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Danny Manning takes over at Wake Forest with eye on 1st NCAA tournament since 2010

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WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina — As Wake Forest tries to climb back to relevance in college basketball, the Demon Deacons hope they won't need any miracles.

Just Danny Manning.

The star of Kansas' 1988 national championship team is preparing for his first year as Wake Forest's coach.

He isn't promising any quick fixes. But with a decent amount of talent on the roster, this doesn't look like a total reconstruction project, either.

"Our expectations don't change," Manning said. "Any time you step on the court, you want to win. ... It's a results business. As a coach, I'm going to be measured by wins and losses. That's what people see.

"Make no mistake about it, when we step onto the court, we're stepping out to compete and win. It doesn't matter who's out there. It doesn't matter if they're new or if they're old. We want to win."

The Demon Deacons certainly didn't do enough of that during the past four years.

That's why Manning is here.

Jeff Bzdelik posted three consecutive losing seasons, then stepped down amid intense public pressure after his best year at the school — a 17-16 finish that included upsets of North Carolina and Duke but ended with a 29-point loss to Pittsburgh in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Wake Forest hasn't played in a national postseason tournament since 2010.

Now the program is in the hands of Manning — who captured a national title as a player on that Jayhawks team known as "Danny and the Miracles, spent 15 years in the NBA and most recently coached Tulsa to its first NCAA tournament since 2003.

He's got a solid nucleus in the form of a five-man junior class that's led by tempo-pushing guard Codi Miller-McIntyre and big man Devin Thomas.

"Now, there's no more excuses," Miller-McIntyre said. "We were in those shoes (in past years) and we were kind of making those excuses — like, 'Oh, we're just freshmen,' or 'Oh, we're kind of just sophomores.' Now you need to get it together."


Some things to know about Manning's first season at Wake Forest, which begins Nov. 14 against UNC Asheville:

THIRD OPTION? The Demon Deacons' scoring figures to come from Thomas and Miller-McIntyre because they're only two of the top six scorers last year who are back. Miller-McIntyre averaged 12.6 points while Thomas contributed 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. Finding a third consistent scorer will be key, and there's no shortage of candidates. Guard Madison Jones scored 3.3 points per game last year in a crowded backcourt. Big man Andre Washington came off the bench in 28 games. Miller-McIntyre says high-energy forward Aaron Rountree III "will have 15 points all off of putbacks." And teammates raved about the shooting touch of Konstantinos Mitoglou, a freshman forward from Greece.

NO TWEAKS: Manning's aggressive, detail-oriented system took Tulsa to two postseason berths in two years. So he doesn't plan to change it to fit his players. Rather, it's up to the players to adjust to his system. "It's easier for 13, 16 (players) to adapt to one, than for one to adapt to 19," Manning said. "One adapting to 19 gets you fired."

HIGH INTENSITY: The players say practices are significantly more intense under Manning than they were under the professorial Bzdelik. Thomas says they repeated a defensive drill for roughly an hour until they perfected it. "He never wants to stop," guard Madison Jones said of Manning. "He wants to push 24-7 and that's what I like."

FAMILY TIES: Two of Wake Forest's newest players have some pretty strong bloodlines. Guard Mitchell Wilbekin is the younger brother of Scottie Wilbekin, the Southeastern Conference player of the year last year who led Florida to the Final Four. Forward Cornelius Hudson's older brother is NFL receiver Michael Crabtree. Plus, sophomore guard Miles Overton's father Doug played 11 years in the NBA.

ROAD WOES: Maybe Manning can teach the Demon Deacons how to win away from Winston-Salem. In Bzdelik's four years, Wake Forest won two ACC road games and both of the teams they beat went on to finish last in the league. "I can't speak to what happened in the past," Manning said. "I don't care about it."


Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedya

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