Wake Forest has had a pretty up-and-down decade. The sudden death of Skip Prosser was gut-wrenching, but the team bumped along fairly well under Dino Gaudio. Nonetheless, Gaudio was fired. Perhaps that was the right decision – it’s hard to know what else was going on behind the scenes. What is certain is that the Demon Deacs took a step backward, failing to hire a big-name college coach and settling on Jeff Bzdelik, former boss of the Denver Nuggets, Air Force and Colorado.
Bzdelik may be a good coach, but his record is pretty nondescript. His overall record stands at 142-137, and his highest point was a hotly-debated at large tournament bid in ’06 that didn’t sit well with other bubble teams. Bzdelik knows his leash in Winston-Salem is short, so he’s getting out ahead of the torch and pitchfork crowd this summer, declaring this to be his make-or-break season.
“I feel great,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I do. I really, truly do. We’ve created the type of culture that we want without compromising our values. We now have talent and depth and, to be quite frank, it’s now time to win. It is. I’ve always felt the urgency. Let’s be honest. This is a results-driven business in a world that wants everything now. I understand that. It’s now time to head north.”
Can he do it with the horses he has in the stable? That’s the question. Seven freshmen will join the team this season, filling in holes left by (all together now, it’s the rebuilding program mantra) graduation, transfers and dismissals. On the positive side of things, he retains the services of stud forward Travis McKie and hardworking guard C.J. Harris.
Wake isn’t near ready to compete with the likes of Duke and UNC, but who is? A .500 finish in the ACC would be a sign of improvement, and perhaps enough to save Bzdelik’s job. A postseason berth of some sort would probably give him another year to tinker. The onus is on this season, and Bzdelik knows it.
Eric Angevine is editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.