It is only fitting that a day after Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Groundhog’s Day that Wake Forest basketball provided yet another loss that makes Demon Deacon fans wonder if, they too, are Bill Murray living the same nightmarish day over and over again.
In an embarrassing 64-37 loss to Clemson on the road Sunday, the Deacs unfortunately demonstrated spring will not be coming to relieve the winter that has reigned over the Wake Forest basketball program under Danny Manning.
Wake Forest made the trip to Death Valley in name only, as it fell behind 16-3 to the 9th best team in the ACC (according to KenPom) en route to a pathetic 27 point loss. This was actually the better result of the week for the Deacs, as it managed to lose by just 27 instead of 28 points, as it did in a home loss to Louisville mid-week.
Brandon Childress, Isaiah Mucius, and Sharone Wright, Jr. combined to go 1-24 from the field, and 0-10 from behind the three point line against Clemson this afternoon in the loss. The 37 points is the second worst road output by a Wake Forest basketball team since it started ACC play in 1953, and it managed to have two more turnovers (16) than made field goals (14).
I wrote two lengthy articles earlier this season that stated Danny Manning should be let go at the end of the season barring something drastic happening. I held this belief because I don’t think mid-season changes usually produce much good and there is not a lot of benefit to them for the student-athletes or the long term health of the program.
I no longer believe this and now think that Danny Manning should be let go as the Wake Forest head coach as soon as possible.
While the method of how he is removed as head coach likely matters tremendously from a contract standpoint (resignation vs. being fired), from purely a results viewpoint, I do not care how this happens as long as he is no longer in charge.
Athletic Director Ron Wellman should meet with Danny Manning when the team gets back to Winston-Salem this afternoon and let him know that he is no longer the head coach of Wake Forest.
Ernie Nestor should be appointed as interim head coach and the Deacs should do its best the rest of the season before another search begins after the season. There are a lot of concerns as to who will lead this search, since I certainly do not want Ron Wellman to hire another Wake Forest basketball coach, but these results cannot continue.
Moving on from Manning would generate an uptick in attendance, enthusiasm, and goodwill with the fan base heading into the off-season and real #NewBeginnings.
I have never met Danny Manning, but most things I have heard indicate that he is a good guy off the court. I am not going to make an assessment on this either way because quite frankly it does not matter. This is a results-driven business, and the record speaks for itself.
I want to stress that I wish him no ill will whatsoever personally. I just don’t want him to be the head coach of Wake Forest anymore.
Wake Forest is 62-86 under Manning overall and 21-60 in the ACC. Unless if there is a remarkable turnaround, this will be the 3rd 20-loss season under Manning for the Deacs, and the fourth in the past nine seasons. For reference, the often ridiculed Jeff Bzdelik was fired after his fourth year with a 51-76 (17-51) record.
Jeff Goodman wrote a couple of months ago that Manning’s contract with Wake Forest was $18M guaranteed, and while this seems outside of the realm of possibilities in my mind, I have no reason to doubt him given his insider track record. If this is the case, and even if it’s $10M instead of $18M, there is no reason to keep Manning a day longer than necessary since he is going to get his money anyway.
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman signed Danny Manning to a six-year extension that runs through 2024-25 nearly a year ago to the day. A source told me that the deal is fully guaranteed, meaning that Wake is on the hook for somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million if it makes a move to let go of Manning. The first couple of years, and a 24-39 mark, were on the previous regime. But after a 19-14 record and an NCAA tourney bid in 2016-17, Wake went 11-20 last season and has started out 4-2 this year with a loss this past weekend to Houston Baptist.
There is also an argument to be made that by keeping Manning it is actually a bad financial decision in the long run given the correlation to basketball success and Deacon Club donations, Not to mention the relationship between the interest Wake Forest generates when it is good at basketball from high school students considering elite academic and athletic institutions. When college programs are good at basketball and football it produces more applications to the school than when programs are bad at both sports.
It is clear that Manning does not know how to build an ACC team into a even a consistent mediocre basketball team, much less a team that can compete with the upper echelon of the ACC. The only thing that he has shown in his four and a half years as far as consistency goes is how to be consistently bad at basketball.
Keeping Manning is not fair to the current student-athletes because they are not getting the coaching necessary to develop their own basketball skills, much less enjoying their time because of all the games they are losing at Wake Forest. College basketball provides a finite number of years for these guys to play and develop, and their current time is being wasted, along with their basketball future possibly being squandered, due to ineptitude of the coaching staff.
It is not easy to write these articles because I know, without over-inflating the importance of Blogger So Dear, that the staff, student-athletes, and Wake Forest administration read and discuss these articles.
As a lifelong fan, proud alum, and donor to Wake Forest University, as well as The Deacon Club, I feel that it is important for this discussion to be had and actions be taken as soon as possible to get Wake Forest basketball back to where it needs to be.
I also do not write anything on this blog that I would not say to anybody’s face if prompted, regardless of who they are within Wake Forest. That’s what people come here to read - a fan’s perspective of the program. We call it like we see it here at BSD and that’s why we have the ardent followers that we do and the discussion on and off the website.
Retaining Manning, even for the rest of the season, will continue to damage the Wake Forest basketball program and make it even harder to turn it around under the next head coach. That is why this change must occur now instead of the end of the year.
Anything else is simply going to result in the same thing happening over and over again, and that “same thing” is, to put it bluntly, simply horrible and embarrassing basketball.
Wake Forest can do better, but it cannot do so under the leadership of Danny Manning. It is time to make a change.