Wake Forest fires basketball coach Danny Manning

Who can replace Danny Manning as Wake Forest head coach? (0:49)

Jeff Borzello lists potential names of coaches that could take over after the recent firing of Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning. (0:49)

Wake Forest has fired men's basketball head coach Danny Manning after six seasons, the school announced Saturday.

The Demon Deacons never finished above .500 in the ACC under Manning, who had a 14-42 conference record over the past three seasons. Last season, they went 13-18 overall and 6-14 in the ACC, finishing in a tie for last in the conference.

The decision came after what athletic director John Currie called an "overall evaluation'' of a program with two winning seasons in the past decade going back to the days of Jeff Bzdelik.

Currie said he and Manning notified the team earlier Saturday in a video teleconference. Associate head coach and program great Randolph Childress will lead the team in the interim while the school searches for Manning's replacement.

Manning's final game with the Demon Deacons was a loss to Pittsburgh in the opening game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, ending the season shortly before the coronavirus pandemic led to a shutdown of college and professional sports. The pandemic played a role in the timing of Manning's dismissal, Currie said in a video teleconference Saturday.

"As time goes by, we're able to resume things,'' Currie said. "We never stopped working on this particular program because it is so important to all of us, just like we haven't stopped with the day-to-day duties. ... But certainly the onset of the pandemic played a role in the timing of today's announcement.''

Wake Forest finished 12th or worse in the league in five of Manning's six seasons and had just one winning season overall.

"I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to lead the Wake Forest men's basketball program," Manning said in a statement. "I am very proud of the numerous student-athletes I had the pleasure of coaching, especially the student-athletes who earned their degrees. I am particularly thankful for all of the hard work my staff has put in through the years.

"I am so grateful to the Wake Forest community, who have made Winston-Salem a special home for my family and I from the second we stepped on campus in 2014. I wish the program nothing but success going forward."

Overall, Manning went 78-111 in his six seasons in Winston-Salem and 30-80 in conference play, including 6-49 on the road in the ACC.

The Demon Deacons made one postseason appearance under Manning, losing in the First Four in 2017.

Manning, who played for 15 seasons in the NBA after a legendary college career at Kansas, spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Jayhawks before taking over as the head coach of Tulsa for two seasons.

After leading the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA tournament in 2014, Manning was hired by Wake Forest to replace Bzdelik.

Currie declined to discuss details of Manning's contract or financial obligations tied to the change. Manning received an extension after his lone NCAA tournament trip in 2017, although the private school typically doesn't make terms public.

"Ultimately, this is a basketball decision,'' Currie said, adding later: "In this particular decision, if you look at the overall program and where we are right now, the economics support the decision.''

Manning had said after the Pitt loss on March 10 he "absolutely'' expected to return, as well as in subsequent interviews in recent weeks.

The Demon Deacons appeared to be trending upward in 2017, when sophomore John Collins led the Demon Deacons to a 19-win season and a .500 league mark along with a spot in the NCAA's First Four.

But Collins left to become a first-round NBA draft pick, while junior Dino Mitoglou left to play professionally in Europe. And over the next few seasons, key players such as Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore and Keyshawn Woods left with eligibility remaining to pursue professional careers or play elsewhere in college.

It happened again in the past two weeks, with junior Chaundee Brown announcing he would enter his name into the NBA draft, as well as the NCAA transfer portal.

Amid that turnover, Manning's program never was able to build on the 2017 run, going 11-20 in each of the following two seasons.

Along the way, once-rowdy game-day environments at Joel Coliseum during the Chris Paul and Skip Prosser era more than a decade earlier grew quiet with large swaths of empty seats. Games against in-state ACC foes Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State often drew significant numbers of fans wearing the blues or red of the visitors.

Retiring athletic director Ron Wellman announced last March that Manning would return despite a third 20-loss season in five years, saying he expected Manning would see improvement as Currie took over. Manning went on to claim his first wins against Duke (a double-overtime, comeback victory) and UNC in February, but Wake Forest won just two more games from the previous year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.