Colorado’s Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest

Posted by rtmsf on April 11th, 2010

With reporters both in Winston-Salem and Denver reporting that the Jeff Bzdelik rumors to Wake Forest are now a “done deal,” we wanted to take some time to analyze this hire because on its face there seems to be something missing.  Last week Wake AD Ron Wellman fired Dino Gaudio after three seasons that included a 61-31 overall record, 27-21 ACC mark and two NCAA Tournament appearances in his three seasons at the helm — a solid resume, if not spectacular.  But according to Wellman, it was what was behind those numbers that led to Gaudio’s firing — the timing and nature of what can only be described as meltdowns the last two seasons.  His quote on the matter:

The decision was based on the overall performance the past three years. I looked at our February and March records and how the performances declined rather dramatically. We were 16-17 in February in those three years and in March 4-7, and 1-6 in postseason play, including the ACC Tournament. In six of those losses, we were the higher-seeded team or better seeded in five of those losses. Yet the games weren’t even close.

Wake's New Guy Looks a Lot Like the Old Guy

This is rational, reasoned and well justified analysis of Gaudio’s late-season troubles.  What we’re having trouble understanding is how the 57-year old Bzdelik is a significant upgrade.  Bzdelik has had two major head coaching jobs — at Air Force from 2005-07, and the current gig at Colorado.  He generally did very well at the Air Force Academy, going 50-16 overall (22-10 MWC), including an at-large trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2006.  The problem is that his March record at AFA wasn’t any better than Gaudio’s — he was 0-2 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament despite holding higher seeds in both games, and the Academy’s sole NCAA appearance also resulted in a loss.  In fact, the unquestionable highlight of Bzdelik’s postseason career is the run that Air Force made to get to the NIT semifinals  in 2007, which is great for a program with little to no basketball history but not something to which an ACC school should aspire.

Looking at his three years in Colorado certainly does not help his case.  We recognize that the CU job is a challenging one, and Bzdelik seems to have gotten the Buffs on an upward trajectory there.  But his three-year body of work  does not inspire confidence that he’s any better than what Wake already had: 36-58 overall (10-38 Big 12), and a 1-3 record in the Big 12 Tournament.  No NCAA appearances, no NIT appearances.  In fact, the highlight of Bzdelik’s career in Boulder was a loss — dropping a six-point defeat in overtime against #1 Kansas in early February of this year.  The fact that his team was competing with the class of the conference/nation represented to many people that Bzdelik had reached a turning point in the program.  Colorado lost five more games, however, and in the Big 12 Tourney first round, the Buffs endured a fifteen-point thrashing.  Maybe it’s coming next year?

Will Bzdelik Improve on Gaudio?

Ron Wellman went out of his way to bring up Gaudio’s pitiful postseason record in his three years at Wake, and we assume that he took the time to analyze Bzdelik’s (1-5 excluding the NIT), but you have to believe that there’s more going on here than just a paucity of postseason success.  We know that Wellman and Bzdelik worked together at Northwestern a number of years ago and Bzdelik’s daughter attends Wake, but that seems coincidental more than anything else.  The only reasonable explanation for this hire is that Wellman must hold a belief that Bzdelik’s focus on “x’s and o’s,” of which he is well respected, is what the school needs right now.  There was a lingering sense around the ACC that Gaudio’s teams, while talented and athletic, didn’t know how to run a play in the halfcourt offense.  Bzdelik may very well cure that, but will he be able to raise the program to the next level that Wellman thinks they can reach (presumably a regular in the Sweet Sixteen)?

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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9 responses to “Colorado’s Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest”

  1. Milbarge says:

    I wonder if this will spell the end of the Skip Prosser Classic game between Wake and Xavier.

  2. JR says:

    As a WFU alum, I think I am in the minority when I say I think this may be a good hire. Many fans are irate about it and wonder how his slightly above average rate tempo (110th ranked last year) will translate to the ACC. I think that as long as the recruits stay this year, he will be an upgrade over Dino since he has the x and o’s mentality (something Dino sorely lacked) If he loses some recruits and Wake has a poor season, people are going to call for Wellman’s head. Should be an interesting few weeks with the spring signing period).

    The one thing everyone seems very incensed about? His age. This seems to be a quick fix with an unproven coach instead of given a young coach (Shaka Smart, etc) a chance to prove himself. I think fans would have been happier with a young mid-major coach instead of Bzdelik.

    This hire could blow up in a few weeks if Terrell, McKie, Desrosiers, etc go elsewhere. If they stay, it could prove to be a great hire.

  3. JR says:

    And I would be surprised if it ended the Skip Prosser classic. It should continue and I hope it does. Win-Win for all involved. RPI booster most years, chance for a quality win and raising money for charity.

  4. John Chis says:

    Wake Forest will just be another stepping stone for the man who has quit two jobs in CO before his job was done. If WF does not win in the first two years he will be off the the next highest bidder.
    Godspeed Buzz

  5. Fred says:

    There’s no other way to spin it…Gaudio got a raw deal…in this day of “one and dones”, what Gaudio has accomplished at Wake was pretty remarkable…coaching VERY young teams and going to the dance the past two years AND has a 75% winning percentage?…hiring a coach that was 36-58 over the past 3 years in a weak conference?…Wellman has not class or loyalty…Good Luck Wake…you’re going to need it!!

  6. Jeff says:

    Everyone knows in this economy, you look to buy low and expect a payoff down the road. For example, buying real estate may be a great option right now. I think Wellman knows that it’s the right time to hire Bzdelik, that Bzdelik has the necessary variables that fit with Wake Forest. Wake Forest offers solid recruiting, loyal fan base, and solid academics. What it was missing was the brain trust to make the chess moves on the court, to teach the “x’s” and “o’s”. I can’t tell you how many games Wake would have won this year if the team had just spent more time learning the fundamentals of free-throw shooting. I did not see one iota of improvement throughout the season. As a child, I went to basketball camps in NC, and I know that it doesn’t take that long to learn a) bend your knees, b) hold the ball the right way, c) placement of fingers, d) follow through and spin with arms out-stretching towards the rim. I didn’t see any improvement, and I think the team shot in the 60s percentage wise when they need to be nearer 75%.

    I’m playing my trust in Wellman. The recruits need to understand that learning and upgrading skills is important. Look at Tim Duncan. He developed skills at Wake, and look where it got him. If Wake recruits stay, if Coach Bzdelik can really, and I mean realy coach by putting in a running style of play and using Princeton type offense only sparingly during half-court situations, if the Wake screamin’ Deacs give this a chance, then we may have something good here.

  7. Andrew says:

    I think Wake just vaulted themselves to the back of the pack in the ACC and they’ll likely be going through this whole coaching search thing in 2-3 years, likely at the same time they begin looking for a new AD.

    And, with all this coaching turnover in the ACC, how the hell is Paul Hewitt still employed?

  8. deacfan says:

    Some people are “glass half empty”.

    Big, BIg, Mistake firing Gaudio. We are now in a time where players will be at schools 1 or 2 seasons and jump to the NBA. No one is giving Gaudio credit for recruiting, Wake had 3 first round picks over the past two seasons. RECRUITING is everything. Fans want to see exciting players. Who cares about ‘xs” & “Os” when a James Johnson stuffs the basketball. Wake should have been grateful and thanking Dino Gaudio for a great 1st three years. I think Andrew’s comment is telling “Wake just vaulted themselves to the back of the pack in the ACC”

  9. jack says:

    The season has progressed and Wake is at the bottom. I think that the powers to be really have second thoughts
    about hiring Bzdelik without utilizing a serch committee. The importance of selecting a new coach for a known
    basketball team should entail more than just someones gut feelings. Remarks like that just open question after
    question in the minds of everbody concerned about Wake(fans,alumni,players,coaches,donors etc.). Let’s
    hope for the best but I see more negatives than positives.

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