Will Danny Manning be back at Wake Forest? He thinks so

2020 ACC TournamentWith rumors about Danny Manning’s status swirling the past few days, you probably weren’t surprised to see Wake Forest come up short in an 81-72 loss to Pitt in the first round of the 2020 ACC Tournament on Tuesday.

Just goes with the territory.

Can’t blame that locker room from carrying the weight of distractions given all the chatter.

Nor would it would a surprise to hear that the first question of Manning in the postgame presser would be about his status.

His answer, to a question asking if he expects to be back next year, may be surprising.

One word: “Absolutely.”

The follow-up asked Manning, who just finished up a 13-18 season, the fifth losing season in Manning’s six-year tenure, all five of which have had the Demon Deacons lose at least 18, if he has seen the development from his program to justify getting a seventh year.

“I think our team has definitely improved,” Manning said. “I think if you look at the individuals that are on our team and how they have come from where they were last year to where they’re at right now, I think without question there’s been improvement. I think when I look at our team, I think the young men have put forth great effort. Extremely proud of this group, and I definitely feel like we have taken some steps, not as many as I would like, not where I’m content with where we’re at, but I certainly feel like we have taken those steps in a direction that I want our program to go in.”

There was a brief glimmer in late February, a two-game stretch that had Wake beating Duke in OT and Notre Dame by 11.

But the loss to Pitt was the fifth in the final seven games for the Deacs, who have won more than six games only once in Manning’s tenure, in 2016-2017, when the team finished 19-14, 9-9 in the ACC, and made the program’s lone NCAA Tournament appearance under Manning.

7’0” junior Olivier Sarr, who would the team’s leading returning scorer next season (13.5 ppg), feels like there is a foundation to build upon.

“We just got to work again, go back to the basics,” Sarr said. “We got a lot of work to do offseason, film to watch, and use that time to get better.”

“I think we’re ready to work,” said Isaiah Mucius, a 6’8” sophomore who averaged 6.8 points in 22.6 minutes per game. “The core guys, the older guys, me, Olivier and Chaundee (Brown, a 6’5” junior), I think, are ready to lead the young group of players that we have.”

Manning wouldn’t have leading scorer Brandon Childress (15.5 ppg) and Andrien White (9.2 ppg), both of whom played their last games in a Wake Forest uniform on Tuesday.

Note that I say “wouldn’t have.” Manning very well might not be the coach, if the reporting over the last week about Wake Forest AD John Currie being interested in moving on has had any truth to it.

Manning, for the moment, anyway, is the coach, and he wants to return, that much is obvious.

“I love coaching. To have an impact with helping young men grow and develop and help them prepare for the future, I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to share my experiences. Our staff the same way,” Manning said.

“Yeah, you want to win more games, there’s no question about it, and continue to work. But I will say that this is a group that I’m extremely proud of, because I think we have gotten better throughout the course of the year from where we started.

Story by Chris Graham

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