In his five years as a college coach, Jeff Bzdelik's teams are 0-6 in conference and NCAA tournament play. That statistic in and of itself is hardly an indictment of the 57-year-old's coaching ability, but it does provide a striking similarity to that of Dino Gaudio, the Wake Forest coach Bzdelik is likely to succeed. Gaudio, after all, was fired because of his lack of postseason success. His replacement can relate. Because other than sharing a consonant-heavy last name with him, it's not like Bzdelik is exactly Mike Krzyzewski.
Ron Wellman is Wake Forest's long-time athletic director. He has been at the school for 18 years, hired the coach that led the Demon Deacons on the greatest football run in university history and has presided over an athletic department that is ranked among the nation's best. When Wellman does something he gets the benefit of the doubt. So when he fired Gaudio last week despite a 61-31 overall record, fans trusted Wellman's judgment. Gaudio was 1-5 in the postseason and his teams had collapsed down the stretch in the last two years. His teams played erratic defense and went through stretches of games where it seemed there was no discernible offensive strategy. Simple zones gave fits to Gaudio's teams. Few fans fretted when he was sent packing. The only worry was whether a new coach would be able to retain Gaudio's 2009-2010 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 8 in the nation by Rivals.com. Wellman had a plan though. Didn't he?
Though the quick hiring suggests Wellman had Bzdelik targeted before he fired Gaudio, it's hard to see why. First, there's the fact that Bzdelik's teams in Boulder were a combined 22 games under-.500. There's that pesky 0-6 postseason record (0-3 in Big 12 tournaments and 0-2 in the Mountain West conference tourney and 0-1 in the NCAAs while at Air Force). There are similar, Gaudio-like late-season collapses. That 2007 team started to 17-1 before losing six of seven to close, much like Wake Forest would do one year later. There's also the not-so-minor fact that Bzdelik will turn 58 at the beginning of next season. That's two years younger than Roy Williams and just five years shy of Mike Krzyzewski. It might not be old, but it's old for a guy without any sort of track record.
For now, Bzdelik's main goal will be keeping those recruits at Wake. It's rumored that Bzdelik will retain some of Gaudio's assistants such as Jeff Battle and Rusty LaRue, something that could go a long way to keeping the five high schoolers signed to play in Winston next fall. One couldn't blame them for going: they signed on to play in Gaudio's up-tempo offense and now will play Bzdelik's Princeton-style hybrid.
Once play starts, Bzdelik will be tasked with keeping Wake Forest in the national spotlight (something that's not guaranteed when you're a small, 4,000 student school at the end of Tobacco Road), keeping afloat in the ACC and, most importantly, generating some postseason success. It would be a first for both Bzdelik and his new Demon Deacons.