Wake Forest hires Bzdelik as coach

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Wake Forest has hired Colorado's Jeff Bzdelik as the Demon Deacons' new men's basketball coach.

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn told The Associated Press that Bzdelik confirmed Tuesday night he was taking the position.

The school has called a 10 a.m. ET news conference to introduce its new coach.

Bzdelik spent 2½ seasons coaching the NBA's Denver Nuggets and most recently went 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado.

His hiring comes a week after Wake Forest fired Dino Gaudio because of what athletic director Ron Wellman described as a pattern of late-season fades.

Wake Forest focused its search on Bzdelik for most of the week that the job was open. Over the weekend, he emerged as the only publicly known candidate, and he issued a statement Sunday acknowledging that he would speak to school officials about the opening. Bohn said he has been monitoring the Demon Deacons' pursuit of his coach intently over the past few days.

"I'm pleased for Jeff. He was able to move the program forward," Bohn said in a phone interview. "He wanted to be in that part of the country."

The 57-year-old Bzdelik is no stranger to either his new boss or his new employer -- his daughter is enrolled at Wake Forest. Bzdelik and Wellman have known each other for roughly three decades, since they were at Northwestern in the early 1980s -- Wellman as the baseball coach and Bzdelik as a men's basketball assistant.

Bzdelik started his coaching career in the late 1970s at Davidson, an hour's drive south of the Wake Forest campus.

Wake Forest will be paying a pair of men's basketball coaches this season. Gaudio was fired a week ago, six months after his contract was extended through 2013-14. In discussing the firing, Wellman said the buyout clause in the ex-coach's deal "will be honored, most definitely." Terms were not disclosed.

Gaudio had a three-year record of 61-31 but a combined mark of 1-5 in ACC and NCAA tournament games. His dismissal came 15 months after he guided the Demon Deacons to their second No. 1 national ranking in school history -- and 2½ weeks after a 30-point loss to Kentucky in the second round of the East Regional. The Demon Deacons have won multiple NCAA tournament games only once since 1996.

Bzdelik signed a five-year deal at Colorado in 2007, and leaves less than a month after the school broke ground on a practice facility. He has a $500,000 buyout in his contract to coach the Buffaloes.

His 15-16 record this past season was an improvement. Colorado lost 22 games in 2008-09 and 20 the year before that.

Bohn said he plans to organize a search committee as soon as Wednesday.

"We've got great young men, a close-knit group who've dedicated themselves to Colorado," Bohn said. "We're going to work our tails off to get them a great coach."

One of the names that may surface is Buffaloes associate head coach Steve McClain, who joined the staff in 2007 after serving as coach at Wyoming for nearly a decade.

"We have a lot of respect for Steve," Bohn said. "We anticipate him being in the mix."

Bohn is no stranger to coaching searches these days. He brought in former Colorado player Linda Lappe on Monday to take over the women's basketball program.

"We've been preparing for this," Bohn said.

Before taking over at Colorado, Bzdelik found plenty of success during a two-year stint at Air Force, where he was 50-16. He led the Falcons to the NCAA tournament in 2006 and to the Final Four of the NIT the following season.

He has not been to the postseason since the 2007 NIT. That season, those Falcons gave Wake Forest its most lopsided nonconference loss of the modern era when it routed Skip Prosser's Demon Deacons 94-58 in November 2006.

Bzdelik is 0-1 as a head coach in the NCAA tournament, with his Air Force team losing to Illinois in the first round in 2006. He was 50-16 in two seasons at the academy, and was 73-119 with the Nuggets from 2002-04.

Now he's expected to take over a program with a reputation for attracting NBA-caliber players. Guard Jeff Teague and forward James Johnson jumped to the pros last year after their sophomore seasons, and Al-Farouq Aminu announced plans to leave early two weeks ago.

Among the new coach's next challenges: Keeping an incoming five-man recruiting class considered one of the nation's best by the recruiting services, and getting to know the unsigned high school seniors-to-be who will make up the class of 2011.