Steve Forbes has only been Wake Forest’s coach for about 10 days so at least locally he’s not going to face a lot of criticism just yet. Take this article from Ed Hardin, who explores his hometown of Lone Tree, Iowa, population 1,300, and how it influenced him.
It’s a nice story and very much what you’d expect when a coaching hire is still fresh. We’re not even sure he’s met any of his players yet, though he seems to have impressed several. Latest to withdraw from the transfer portal: Jahcobi Neath. His roster, which might have been decimated, is now at least at least at a reasonable starting point.
The honeymoon for Forbes is not universal though and certainly not at Deadspin which ridicules the new Wake Forest coach for his video taped introduction, his tiff with Kentucky and his comments about Olivier Sarr.
A few points here.
The audience for the video, where Forbes spiked his Covid-19 facemask, was Wake fans, who have had far too many years of passive, non-communicative coaches who never really seemed that excited about coaching their team.
We have yet to see a single Wake Forest fan who wasn’t really happy about it. So as far as that goes, we’d give him an A+ for nailing his introduction under very strange circumstances.
As for poking Big Blue Nation, well, so what? Deadspin says this: “What Forbes has yet to grasp is that the majority of the athletes that play big-time college basketball put more of an emphasis on winning and getting to the next level than ‘prestigious degrees.’ The ACC that Forbes will be coaching in is a different world than the Southern Conference he came from, as he amassed a 130-43 record in five seasons at East Tennessee State. Making it to the tournament is the dream there, while winning it is all that matters in the ACC, as the conference has won eight national championships since 2000.“
What Deadpsin has yet to grasp is that Forbes is well-acquainted with Kentucky, having worked for Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. In fact, we’re pretty sure that he knows a great deal more about UK and BBN than the writer of this article.
And while Kentucky fans may not have appreciated his comments, he’s not wrong and it’s a fair point. Sarr was a couple of semesters away from a tremendous accomplishment. Does it pay as much as the NBA does?
No, at least not when he’s 21.
Does he have any guarantee he’ll be drafted or stick?
No, not really. He’s a valid target but better players have gone up and failed or were forced out by injury or medical conditions.
You never know.
A Wake Forest degree is worth a lot and opens many doors. So it’s not a stupid thing to say and again, we’re sure it resonated with Demon Deacon fans.
The other thing that surprises us is this.
Yes, ETSU is in the Southern Conference. And as we’ve said before, ETSU is an underestimated basketball school.
Even so: prior to Forbes, how often have the Bucs won 25 games in a year?
Les Robinson won 27 games in 1989-90, Alan LeForce won 28 the following year and Murray Bartow won 27 in 2003-04.
Forbes won 24, 27, 25, 24 and 30 in his five years. It might not seem that impressive because it’s in the Southern Conference, but the reality is that it’s more impressive in the Southern Conference than it is in the ACC, or SEC for that matter. He was 68-28 at Barton County Community College, 62-6 at Northwest Florida State College, with two 30-win seasons and 130-43 at ETSU. His ETSU career winning percentage there was .751.
Kentucky has every possible advantage. Everything there is programmed for success. UK has tradition, lavish facilities, a very generous budget, a conference that is often weak and easily dominated and fanatical fan support. They always recruit well.
It’s nearly impossible to fail there.
Not much of that is true at ETSU. You have to bust your hump to win big at ETSU.
It has solid fan support but it is in a small town in a minor conference and in a culturally rich but materially poor region.
Yet Forbes built a program that was strong enough to go to Lawrence last season and give Kansas a tough game. Same for LSU.
He has no guarantees at Wake Forest obviously, but the idea that he’s a laughing stock is kind of ridiculous. What he’s shown so far is a willingness to fight and to back down to no one, not even Kentucky.
Deadspin is free to underestimate Forbes. Anyone who is actually paying attention probably shouldn’t.