What if Jeff Bzdelik's performance review has nothing to do with wins and losses?
I hate this time of year. Not the holidays, mind you. I'm talking about this "silly season" when the college football coaching carousel is spinning like a top, and the hot seats in college basketball become fire pits. It's my annual reminder that there is an ugly side to something that normally brings me great joy and a respite from the harsh realities of life. It also reminds me that maybe I need to turn my television and computer off and just play my guitar for a while.
Perhaps I feel this way because I am weary of news overload. A glance at my Twitter timeline today has no fewer than 300 updates on Jon Gruden and the University of Tennessee. Another 50 or so updates are about the state of NC State's coaching search. Finally, there are the usual Tweets about Jeff Bzdelik, usually including a call for his head. It is here where I grow truly uncomfortable.
Ask any Wake Forest writer which one of us is least likely to call for a coach's head, and they will point a finger at yours truly. Guilty. I do not like calling for people to be fired. Though these coaches are well-compensated, they do have families and lives like we all do. Maybe I'm a sap. Sue me. However, that's not the real reason I am reluctant to publicly judge.
I don't judge because I don't know what their performance objectives are. Neither do you.
As fans, we too often assume that the only objectives for college coaches are to win games and win championships while staying out of trouble with the NCAA. Personally, I think that's a shaky assumption, especially in this day and age. For instance, I've held the same position at two companies. My objectives at both were vastly different. Who is to say that's not the case with, for instance, Jeff Bzdelik?
Any notion that Jeff Bzdelik had the same directives as Dave Odom and Skip Prosser should have been tossed after the introductory press conference. No matter what Ron Wellman said, there is a back story there that only a few know for sure. Only a select few really know what kind of (and I know the Nation hates this word) "culture" existed in the basketball office when Dino Gaudio was suddenly dismissed. There were quite a few qualified candidates available when that coaching search took place, but Bzdelik was pounced on quickly. He was the first, and probably only, candidate.
One theory is that Bzdelik is a transitional coach, brought in to restructure the Wake Forest basketball program over a 3-year period, providing a level of stability and laying the groundwork for a new coach in Year 4. Some have suggested that he is grooming Jeff Battle or Rusty Larue to inherit the reins once he departs. Looking at the current roster, any new coach would inherit a top-25 recruiting class entering their sophomore year after one year of extensive playing experience. That's an ideal situation for any new coach.
If that theory is correct, then Jeff Bzdelik scores a "meets expectations" on his performance review. For better or worse, he turned the roster over and has recruited a crop of young players that were highly coveted by top 25 programs across the country. They go to class, they stay out of trouble, and when there is a misstep Bzdelik has been swift to act. They don't win consistently, but there is a level of stability that wasn't there with Gaudio.
The other theory is that I'm dead wrong.
That, indeed, the primary objective for this staff is to win 20 games and be .500 in conference play. If that's the case, Wake Forest has a major problem. I don't care how young a well-funded ACC program is, one doesn't get blown out by Iona on a neutral floor or get run out of its own building by Nebraska. At this point, the stakeholders of Wake Forest athletics need to determine how much damage is being done to the Demon Deacon brand by adhering to the status quo.
But, that doesn't make any sense to me.
For three straight years, it's been obvious that an NCAA bid is more than an arm's length away simply based on youth and attrition. Additionally, television analysts constantly question why the offensive strategy rarely gets adjusted during the game. Just the other night, Bob Valvano mentioned multiple times that Nebraska had figured out how to defend our offensive set.
None of this is new news, and if winning were that important to Ron Wellman right now, a change would have been made after last year.
After all, business is business. I have a wife and family, but if I don't meet my performance objectives I'm going to be wished well in my future endeavors. My point in all of this is that the public doesn't know what those are, and you don't know what Jeff Bzdelik's performance objectives are, either. What I do know is that Jeff Bzdelik wouldn't still be here if he weren't meeting his.
Contrary to current popular belief, Ron Wellman isn't an idiot. My Orange Bowl ticket stub says so.