Backwash From Butler

April15/ 2010

 You and I LOVED the recent Butler Cinderella Ride, right?  100,000s of fans did.  But a certain group of sports administrators immediately saw the darkside of David v Goliath.  The Athletic Directors at all the other “Davids” across the country….. like Ron Wellman at Wake Forest.  To paraphrase Peanuts’ Linus – “there is no heavier burden than exaggerated expectations.”

“If Butler can do it, why can’t we?”  Indeed.  With March Madness, it is conceivable that a non-traditional power school can “catch lightning in a bottle” and grab the brass ring.   Indiana State almost did it with Larry Bird years ago.  One could even make the case that Duke is really “a David” among the Goliaths of gian-normous state universities.

Duke is certainly a power in college basketball NOW (duh!), but what if Tom Butters had not seen something special in an intense young man at West Point.  Is Brad Stevens “the next Coach K”?  Duke had a pedigree before Coach K thanks to Vic Bubas and Bill Foster but pedigrees are time-sensitive and fragile.  CCNY and St John’s once had “pedigrees”!  Is Duke’s pedigree only as solid as Coach K’s tenure?

Basketball and Football are quite different kettles o’ fish.  Football at the most competitive intercollegiate level requires both “depth of talent” and a culture not necessarily consistent with an academic community.  Basketball, on the other hand, can be a handful of reasonably talented young men well-schooled in fundamentals by a coach with the cerebral wherewithall to utilize that talent to its best advantage.  It is not totally unrealistic for any collegiate fan base to think “well, hellfire and by golly, we can do that!” 

   What cabbage leaf was this Brad Whozit hiding under?  Are there others out there like him?  Is the only option to prostitute an institution with a slick-suit snake-oil peddler living on the lam from NCAA investigators?  Must you sell your soul to a slick-suit, then look the other way as he brings in long, lanky and larcenous miscreant mercenaries who will make a mockery of your institutional mission statement? …… Can we be “a Butler too”?  is the plaintive cry from the Gonzagas, Pepperdines, Woffords, VCUs, Tulsas, Colgates, and ….. Wake Forest.

Within EVERY collegiate fan base, there lurks a lunatic faction.  It may only be a handful of humanoids, but like Sasquatch, it IS out there.  Void of  personal achievement or even ever sniffing a personal achievement, these Al Bundys lurk.  If only his team of choice could “win” something of significance.  For one brief moment said sad soul would know, albeit, vicariously, what it feels like to “be a winner”.  To look into a magic mirror and for that moment the reflection not be the usual shlub, but rather a gallant champion ….. aaaahhh to revel in the reflective glory of others.  …… “So, Mr Big Shot Athletics Director, whatcha gonna do about making that happen NOW ….. huh?”

If Tom Butters could find Coach K, how come Ron Wellman can’t find “the next Coach K” ….. be it Brad Stevens ….. or the next Brad Stevens.   If Duke can do it …… how come not Wake Forest?  Indeed, how come not?

Since Gordon Hayward’s Hail Mary missed by a frog’s hair, Wake Forest has changed head basketball coaches.  Dino Gaudio has been replaced by Jeff Bzdelik.  To say  Demon Deacon loyalists are not stockpiling Charmin’ for an ultimate Quad TPing next April is an understatement. For the first time in recorded history, there are rumblings of disagreement directed at Ron “Super AD” Wellman.

Holy Peahead & Bones Batman!

The heralded genius who found Jim Grobe and Skip Prosser is now facing “questions”.  Every other AD in America is sending Ron “welcome to our world” e-mails.

OK, they are just whispers.  Nowhere near the screechings and howlings that Lee Fowler hears 24/7 or that Dick Baddour has heard on numerous occasions.  A “bad day” for Ron Wellman would be a Sally Field Oscar moment for ADs Fowler and Baddour.  To most college ADs a vote of confidence is just one day without a threat of bodily harm from some anonymous yahoo on a Rivals or Scout mosh pit.  But still …. this is RON WELLMAN.

Lets be clear ….. “The Moricles” are still solidly on TeamWellman.   WFU’s Moricles are their Iron Dukes and Really Big Rams.  Any campaign that doesn’t have Moricles on-board is just nitwits pounding sand.  But for WFU’s nitwit faction to even be percolating is noteworthy.

NOTE:  92.4% of Deacon fans are neither Moricles nor Al Bundys.  Their % of normal fans is consistent with all other non-SEC fan bases.

Now Ron has his longtime friend Jeff Bzdelik on-board.  Hiring a long-time friend is an executive strategy fraught with fishhooks.  Jeff’s name is short on vowels and Jeff’s resume is short on banners, rings and other trappings of greatness.  Jeff’s last three gigs have all been within 75 miles of Denver – Air Force, Nuggets, Univ Colo.  A Colorado Springs sports columnist’s noted Jeff’s departure with a “Good Riddance Bzdelik” column.  Uh oh!

Jeff’s last 6-8 years only look stable if compared to Buzz Peterson.  “Michael’s roomie” is on the move AGAIN ….. fleeing AppState after just one year for UNC-by-the sea-W.  Buzz is apparently chasing Larry “Suitcase” Brown’s UNC-family record for most jobs held and quit in a career. This most recent Buzz bails-out is the first oops in the stellar AD tenure of ASU’s Charlie Cobb.  Charlie, like Ron Wellman, is more used to bouquets than brickbats.

We’ve always admired Ron Wellman at BLSays.  We still do.  Personnel issues are THE #1 most tenuous decisions that any executive manager makes be it college sports or any business endeavor.  They are also the benchmarks by which every executive is measured.   His legacy.   “Keeping the trains running on time” is very important, as is financial solvency but those functions lack the glamour of a firing / hiring.   Those darn “opinions without consequences” trumpeted by the spectatorial masses can be brutal ….. but, alas, they come with the territory.

We wish Ron “Well” as he rolls these dice.  He’s a good guy.

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