It's been more than a month since the Wake Forest. But the passage of time -- be it five weeks or five years -- does not and will not make the video below any less remarkable or fascinating.at
If anything, its aura has strengthened over time. On April 30 the school officially announced Forbes as its men's basketball coach, in the age of the coronavirus, by releasing the following 47 seconds of surrealism.
Hostage situation or coaching acquisition? Interpretations abound; you be the judge. The quick cutaway of the four meager league-championship banners tucked up in the corner of the gym under an air-conditioning duct is a creative decision I love almost as much as the opening of the video. We start with distant shots of Forbes -- wearing a mask that looks like it's trying to eat his face -- donning the pensive look of movie villain plotting what might be the vengeful takeover of an ACC practice facility.
Some stilted dialogue follows, as does the rare-but-rousing two-finger point from Wake Forest athletic director John Currie, who confidently looks right into the camera to announce a changing of the guard. The climax hits with a thunderclap: the Steve Forbes Era at Wake Forest is formally initiated with a fevered spike of a face mask onto the hardwood. And the screaming and camera intimidation begins.
Forbes let out a big laugh when we caught up by phone this week and I got asking about just what was going on with this hiring video.
"That ain't the only thing I filmed," he said. "I was doing voice-overs, interviews, it was going crazy."
How did this get approved? Forbes needed to start at the beginning, because it explains the ending. By the time the video gets shot, he's shot.
Itching for more college hoops analysis? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take you beyond the hardwood with insider information and instant reactions.
"I'm emotionally exhausted," Forbes recalled. "This is actually the day before the press conference. So this is when I've gone through the mental olympics of getting the job. That started on Sunday night. It was a phone call from John Currie and then Monday it was a Zoom interview with John and his people."
He Zooms with Chris Paul, Tim Duncan and others. On April 29 he drives two hours to a remote, mountain-hidden North Carolina town, Montreat, to meet Currie and go over particulars and get to the final stages of being offered the job. Later that night Forbes calls ETSU athletic director Scott Carter well after midnight to tell him he's leaving for Wake Forest. By the time he's about to try and fall asleep with his wife at 3 a.m., she reminds him he'll be coaching in a league with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.
He basically doesn't sleep and is out of his house in Tennessee at 6 a.m. and driving almost three hours to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He meets with Wake Forest president Nathan O. Hatch at 10 a.m. and is on campus shortly after 11 a.m. to sign the contract.
"By 1 p.m. I'm Zooming with my (ETSU) team, which is the worst thing I've ever had to do in my career was say goodbye to my team over Zoom," Forbes said. "It was the worst. Awful. Then I Zoom the team I think I'm coaching, but they all go in the portal, and then it's 'We're going to do all these interviews and films.'"
Forbes can't keep up. The day already feels 40 hours long.
"They say we're going to film this whatever -- I don't know," he said. "I didn't know what it was. They already gave me a Wake Forest mask, asked me if I had it, I said no. I can't find it. So they said, 'We have a handmade one.' I look like Bane from Batman. All I need is those little [tubes] coming out. ... They tell me what we to do. I do the first take and throw it down. They say, 'No. No, no, we need more passion. So I said, 'F---, I got plenty of that.' So I threw it down and that was it. I didn't really quite understand what it was. Because I don't think John -- they filmed John separately, so when I saw it I was like, 'Holy s---!' laughing. But it got people fired up. It was the end of a long and exhausting four days. I guess in a lot of ways it was apropos of the times we were and are in currently."
And that editor's dream of a script? Yeah, there was something put together, but Forbes took his, let's call it artistic, vision and let the muse go to work.
"I'm a one-take guy, are you kidding me?" he said. "I mean, basically I ad-libbed. Throw your mask down and let's go. 'We're going to graduate our guys.' Come on, I graduated third in my class. There was only 32 people, granted, but I can remember a line or two. It didn't take me long. What they did find out with me: the more takes we did, they said, 'Nah, just let him talk."
An instant classic. The video was so avant-garde it caught the eye of popular former NFL player Chris Long, who almost never talks about college basketball but nonetheless dedicated an entire segment on his podcast about it. The podcast found its way to Forbes' teenage son and twenty-something daughter. Both insisted he listen to it. Forbes was cracking up recalling listening to Long's blow-by-blow review of the most viral video of college basketball's offseason.
Wake hired one of the most self-deprecating coaches in the game. I doubt anyone else could have pulled off the role so perfectly. The only major-conference hiring of this offseason results in 47 seconds of bizarre, unintentional brilliance.
Forbes eventually found the other mask. Both of them are on the desk in his office.