Danny Manning fired: Six candidates to watch at Wake Forest

Eli Boettger | @boettger_eli | 04/25/2020

Screen Shot 2020-02-15 at 12.56.18 AM


Wake Forest decided to move forward with the termination of head coach Danny Manning on Saturday, ending a six-year tenure that wrapped with a 78-111 record and just one NCAA Tournament appearance.

Among the reasons Manning was able to remain with the Demon Deacons despite poor results was a hefty buyout. Manning is reportedly owed over $15 million as a result of his early termination and was set to be under contract through the 2024-25 season.

The ’20-21 season will be Calipari’s toughest coaching job at Kentucky
Breakout national title contenders are often aided by transfers
Dennis Gates assembling swift turnaround at Cleveland State
Subscribe to Heat Check today for exclusive access and more in-depth content!

With Wake Forest severing ties, the ACC school will now be eyeing a new face to lead the program. Athletic director John Currie has obtained the services of search firm Ventura Partners to conduct the national search. Assistant Randolph Childress will serve as the acting head coach.

Here are six potential candidates for the Wake Forest vacancy:

Wes Miller

Miller is the heavy favorite to land the role. The UNC Greensboro head coach is one of the up-and-comers in the sport, having led the Spartans to four consecutive seasons of 23-plus wins, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished even once at UNCG since 1995.

At just 37 years old with nine years of head-coaching experience, you won’t find many candidates with as high of a ceiling in the sport. Miller is a native of Greensboro, N.C., and played on the 2005 North Carolina national championship team.

Pat Kelsey

Longtime former Wake Forest assistant Pat Kelsey also figures to be in the mix. The current Winthrop head coach has led the Eagles to 163 wins in eight years, including Big South conference titles in 2017 and 2020.

Kelsey’s track record in player development is also impressive, having coached eventual pros Chris Paul, Jeff Teague, Ish Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu and others. UMass nearly landed Kelsey in 2017 before he wound up returning to Winthrop for “personal reasons.”

Ryan Odom

Forever regarded as the first head coach to lead a No. 16 seed to a first-round NCAA Tournament win, UMBC’s Ryan Odom could also be considered for the vacancy. Odom made assistant stops at Furman, UNC Asheville, American, Virginia Tech and Charlotte before his first head-coaching gig at D-II Lenior-Rhyne.

After a year at Lenior-Rhyne, Odom took over at UMBC and has since guided the Retrievers to 83 wins in four years. Odom’s father, Dave Odom, coached Wake Forest from 1989 to 2001, winning ACC coach of the year three times and overseeing stars Tim Duncan, Randolph Childress and Rodney Rogers.

Steve Forbes

Steve Forbes’ name will continue to appear in just about every high-major coaching vacancy list until the end of time. The longtime assistant has done absolute wonders at ETSU. The Buccaneers went 30-4 this past season and were a projected No. 11 seed in BracketMatrix‘s final update.

Overall, Forbes has won a whopping 130 games in five seasons at ETSU, which explains why he’s such a hot commodity on the coaching carousel. Forbes has served under notable head coaches Billy Gillespie, Bruce Pearl and Gregg Marshall.

John Beilein

This one is probably a reach financially but should be included regardless. John Beilein was one of the hottest coaches in the sport with the masterful job he did at Michigan, leading the Wolverines to two Final Fours in a span of six years.

Beilein surprisingly took over the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head-coaching duties last summer, which turned out to be a disaster for both parties. Cleveland experienced issues in the locker room and stood just 14-40 by the time Beilein was reassigned in February, effectively ending his tenure as the Cavs head coach after just 54 games. After paying a massive buyout, the expectation is Wake won’t have the financial flexibility to reel in Beilein, even though he would be the strongest candidate on the board.

Tim Duncan

This would be something. Tim Duncan is obviously known for being one of the greatest power forwards in basketball history with the San Antonio Spurs, and he’s been on Gregg Popovich’s staff as an assistant since last year. Timmy probably isn’t ready to lead a high-major program but the idea of bringing back a famous and beloved alum is salivating.


Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.

Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member.