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Wake Forest Basketball Potential Coaching Candidates

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Who could John Currie look at to replace Danny Manning?

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

As you’ve all probably seen by now, it was announced this morning that Wake Forest Director of Athletics John Currie has fired head men’s basketball coach Danny Manning.

Randolph Childress will be in charge of the program in the interim, per an email Currie sent out to Deacon Club members.

Now it’s time to look at the list of potential candidates to replace Manning as Wake Forest’s next head basketball coach. And no, Conor O’Neill and I did not consult each other on this list in spite of the fact that our list is the same.

John Beilein

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Last Coaching Position: Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers

College Coaching Record: 754-425 (571-325 Division 1)

Last College Position: Michigan (278-150, 126-92 in Big Ten Conference from 2007-08 to 2018-19)

Division 1 Head Coaching Positions: Canisius (1992-97; 89-62 record), Richmond (1997-2002; 100-53 record), West Virginia (2002-2007; 104-60 record), Michigan (2007-2019; 278-150 record)

Coaching Achievements: National Runner-Up in 2013 & 2018, 2 Final Four Appearances, 4 Elite Eight Appearances, 7 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 13 NCAA Tournament Appearances, NIT Champions in 2007, 2-Time Big Ten Regular Season Champions, 2-Time Big Ten Tournament Champions, Coach John Wooden “Keys to Life” Award, CBS Sports National Coach of the Year 2018, Big Ten Coach of the Year 2014

Ties to Wake Forest: Beilein coached the West Virginia team that eliminated the Deacs from the 2005 NCAA Tournament in double overtime during Chris Paul’s sophomore year

Pros: Best coach available in terms of overall success and could have an immediate big-time impact

Cons: Money, as Danny Manning is taking a large chunk of change to no longer coach Wake Forest, and Beilein wouldn't come cheap; age-Beilein is 67 and likely wouldn't coach for more than 5 or 6 years before retiring

Thad Matta

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Last Coaching Position: Head Coach at Ohio State

College Coaching Record: 439-154

Last College Position: Ohio State (337-123, 150-78 in Big Ten Conference from 2004-05 to 2016-17)

Division 1 Head Coaching Positions: Butler (2000-01; 24-8 record), Xavier (2001-2004; 78-23 record), Ohio State (2004-2017; 337-123 record)

Coaching Achievements: National Runner-Up in 2007, 2 Final Four Appearances, 4 Elite Eight Appearances, 6 Sweet Sixteen Appearances, 13 NCAA Tournament Appearances, NIT Champions in 2008, 5-Time Big Ten Regular Season Champions, 4-Time Big Ten Tournament Champions, 3-Time Big Ten Coach of the Year

Ties to Wake Forest: Succeeded Skip Prosser at Xavier when Prosser came to Wake in 2001

Pros: Highly successful as a coach, not many suitors at the moment given his absence from coaching over last few seasons, only one season with less than 20 wins

Cons: Like Beilein, he would command a lot of money; has not coached in three years due to health issues

Steve Forbes

NCAA Basketball: East Tennessee State at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at East Tennessee State

College Coaching Record: 260-77 (130-43 Divison 1)

Current College Position Record: East Tennessee State (130-43; 71-19 in Southern Conference)

Division 1 Head Coaching Positions: East Tennessee State (2015-Present; 130-43 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 2 Southern Conference Tournament Championships, 2 Southern Conference Regular Season Championships, 1 NCAA Tournament Appearance (though a second would have happened if the tournament hadn't been canceled this year), 24+ wins in all five seasons as a head coach, 2020 Hugh Durham Award Winner, 2020 Southern Conference Coach of the Year

Ties to Wake Forest: Assistant coach at Tennessee while John Currie was associate athletic director at Tennessee

Pros: After finally getting an opportunity as a head coach, Forbes hasn't won less than 24 games in any each of his five seasons.

Cons: The Southern Conference isn't a top-tier competitive conference, so there are some worries about how the success would translate to the ACC.

Wes Miller

NCAA Basketball: NC-Greensboro at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at University of North Carolina at Greensboro

College Coaching Record: 164-126

Current College Position Record: UNCG (164-126; 96-61 in Southern Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: UNCG (2011-Present; 164-126 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 2 Southern Conference Regular Season Championships, 1 Southern Conference Tournament Championship, 1 NCAA Tournament Appearance, 2 NIT Appearances, 2-Time Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 & 2018

Ties to Wake Forest: The Miller Center practice facility on campus is named after his father, who is also a big donor.

Pros: Miller would be staying in the Triad, is already familiar with the state of North Carolina and recruiting in the state, and has done quite a nice job of turning UNCG around.

Cons: His only experience is in the Southern Conference, and his first four seasons weren't great. The rebuild would take quite a while based on his first few seasons at UNCG.

Pat Kelsey

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 29 Winthrop at Duke

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at Winthrop

College Coaching Record: 163-93

Current College Position Record: Winthrop (163-93; 93-45 in Big South Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: Winthrop (2012-Present; 163-93 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 3 Big South Regular Season Championships, 2 Big South Conference Tournament Championships, 1 NCAA Tournament Appearance (though a second would have happened if the tournament hadn’t been canceled this year)

Ties to Wake Forest: Came to Wake Forest with Skip Prosser from Xavier to serve as the Director of Basketball Operations, then served as an assistant coach under Prosser and Dino Gaudio for a total of 8 seasons on staff at Wake.

Pros: Kelsey has a lot of experience already at Wake, is great with fan engagement, was in charge of creating Tie-Dye Nation for Prosser, and has had success at Winthrop both on the court and in getting fans and students involved in the program

Cons: A lack of consistent success at the mid-major level, only head coaching experience in the Big South conference.

Matt McMahon

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round- Marquette vs Murray State Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at Murray State

College Coaching Record: 110-51

Current College Position Record: Murray State (110-51; 65-21 in Ohio Valley Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: Murray State (2015-Present; 110-51 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 3-Time Ohio Valley Conference Regular Season Champions, 2-Time Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions, 2 NCAA Tournament Appearances (with a possible third if the NCAA Tournament had not been cancelled due to coronavirus), 2018 NABC District 19 Coach of the Year, Recruited and Coached 2019 #2 NBA Draft Pick Ja Morant

Ties to Wake Forest: None, but he played in college at Appalachian State and was an assistant at both App State and UNC-Wilmington.

Pros: Proven record of winning and has shown he can recruit in landing Ja Morant.

Cons: Hasn't been a head coach for long, and a lack of coaching experience at a high level at any point during his career.

Russell Turner

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kansas State vs UC Irvine Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at University of California Irvine

College Coaching Record: 209-139

Current College Position Record: UC Irvine (209-139; 111-51 in Big West Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: UC Irvine (2010-Present; 209-139 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 5-Time Big West Conference Regular Season Champions, 2-Time Big West Conference Tournament Championships (UC Irvine was the #1 seed before the 2020 Big West Tournament was cancelled), 4-Time Big West Conference Coach of the Year in 2014, 2017, 2019, & 2020

Ties to Wake Forest: Turner was an assistant coach on Coach Dave Odom’s staff from 1994 to 2000.

Pros: A proven record of winning with ties to Wake Forest already under Dave Odom. Turner has done a great job in ten seasons at UC Irvine.

Cons: His only head coaching experience is in the Big West Conference, which isn't the highest level of competition.

Bob Richey

NCAA Basketball: Furman at Villanova Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at Furman

College Coaching Record: 73-26

Current College Position Record: Furman (73-26; 41-13 in Southern Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: Furman (2017-Present; 73-26 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 1 NIT appearance, first ever Top 25 ranking in Furman history, 23+ wins in all three seasons as head coach

Ties to Wake Forest: None

Pros: Young coach who shows a lot of promise and has had great success in all three seasons as a head coach.

Cons: A small sample size with no postseason appearances on his resume.

Ryan Odom

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Kansas State vs UMBC Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at University of Maryland Baltimore County

College Coaching Record: 111-73 (91-65 Division 1)

Current College Position Record: UMBC (82-52; 40-24 in American East Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: Charlotte (Interim in 2014-15, 8-11 Record); UMBC (2016-Present; 82-52 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 1 American East Conference Tournament Championship, 1 NCAA Tournament Appearance, Coached the only team in NCAA Tournament history to defeat a #1 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Ties to Wake Forest: Son of former head basketball coach Dave Odom

Pros: Record of turning around an unsuccessful program as he led UMBC to three 20+ win seasons after seven losing seasons, familiarity with Wake Forest through his father

Cons: Lack of major coaching experience, pressure to succeed under high expectations as the son of a legendary coach

Mark Prosser

NCAA Basketball: Western Carolina at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Current Coaching Position: Head Coach at Western Carolina

College Coaching Record: 31-60 (26-37 Division 1)

Current College Position Record: Western Carolina (26-37; 14-22 in Southern Conference)

Division 1 Coaching Positions: Western Carolina (2018-Present; 26-37 Record)

Coaching Achievements: 2020 Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award Winner, guided WCU to second-most improved mark in college basketball in 2019-20

Ties to Wake Forest: Son of the late coach Skip Prosser, whose death the program has never fully recovered from.

Pros: Signs of early success turning WCU around quickly and nearly beating Wake Forest in 2018, familiarity with the school and program through his father

Cons: Simply not enough head coaching experience. And like Odom, how do you live up to the standards and expectations your father set? If Prosser continues to have success and Wake is in the market for another coach several years down the line, then Prosser becomes a more viable candidate.

Final Thoughts

I inadvertently put these candidates pretty much in the order in which I would prefer. J

ohn Beilein is the home-run hire that tops pretty much everyone’s list, and Thad Matta is a pretty damn good consolation prize.

Steve Forbes is the most realistic option from a monetary standpoint with in my opinion the highest ceiling of the coaches that won't cost a fortune (i.e. everyone after Beilein and Matta).

Wes Miller wouldn't be bad, and I wouldn't be mad at all if Pat Kelsey ended up back on the sidelines for the old gold and black.

Russell Turner isn't a terrible fallback option if all the others above fail to pan out.

Matt McMahon, Bob Richey, Ryan Odom, and Mark Prosser all have small sample sizes and need to show more consistent success for my liking.

Best of luck to John Currie in this coaching search. Here’s hoping he gets this one right and finds a coach who can take Wake Forest basketball back to the levels many of us knew and loved under former coaches Bones McKinney, Carl Tacy, Dave Odom, and Skip Prosser.

Stay tuned for more updates, and as always, GO DEACS!!!