Wake AD: Jeff Bzdelik will return

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Jeff Bzdelik will be back for a fourth season as Wake Forest's basketball coach, athletic director Ron Wellman said Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Wellman re-affirmed his support for Bzdelik and said he is "very encouraged about the future of our program."

Bzdelik came under fire from a frustrated fan base after a third straight losing season and no postseason tournament appearances, a slide that followed a run of two straight NCAA tournament berths in former coach Dino Gaudio's final two seasons.

The Demon Deacons went 13-18 this year with upset wins at home over No. 2 Miami and No. 18 North Carolina State, and they ended their season with a loss to Maryland in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. They're winless in that tournament since 2007.

The former coach at Colorado, Air Force and the Denver Nuggets is 34-60 overall and 11-42 against ACC opponents at Wake Forest.

"We didn't win as many games as any of us would want, and ... if I thought this was the high mark, then I would be really frustrated," Wellman said. "But this is not the high mark for this team. ... We've got a lot to accomplish yet and with Jeff's leadership ... I am very confident about our future."

After that ACC tournament loss two weeks ago, Bzdelik praised his team's foundation as "rock solid.

"These young men are committed to Wake Forest, they're committed to working hard, and there is a bright future, the right way," he said.

Bzdelik has rebuilt the roster throughout his tenure -- only two players from his first team in 2010-11 were on this team -- and that left only three available non-freshmen on scholarship this year.

More than 60 percent of the team's minutes were played by freshmen, and of the team's top six scorers, four were freshmen.

Wellman was encouraged by the progress made by some of those freshmen. Big man Devin Thomas made the ACC's all-freshman team after averaging 8.9 points and 7.7 rebounds with 42 blocked shots.

"There is every reason to believe in this team and the individuals on the team because of the improvements that I saw this year," Wellman said.

Wake Forest has increased its victory total in ACC play each year, going from a worst-in-league-history one win in 2010 to four last year to six this year -- the first year of the expanded 18-game conference schedule.

The Demon Deacons also re-established Joel Coliseum as a tough place to play, finishing 11-5 at home.

But they were just 2-13 away from Winston-Salem and have won only five true road games under Bzdelik -- with three of those being played within a 30-minute drive of campus.

Wellman says that's part of the maturation process for a young team and the next step is to win some of those road games.

"There's every reason to expect that the foundation that he has established and laid the first three years, we are going to reap the benefits of that foundation in the future," Wellman said.

The AD also said he appreciates "the passion of the fans" after some of them purchased advertisements in the Greensboro newspaper during the ACC tournament to call for Bzdelik's dismissal.

"Obviously, when things like that happen, you don't like it, but I also believe that when this program is winning again, that those fans will be back on board," Wellman said. "They just want to win. And when we win, they're going to be happy. When we lose, they're frustrated and they express their frustrations in that manner."