7) --> +91.3 (+163.8)


Total: +500.9 (+910.5)


Total: +1123.2 (+2201.7)


Eight sports down, eight to go! Next week: Women's bouncyhoops! Possibly with pictures of Jen Hoover with an MSPaint moustache!

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