East Tennessee State's Steve Forbes is the new Wake Forest next men’s basketball coach.
Wake Forest announced the hiring of Forbes this afternoon and will hold a virtual news conference at 11 a.m. Friday to introduce him.
“I'm extremely excited for the opportunity to be the head men's basketball coach at Wake Forest University,” Forbes said through a school-issued news release. “... Coming to Wake Forest presents an opportunity to be a part of a special brand and a chance to impact our student-athletes' lives in a positive way while competing for championships."
Terms of the agreement, including length and salary, were not disclosed.
Athletics director John Currie moved quickly this week to hire Forbes, 55, who crossed paths with Currie when he was an assistant at Tennessee.
Wake Forest’s search started with six in the initial interview pool and was narrowed to Forbes and UNCG's Wes Miller, a source said.
"Coach Forbes has an incredible track record of success, matched only by his reputation for building strong and lasting relationships,” Currie said through a news release. "He operates with a high level of intensity and is not only an effective coach on the floor, but a great recruiter as well.
"We welcome him and his family to Deacon Nation and I'm looking forward to supporting him and his staff as they build a championship program both on and off the court."
Currie said last weekend that, despite the COVID-19 necessitated period between the end of the season and the announcement on Danny Manning’s firing last weekend, he expected the process for hiring a new coach to move “rather quickly.”
That translated to finishing the search less than a week after ending Manning’s tenure at six seasons. The timing also means that Currie wrapped up the hiring of a new coach for the department’s flagship program on the eve of his one-year anniversary of taking over for Ron Wellman.
Forbes has been a winner at every level. His five-year stint at East Tennessee State wraps up at 130-43 with one NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2017, and this season's team would have gone if the event hadn’t been canceled. Forbes has worked as an assistant at Texas A&M, Tennessee and Wichita State.
His ledger includes a firing in lieu of an NCAA investigation while he was at Tennessee. Head coach Bruce Pearl and his staff, including Forbes, were fired for rules violations and misleading testimony. Forbes was given a one-year show cause penalty.
Forbes takes over a Wake Forest program that was 13-18 last season and 6-14 in the ACC. The Deacons have been to one postseason tournament, the 2017 First Four appearance, and are a combined 129-187 (.408 winning percentage) in the past 10 seasons.
Currie made it clear he was looking for a quick search and that much played out in less than a week.
“This is a basketball town, people care about basketball in Winston-Salem and in the Triad, in the state of North Carolina,” Currie said last weekend. “We know that we’ve got an opportunity to continue to build on the strengths that we have, on the tradition that we have.”
The task at Wake Forest is a daunting one. The Deacons have occupied the bottom tier of the ACC standings for nearly all of the last 10 years, a plummet that started after Dino Gaudio was fired after three seasons and a record of 61-31, two NCAA Tournament trips and a No. 1 overall ranking in January 2009.
Forbes’ first charge will be pumping life into a beaten-down and apathetic fan base that has been reflected in the lowest attendance numbers in the 31-season history of Joel Coliseum in each of the last two seasons.
The roster is fluid, and that was the case before Forbes was hired. Wake Forest has four players in the transfer portal: Chaundee Brown, Sharone Wright Jr., Michael Wynn and Jahcobi Neath. Brown will not return, but Neath left open that possibility. It’s unknown whether Wright or Wynn would return under a new coach.
Scholarship players currently on the roster are Olivier Sarr, a third-team All-ACC player last season, Isaiah Mucius, Ody Oguama, Ismael Massoud and Tariq Ingraham.
Before Manning was fired, the Deacons signed a pair of transfers: Ian DuBose is a grad transfer from Houston Baptist, and Isaiah Wilkins is a transfer from Virginia Tech with two years remaining.
Manning had a four-player incoming freshman class, two of whom have posted on Twitter that they’ve requested releases from their national letters of intent. The two to request a release are Djimon Bailey of Wilson and Jaylon Gibson of Raleigh. Still in the class are Quadry Adams of Edison, N.J., and Marcus Watson of Chicago, both point guards.
Requests for confirmation from Wake Forest that Bailey and Gibson had been granted releases from their letters went unanswered.