GREENSBORO -- It was C.J. Harris’ final game at Wake Forest. It was almost certainly not Jeff Bzdelik’s. Both those circumstances left Demon Deacons fans with their tie-dye in a twist.
A group of disgruntled Wake fans raised enough money to buy a banner ad at the bottom of the Greensboro News & Record sports page Thursday -- apparently, on each of the four days of the tournament -- demanding Bzdelik’s firing.
That movement will surely only gather momentum after Thursday’s 75-62 loss to Maryland, the Demon Deacons’ seventh straight in the ACC tournament. (They haven’t won an ACC tournament game since 2007, when the late Skip Prosser was coaching.) The Terrapins moved on to face Duke on Friday in the quarterfinals.
In Harris’ final college game, the senior guard from Winston-Salem had 19 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Demon Deacons had a five-point halftime edge and still held the lead with 10 minutes to play, but didn't make another field goal for 8 1/2 minutes as they were outscored 24-10 down the stretch. The fouls piled up, their defensive intensity slipped and they lost patience in their offense -- all faults fans have identified with the Bzdelik regime previously. Not to mention running Wake Forest's record under Bzdelik to 1-27 away from Winston-Salem, another previously identified fault.
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman has so far shown no inclination to make a change, and the Demon Deacons certainly showed progress this season, Bzdelik’s third -- home wins over N.C. State and Miami as well as the development and improvement of a few key freshmen, most notably forward Devin Thomas.
For fans of this once-proud program, so numerous and so loud at the Greensboro Coliseum despite the sad state of affairs, that’s hardly enough, especially when combined with Bzdelik’s quirky, quiet personality, a change of pace from garrulous predecessors Dave Odom, Prosser and Dino Gaudio.
When Harris hit a 3-pointer to give Maryland a 23-19 lead and force a Maryland timeout, the Wake fans went nuts, led by former walk-on and Wake Forest marketing professor Kenny Herbst, who made himself noticeable sitting -- nay, standing, almost the entire game as a one-man cheering section -- behind the Wake bench.
(Among Herbst’s published academic papers: “When good decisions have bad outcomes: Attenuating the effect of regret on switching behavior.” That isn’t about the Bzdelik hiring. It just sounds like it.)
Can Bzdelik get Wake Forest back to where it can be, where it should be? Time will tell. And he’s going to get more time, no matter how many newspaper ads are purchased.