Steve Forbes named new Wake Forest basketball coach

The new Deacons coach led East Tennessee State to 20 or more wins in each of his five seasons and has a long relationship with Wake AD John Currie

East Tennessee State head coach Steve Forbes waves the net in the air after cutting it down to celebrate his team's win against Wofford in the Southern Conference tournament championship game in March (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Wake Forest wasted little time hiring its new basketball coach.

Despite the coronavirus crisis and social distancing rules that made in-person interviews impossible, it took less than a week for Deacons athletic director John Currie to find former coach Danny Manning’s replacement.

On Thursday, he hired East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes, who becomes the 23rd men’s basketball coach in school history. The 55-year-old Iowa native will be introduced via a Zoom conference with local media on Friday.

“Thanks to all of the advantages of Wake Forest, Winston-Salem and the ACC we had an incredible array of talented coaches who wanted this job,” Currie said in a statement announcing the hire. “As we worked through the process, Coach Forbes emerged as the absolute right person to lead Demon Deacon basketball back to ACC and national prominence.”

Forbes was one of six candidates originally contacted about the job, which came open after Manning was fired on Saturday after six unsuccessful seasons. The field was eventually narrowed down to two, with Forbes ultimately chosen over UNC Greensboro’s Wes Miller.

One of 10 active coaches to have won 100 or more games in his first four seasons. Forbes boasts a gaudy .751 winning percentage (130-43) in five years at ETSU. His teams have finished first or second in the Southern Conference every year, and his 2019-20 squad was 30-4 and headed to the NCAA Tournament before it was cancelled.

All 22 of his seniors have earned their degrees from ETSU.

Forbes also led a pair of junior colleges to national runner-up finishes and served apprenticeships as an assistant at Texas A&M, Wichita State and Tennessee.

Currie was the athletic director at Tennessee when Forbes was with the Volunteers. Their relationship likely played a role in Forbes’ decision to seek the Deacons job and Currie’s decision to hire him.

“Coming to Wake Forest presents an opportunity to be a part of a special brand and a chance to impact our student-athletes’ lives in a positive way while competing for championships,” Forbes said. “My highest priority is spending time and developing relationships with our current student-athletes, alumni and the young men who will make up the future of Demon Deacon Basketball. Leaving ETSU was not an easy decision for me and for my family.”

Forbes inherits a program that has enjoyed only one winning season and NCAA Tournament bid since 2010. It has also struggled with attrition, with nine of the 12 players recruited to the program leaving through transfer or early entry into the pros since 2016. Just last week, top returning scorer Chaundee Brown announced his decision to leave.

Currie said that Forbes has the ability to not only win games but retain players and help win back a fan base that stayed away from Joel Coliseum in droves over the past few seasons. The Deacons ranked last in the ACC in attendance in 2019-20.

“Coach Forbes has an incredible track record of success, matched only by his reputation for building strong and lasting relationships,” Currie said. “He operates with a high level of intensity and is not only an effective coach on the floor, but a great recruiter as well.