We've all been there, where Ron Wellman is, unwilling to admit a mistake, holding on longer than he should, hoping the bad situation he got himself into somehow turns around.
Think of the Wake Forest athletic director as a loser at a blackjack table.
He now knows he should've never sat down here.
He knows it's been a bad three-hour run.
He knows the fourth hour doesn't offer much hope.
But to get up from the table now is to cement this bad decision as bad. So he stays. Sure, remaining another hour probably only delays the inevitable because things will still almost certainly end badly. But at least this delays that. And at least there's a scenario that involves things turning around, even if it's a longshot. So he sits. Even though everybody is telling him to get up, he's just going to keep still. But eventually he'll have to walk away, and when he does he'll realize he should've walked away earlier.
We've all been there, right?
Ron Wellman is there at this moment.
It was a head-scratcher of a move in April 2010 when Wellman fired a coach (Dino Gaudio) who had made back-to-back NCAA tournaments to hire a coach (Jeff Bzdelik) who had just gone 10-38 in the Big 12 over a span of three seasons at Colorado, but, honestly, I was mostly OK with it. I figured Wellman must've understood the public-relations risk in firing a recent winner to hire a recent loser, and, in a twisted way, I sort of respected that he was willing to put himself in that situation given that most athletic directors tend to play it safe. It was a questionable move, no doubt. But it was intriguing. So I was anxious to see how it worked out.
Fact: It hasn't worked out at all.
Wake Forest, the school that made seven NCAA tournaments from 2001 to 2010, has finished last, tied for last and tied for ninth in the 12-school ACC in Bzdelik's three seasons. He's won 11 games against ACC opponents and lost 42. Attendance is down. Fans are angry. A "Fire Bzdelik" advertisement appeared in the student newspaper. A website supporting the cause was created. And yet Wellman won't get up from this table. In the same week that UCLA and Minnesota fired coaches who made the NCAA tournament, Wellman is publicly backing a coach who can't sniff any postseason tournaments. It must be demoralizing for WFU fans who care deeply about the program.
"I appreciate their passion," Wellman told MyFox8.com on Tuesday because, really, what else could he say? The man has boldly backed himself into a corner. He's unwilling to admit his mistake and pull a quick trigger despite the fact that Wake Forest will now enter next season led by a man who has gone 70-118 as a college coach in the past six years.
Over a span of six years!
And this is the school Chris Paul attended!
"If you look at Wake Forest basketball history, we've been pretty good in the past," Wellman told MyFox8.com, which is absolutely true and precisely why his fans are going crazy. Wake Forest has been pretty good in the past -- but an embarrassment recently. The Demon Deacons are an afterthought in North Carolina. Meantime, North Carolina, Duke and NC State all made this month's Field of 68. Gaudio works at ESPN, by the way.
Bottom line, what we have here is a man who made a risky hire and knows the moment he pulls the trigger on his friend is the moment the gun gets pointed back at him. In other words, Wellman, I'm guessing, knows he just has to ride this out, for better or worse.
And we've all been there, right?
Holding on too long, hoping our bad decision turns out OK even though there's almost no evidence to suggest it'll get better (or, at least, good enough to make it right). Wellman is back at the ATM, middle of the night, splitting nines and doubling down against a face. Needless to say, there's a better-than-great chance he's going to exit here broke, probably next March. But he's not willing to admit that now. So he's standing strong while the other guys at the table shake their heads and feel badly for him, wondering why he didn't just walk away gracefully when the damage was bad but not as bad as it ultimately got.