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DeCock: Season over, Bzdelik’s future takes center stage

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
ldecock@newsobserver.com
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
- (919) 829-8947
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- @LukeDeCock on Twitter

GREENSBORO Once again, Jeff Bzdelik would entertain no questions about his future, only about Thursday’s game. Unfortunately, Wake Forest’s 84-55 loss to Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC tournament wasn’t much fodder for conversation.

After the Senior Night upset of Duke earlier this month, Bzdelik said, “It ain’t about me.” It wasn’t then. It is now.

He’s 51-76 in four seasons at Wake Forest, 17-51 in the ACC, 2-32 in conference road games. A transition period was expected when he took over, tasked with changing the personality of the program. The Deacons finished above .500 this season at 17-16 and won an ACC tournament game for the first time since the late Skip Prosser was the coach, but Wake fans expect more than 29-point losses to NCAA tournament bubble teams.

Bzdelik has one year left on his contract, but athletics director Ron Wellman is under pressure from every quarter to make a change. The speculation has lingered over the program like a dark cloud for years, never more than now.

“I’ve been hearing that since before I even got here, since I was a senior in high school,” Wake Forest sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre said. “Whatever happens to him, especially if he’s not here, it’s our fault. Simple as that. …

“It would be different if we were losing a lot of games by one point, two points, we blow a lead. We never have a lead to blow. We lose by 20 points, 30 points, that’s not a coaching thing. He tried everything he could. He tried different defenses – 3-2, 2-3, press back to a zone, press back to a man. That’s just us. It falls down on us, not the coach.”

Wellman has been exceedingly patient with Bzdelik, just as he was with football coach Jim Grobe, but Wellman didn’t try to talk Grobe out of resigning lastfall after five straight losing seasons. After Dave Clawson replaced Grobe, Bob McCreary, one of Wake Forest’s most distinguished football alumni, made a $7.5 million donation to the program.

Instead of donating to the basketball program, for the second straight year, Wake Forest boosters bought billboards in Winston-Salem during the tournament demanding Bzdelik’s ouster.

Pittsburgh moves on to face North Carolina on Friday. Wake Forest faces an uncertain future. Asked if Wake Forest would consider paying to play in the CBI tournament to prolong its season, Bzdelik admitted he wasn’t in the loop.

“That’s for the administration to decide,” Bzdelik said.

It’s not the biggest decision the Wake Forest administration faces now.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947
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