DeCock

DeCock: Bzdelik trying to change culture

Staff WriterMarch 10, 2011 

— The merciful end is in sight for Wake Forest.

What first-year Demon Deacons coach Jeff Bzdelik called earlier this week the "most challenging year in all my years of coaching" is unlikely to extend past today's 2 p.m. game against Boston College, a team that beat Wake Forest by 16 on Sunday.

There's always a chance, but given that Wake Forest has put up one of the worst statistical seasons in ACC history - the first team to lose 15 league games, outscored by 18.5 points per game in conference play and by 9.8 points overall, losers of 10 in a row - those chances are slim.

"There's things from Sunday that we can do better, and we look forward to the challenge of doing those things better," Bzdelik said.

More likely, Wake Forest (8-23, 1-15) will close the door on a season everyone involved would probably prefer to leave behind. (Throw in a 3-9 football season, and it's been a tough year in Winston-Salem.) Certainly, lessons have been learned but at a heavy cost.

"We've gone through a lot of adversity," sophomore guard C.J. Harris said. "No one expects that going into a season. Obviously, the obstacles we've faced this year have made this season difficult, but it's a new season now."

In many ways, this season of discontent reflected an offseason of turmoil. Bzdelik replaced the fired Dino Gaudio, Ish Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu, L.D. Williams and Chas McFarland were all lost to graduation or the NBA and would-be starting center Tony Woods was arrested and kicked off the team over the summer.

That left two veterans - Ari Stewart and Harris - and a mess of freshmen and little-used reserves. Ty Walker, a key forward reserve, didn't play a minute in ACC play last season. Senior guard Gary Clark has played more minutes this season than he did in his first three seasons at Wake Forest combined. Three freshmen started Sunday against BC with Harris and Clark. Stewart, meanwhile, was dropped from the starting lineup a month ago and hasn't scored in four games.

"We've had challenges, let's face it," Bzdelik said.

The play of hard-working freshman forward Travis McKie stands out as the most positive development for the Deacons, and in McKie and Harris, the Deacons have two players who are capable of playing important roles going forward. Freshmen Carson Desrosiers, J.T. Terrell and Tony Chennault have shown potential but need to show considerable improvement.

Bzdelik retains the full confidence of athletic director Ron Wellman, and he'll need it. Clearly, the culture change he's trying to affect is going to take some time. It may also take some personnel changes. He hinted that a few players will be offered a my-way-or-the-highway ultimatum this summer.

"We've had a little resistance from some, to be quite frank, but we will straighten everything out, and we're headed down the right path," Bzdelik said. "I'm very excited about our future. We have had a lot of bright spots, certainly some of the individuals we brought in have taken the coaching to improve their game. We'll make certain as we head forward that 100 percent of players on our team are into Wake Forest for all the right reasons."

So that's next on the agenda. First, the Deacons have one a final chance to put a positive spin on a dismal season tonight and create at least one moment to remember in a year they'd just as soon forget.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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