Despite the program finishing 13th in the ACC with an 11-20 overall record during the 2018-19 season, Wake Forest recently announced that basketball coach Danny Manning would return for a sixth season.
Manning, the KU legend and former Bill Self assistant who is the program’s all-time leader in points and rebounds, took over at Wake Forest before the start of the 2014-15 season after a successful 2-year stint at Tulsa than ended with him guiding the TU program back to the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
In his five years with Wake Forest, Manning has led the Demon Deacons to one NCAA Tournament berth and finished below .500 during the other four seasons.
Despite those results, outgoing athletic director Ron Wellman recently supported Manning as the right man to lead the program, both because of his ability as a coach and because of the continuity Wellman believes is key in building a program.
“We have been 11-20 each of the last two years and those are not the results we expect,” Wellman said during a recent news conference. “It has taken longer than we wanted, but we feel a good foundation has been set. Next year will be a turnaround year for us and I felt Danny was the best person to achieve that immediate improvement.”
In 2017, Wellman signed Manning to a 6-year extension which is slated to keep him under contract at Wake Forest through the 2024-25 season.
Former Kansas State athletic director John Currie has been hired to replace Wellman and Manning said recently that he had talked with Currie a couple of times already about the future of the Wake Forest program.
“Any time there’s new leadership, you need to prove you’re worthy of doing the job,” Manning said at the news conference. “That is the case in college athletics, but also in any job. We are both passionate about Wake Forest Basketball and want to see the program enjoy success. Our interests are aligned.”
As for what he expects from his sixth season at Wake and beyond, Manning said he believed the past failures would be a big part of guiding the program to better days.
“I know sometimes people dismiss my calmness as a lack of passion or lack of interest in making changes,” he began. “I have been around the game of basketball since childhood and I do not think lashing out emotionally solves many problems. An important part of being a leader is having the trust of your team. I tend to go overboard on keeping things internal rather than sharing things publicly, but there is no question that we need to improve. I think that will fuel our offseason. Sometimes having a chip on your shoulder and the hunger to get better can accelerate change. And we all have that passion burning in us after last season.”
Wake Forest is expected to return its top seven scorers from last season — and nine of the top 10 — and also will get back 91 percent of its rebounding and 92 percent of the minutes played.
“We like our incoming class and our transfers who are becoming eligible,” Manning said. “I think the potential for this group is high and I can’t wait to get to work with them.”
Manning enters the 2019-20 season with an overall record of 103-122 in seven seasons as a Division I head coach.