Seth McFarlane and Bluegrass Films recently produced a movie entitled A Million Ways to Die in the West — and one could argue that Danny Manning and his Demon Deacons are producing a season of an analogous script — one with the title A Million Ways to Lose in the ACC.
From inexcusable fouls, to horrific defense, to infuriating coaching decisions (or lack there of) and to an unfathomably bad free throw percentage late in games, it seems as if this team discovers a new way to squander an opportunity to win, every time they step foot on the court. Late in games I now find myself wondering, in what new, but equally excruciating fashion, the Deacs will lose this time.
This is not the NBA, there is no value to tanking and bottoming out in College Basketball, and I want the Deacs to win more than anything every time they play, regardless of their current record.
It should be acknowledged that this was always going to be a rebuilding season, the Deacs were never seriously going to be in contention for the NCAA Tournament, and their early season success likely jaded our expectations for the season as a whole.
However, it is impossible to look at this season as anything other than a failure. Yes, the Deacs beat some of the top teams in the country and competed with others, but ultimately, as the great Bill Parcells once said, “you are what your record says you are.” The Deacs are now sitting at 1-13 in the ACC, and 10-16 overall.
That is not good — in fact it’s extremely bad. It’s also very clearly not rebuilding. And while the eye-test would argue that the Deacs have improved in Manning’s second year, their record might argue that they have actually regressed.
Rebuilding a program after a multitude of destructive decisions by athletic administrators and former coaches is not an easy task, and I trust that Manning is doing what he feels best to turn Wake Forest basketball around; however, the lack of tangible progress not only fails to excite the fan base, but it also restricts the caliber of recruit that is likely to commit to the program.
In a span of six years Wake Forest basketball has gone from one of the most prestigious programs in the country to a perennial loser. From 1990 to 2010 Wake Forest had only one losing season.
had only one losing season. The Deacs constantly and consistently competed for ACC championships, and students and alumni filled the Joel every night with unmatched energy and passion.
With the looming conclusion of yet another losing season, and apathy on campus at an all-time high, it is impossible to remember the great heights this program once reached and to look at Wake Forest basketball as anything other than the team that hasn’t won a road game in the ACC since the 2014 season.
A legendary program has fallen dormant, a once avid fan base has found more fun in laughing at the misfortunes of its team than being outraged by the direction of a once proud program and athletic administrators are so out of touch with the students and fan-base that Forbes Magazine felt the need to call them out on a national level. 74 wins. 111 losses. Six years. These numbers are embarrassing, unimaginable and enraging.
And yet, if you took the pulse around campus, the majority of people would be uninterested and shrug it off as nothing more than a typical Wake Forest basketball performance.
But Wake Forest is so much better than this. Wake Forest has been so much better than this. And hopefully, Wake Forest will once again be better than this, but that absolutely will not happen until someone gets angry and someone begins to care.
I’m not sure if it needs to be students, alumni or administrators — perhaps all three — but something needs to be done before Wake Forest basketball becomes permanently stuck in mediocrity.
History cannot be erased, but it can be forgotten, and soon enough, as the losing continues, the memories of the greatness that once was, will simply fade away for good.
The late and legendary Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser once said “we’re going to be good again,” days before his death, and he was right temporarily. However, I fear that his dream and message to make Wake Forest a great basketball program has been lost and forgotten.
Last week Wake Forest lost to NC State and Pittsburgh on the road in similarly excruciating fashions.
In both games the Deacs had opportunities to pull out victories late, but were ultimately unable to do so. Wake Forest fell in double overtime to Pittsburgh, after having late leads in both the final seconds of regulation and the first overtime. Wake Forest will face Boston College at home this weekend.
The Eagles are the only ACC school playing worse than the Deacs right now, making Sunday’s matchup a game Wake Forest simply cannot lose.