Steve Forbes is into his third week as Wake Forest’s basketball coach with three scholarships remaining for next season’s team.
Some additional items on Forbes from last week’s interview with the Journal:
SoCon Wofford East Tennessee St Basketball
Capping off the schedule
Forbes said last week that two or three games are left to solidify the non-conference portion of the schedule. He said filling out the remaining games will become more of a priority now that the Deacons have a firmer grasp on the roster — but there’s some selectiveness that comes with it.
“I had a couple of people call me to play and I asked them, my response was, ‘Well, I didn’t hear you calling me when I was at East Tennessee State, so why are you calling me now?’” Forbes said. “I think people are thinking, ‘Oh, maybe we can get us a couple of wins here.’
“I’m not doing that. We’ll do what’s best for the program.”
UNC Wilmington announced last week that it would play at Joel Coliseum on Nov. 10, which is a Tuesday and could be the season opener — the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons both began Nov. 10. The Deacons are 13-1 all-time against UNCW, winning 87-78 in 2011 in the most recent meeting.
The season reportedly won’t start with an ACC game, per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Last year, every ACC team except Duke (Champions Classic) played an ACC game to open its season, largely to promote the new ACC Network. Wake Forest lost 77-70 at Boston College to begin the season.
The timing might not be the best for a coaching change in college basketball, but some of the logistics that come with the move are the easiest of Forbes’ career.
“Everybody said it’s hard, but really truthfully it’s been the easiest move of my career because it’s three hours from Johnson City,” he said.
Given Forbes’ history, ping-ponging between Iowa, Idaho and Illinois, plus a few other places, it’s easy to see why this move is better than the rest.
Going from Wichita State to East Tennessee State was about a 950-mile trip. It was roughly 1,000 miles from Destin, Fla., where he coached Northwest Florida State, to Wichita, Kan. The shortest move of his career before now was the 371 miles separating Creston, Iowa, and Great Bend, Kan. — when he moved from Southwest Community College to Barton County Community College.
So, the 142-mile trip from Johnson City, Tenn., to Winston-Salem is a palatable distance.
For obvious COVID-19-related reasons, Wake Forest won’t be taking its scheduled international trip this summer, as permitted once every four years by the NCAA.
That was going to be the case before Danny Manning’s dismissal and remains the case under Forbes.
When the Deacons wind up rescheduling the trip, whether for summer 2021 or beyond, it’ll likely be a trip to Europe.
“How about this, I’ve done it twice and both years coming back we won 30,” Forbes said. “And it’s kind of the same trip. With Tennessee we went to Prague, Bratislava and Vienna. Came back and won 30 or 31, I think.
“(Last summer) we went to Prague, we went to Vienna, we went to Salzburg, Munich and Budapest and had a great trip.”
Forbes had each of his East Tennessee State assistants — Jason Shay, now the Buccaneers’ head coach, and BJ McKie and Brooks Savage, now with the Deacons — coach one game during last summer’s trip.
“I sat in the stands with my president and asked if I could continue to do that during the year, he said no. But at least I asked,” Forbes said with a laugh. “That was really valuable, I mean, the kids didn’t need me screaming and yelling. They don’t need that in August, they hear my voice enough.”
ETSU’s players took a class in conjunction with the trip and learned about the history and culture of the areas they visited — an important aspect for Forbes, who holds a history degree.
Pearls of influence
Forbes learned a lot from his five seasons spent on Bruce Pearl’s staff at Tennessee – chief among them instilling confidence in his teams and engaging the community and creating excitement around home games.
On the latter, just don’t count on Forbes following in Pearl’s bare-chested, body-painted footsteps.
“Seriously, you think anybody in America wants to see that? I mean, can you imagine?” Forbes said.
Pearl went to a 2007 Lady Vols’ game with his chest painted orange, except for white paint of a “V.” Forbes and Shay were on the staff at Tennessee and were invited to join him.
“He goes, ‘You guys going to do this with me?’ I said, ‘Is it in my contract?’ No. ‘Then I ain’t doing it,’” Forbes said. “I actually, though, witnessed it. I stood in the tunnel and in abject horror, watched my head coach … and a couple of the players come marching down there, I mean, my mouth was like, ‘Oh. My. God.’”
The other part of the story for Forbes, though, is that legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt returned the favor in her own way during the men’s team’s Senior Night.
“Pat Summitt came out in a cheerleading outfit with her staff and did a pyramid on the court and she sang 'Rocky Top.' Because she felt like she owed him,” Forbes said. “You think about that. Pat Summitt. I mean, who’s just a wonderful person. One of the best — the best person maybe I’ve ever met. So humble, you know, but has eight national championships.
“I was standing there in the timeout and you’re supposed to be listening to the huddle. But you’re kinda looking around the court like, ‘Is this really happening?’ You’re kinda like, ‘Seriously? Is Pat Summitt out here singing 'Rocky Top' right now? Come on, man.’”