In the round table we discussed Danny Manning's biggest strength, biggest concern, early prediction for the coming season, and graded the hire. Please let us know what you think in the comments and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.
1. What is Danny Manning's greatest asset as a coach?
Griffin: His relatability. One of Jeff Bzdelik’s pitfalls during his four years was his inability to relate to the players and the fan base. The players often looked disinterested and lackadaisical on the court. Now with a coach who has a winning pedigree at every level, the players will be all ears. If the Wake players hope to play in the NBA one day, who better to learn from than a guy who played in the NBA for 15 years and made two All-Star Games?
Riley: His greatest asset has to be his ability to relate to the players on a personal level on the court. He is one of most respected players in the history of the NCAA, and that is something that 99.9% of the coaches cannot say. That alone will get his foot in the door of some of the best players in the country. It will then be up to him to sell Wake Forest, which does a fantastic of selling itself. Usually getting a foot in the door is the biggest problem, and this solves that.
Bart: I believe that Manning's greatest asset as a coach are his own diverse experiences as a player and coach. Manning has been in nearly every single position you could imagine while working his way up to Wake Forest's current head coach and he has a wealth of personal experience to pull from when working with the rest of the team.
Shayn: I think Manning’s greatest asset is his experience and his appeal to recruits and their families. His track record is phenomenal and he did this while also graduating from college. (sorry Steve Masiello)
Matt: I'd say his greatest asset is his versatility. He's had a massive range of experiences as both player and coach, which will help him both in preparing and reacting to a wide variety of experiences. Short and sweet perhaps, but I'd say that pretty much covers my feelings on the matter.
Rob: His biggest asset as a coach is his ability to develop big men into excellent college players and NBA draft picks. He coached eight big men at Kansas who went on to be drafted, so clearly he can develop talent. I also believe his experience learning under Bill Self and Larry Brown will prove to be extremely valuable.
2. What is Danny Manning's biggest weakness? What concerns you the most about the hire?
Griffin: Danny Manning has a laundry list of big men he developed at Kansas and Bill Self lauds his work ethic and basketball IQ. That being said, only two years of head coaching experience certainly raises some questions. He managed to win a conference title last season at Tulsa with a young roster. His Golden Hurricanes caught lighting in a bottle winning 11 straight games to clinch an NCAA berth. But is he the coach that led Tulsa on an improbable run to The Big Dance or the coach that opened last season 1-6?
Riley: My concern is his lack of head coaching experience. While serving as an assistance under Bill Self is a very good way to begin your coaching career, I am still not sold on the fact that he has the head coaching thing figured out yet. Winning a C-USA championship in your second year is a very good job, but overall he was 38-29 in two years. Hopefully time will yield him to be a great leader, but his body of work is an "incomplete" so far.
Bart: While an interesting contrast from the first answer, I would say that his greatest weakness/my own greatest concern is Manning's lack of head-coaching experience. While I have no doubt that he has a solid diversity of experiences, I'm slightly concerned about how well that will all translate to his ability to get the job done at the ACC level while being THE guy. He was only at Tulsa for two years and hasn't even really been in charge of recruiting and coaching up his own guys. This is worrisome in the dog-eat-dog world that is the ACC. The answer: experienced assistants who can help carry the burden
Shayn: I am not thrilled with the head coaching experience or his teams offensive statistics at Tulsa. I know Manning has a lot of basketball experience but not a lot of that is as a head coach. I am also very stat oriented, so the more data/more I know about someone the more comfortable I am with them. I have a hard time buying into "he was a good player and knows the game so he will make a great coach" theory.
Matt: The fact that he's such an unknown. That could end up being a good thing in that he could end up being the next big thing and we snapped him up early. Of course, it could be that at the time being, he's been coaching above his level and we'll end up being rather disappointed. I doubt it'll be one extreme or the other and that things will end up somewhere in the middle, but the scary thing is that we just don't know. We have very little to go off of, for better or worse.
Rob: He doesn't have a glaring "weakness." His "weakness" is lack of a resume. This is concerning to someone who would like to see a more proven track record, but at least he doesn't have any obvious fallacies. Another potential weakness is that he does not have a tremendous amount of experience recruiting on the east coast given that he's been primarily in the Midwest.
3. What are your way too early predictions for the upcoming season?
Griffin: Danny Manning is not the "home run hire" that Ron Wellman promised, but the more I hear about Manning, the more the hire grows on me. Manning has a high ceiling, but is still a largely unknown commodity.
Riley: If the roster stays the same I would expect to see us crack the 20 win mark. If Jeff Bzdelik was as bad as most Wake fans thought he was (and I think he was), there should be a pretty nice uptick in Manning's first season. While Wake was 54th in luck last year according to KenPom (actual W/L record vs. expected W/L record), I still believe that this roster has more talent than most people believe it does.
Bart: Wake finished 118th in KenPom last year with virtually an identical roster to Tulsa's as far as number of freshman and sophomores and overally composition of the roster. Tulsa finished 73rd with Manning as coach, a slightly less experienced team due to their seniors not getting as much run as McKie and Coron did, and a less-talented team overall than the Demon Deacons had. While this doesn't really nail down a precise finish, I think Wake likely finishes somewhere between 55-85 in KenPom. It's difficult to give exact records without knowing how easy the SOS will be (both in and outside the conference) but I would predict 19 wins or so and with a couple of good breaks, Wake could find themselves in the NIT or around the NCAA bubble at the end of the year.
Shayn:I think that Wake Forest could be a top 61-70 team with that roster. I think if Coach Manning can get the team focused and ready for every game they could make the NCAA tournament. I also think if the team struggles they could easily fall to around the 80-90’s. Overall, they are going to be one of the most experienced teams in the ACC, that excuse is going to have to go. The team is ready to win now, so I think they are a bubble team for the NCAAT and probably around 66 in KenPom.
Matt: I'm thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of last season, but it'll be much more palatable/encouraging, given that it'll be Manning's first season and not his fourth. Maybe a bit better. Kind of fringe NIT territory.
Rob: My way too early prediction without even knowing the schedule is that the Deacs will be a top 60 KenPom team and win close to 20 games and make the N.I.T.
4. Grade the hire and give a best case/worst case for the Manning tenure.
Griffin: Overall Grade: B
Best case scenario: Manning uses his reputation with big men, his wildly-successful playing career and his imposing 6-10 frame to sway top-level recruits to join Tie-Dye Nation. With teamwork and class, the Demon Deacons become a top-tier ACC team and a consistent NCAA tournament contender. In time, the competitive balance shifts among the Big Four and Wake puts themselves in a strong position for the post-Coach K and Roy era.
Worst case scenario: Manning does not get through to his players and proves to be fool’s gold on the recruiting trail. His teams are incapable of winning ACC road games and the Joel remains half-empty during ACC home games. His shining moment as a head coach is winning 11 straight games with Tulsa. Meanwhile, Wake fades into oblivion in the brutal ACC and the glory days of Duncan and CP3 become ever more distant.
Riley: Overall I would put this hire at a B-Minus. It's not the home run hire that a lot of people thought it would be, but I think most will be pleased with the five year results of Manning. I am a little bit more optimistic than most, but I think he can lead us into a perennial top 25 team again and get us back to where we were before the Bzdelik-Era. Worst case he struggles to recruit the type of talent necessary to compete in the ACC and Wake continues along the path that they are on, resulting in a 7-8 year slump for Wake basketball.
Bart: I would give this hire a B or a B-. The lack of head coaching experience really concerns me, and we're really getting an unknown commodity as far as recruiting goes. Manning certainly has the ability to be a great hire down the road, but it really is quite uncertain at this point since his resume is not as lengthy as many other ACC hires. I like the hire, it could have been better, but I'm excited about the Manning tenure in Winston-Salem.
Best case scenario: Manning lands Harry Giles and parlays this solid recruiting job into a pipeline of top talent, bringing Wake back to where they were from 1995-2009. This includes nearly annual trips to the NCAA Tourney with a run to the Sweet 16 once every three years or so, with a legitimate opportunity for a Final Four bid once every five years.
Worst case scenario: Manning is in over his head and his somewhat introverted personality doesn't play well with recruits. While Manning was a great big man himself, he is unable to teach others what he did best in his own game and there is a serious communication problem between Manning and the team. The current crop of rising juniors doesn't pan out as we expected and Manning is unable to land any solid recruits to turn Wake around. Meanwhile the rest of the ACC continues to improve and Wake is staring down 8-10 years (counting the previous four) of mediocrity.
Shayn: I would say the hire is a C. I am behind the coach 100% but I would have liked for a "less risky" hire. I think best case scenario is Wake wins a tournament game, and lands a top NC recruit like Brandon Ingram for 2015 and is getting serious consideration from Harry Giles. Worst case scenario, is not making the NIT and missing out a big name recruit. This team isn’t going to be terrible, the roster has some talent and are only adding more weapons. I can’t imagine Wake falling back down the being a CBI team
Matt: Best case? Peak Skip-into-early-Dino Era. Bringing in consistently good, occasionally elite talent, making post-season more often than not, and occasionally making runs into the tourney. Basically the best case (I think) is about what we could fairly expect from anybody. Worst case, I'd say mediocrity in the vein of last year on a consistent basis. I'd give the grade a B. Reason for optimism and I tend to lean optimistic which is why I didn't go B-, but I dare not go any higher.
Rob: I'll give the hire a B as a hedge on risk and upside. On the risky side, he only has two years of head coaching experience and started this season off at 1-6. The counter to that is he has been an assistant at one of the five best programs for five years. Additionally, his Tulsa team this year was very young and could easily make the NCAA Tournament in each of the next two seasons. Imagine how hot of a candidate Manning would be if he had five years of assistant experience under Bill Self and took Tulsa to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. I'm cautiously optimistic, but believe he will return us back to national relevance. Best case scenario is that Manning turns Wake Forest into a big man pipeline and we are routinely in the NCAA Tournament. Worst case scenario is that we miss big on the 2016 recruiting class after losing a large senior class and begin another downward trend.