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Wake Forest Takeover (7-2-20)

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham
The Truth Network Radio
July 2, 2020 6:04 pm

Wake Forest Takeover (7-2-20)

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham

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July 2, 2020 6:04 pm

Stan Cotten and Lary Sorenson take over The Drive and talk to Wake Forest coaches Tom Walter and Jenn Hoover, and also the AD John Currie. 


Back on the drive, Josh Graham.

He's still on vacation at 417. You sound a little bit like him. No, not really. No. Stan and Larry here hanging out for a little while in this kind of sort of Wake Forest takeover of the program.

It's one of my favorite songs, by the way. This one? Yeah. Really?

Yeah. Put Me In, Coach. Centerfield.

Did you ever hear the great story about that? They were playing this song between innings late in Ralph Keiner's career and they put it... They played this song and they put John Fogerty on the scoreboard and kind of said, Fogerty? Who's this Fogerty guy? Where'd we get him from?

AAA? Did we just bring him up? And I know that's the guy that's playing the song. But we are trying to reach Tom Walter. A little miscommunication going on right here. I'm texting him. We'll get to him soon. You texted him?

I'm texting him. Does that mean we can talk about his golf swing right now? Yeah.

Well, it was funny. The first time I ever played with him was several weeks back. He had alluded to it in the past. He gets up on the tee, left-handed. Yep. So I thought, okay. Fun goes right-handed.

Yeah. And then when he gets in the fairway, he's right-handed until he gets to the green. And then when he putts, he's left-handed again. Now I had never, ever, ever... You see crazy stuff all the time.

Cross-handed putters and different kinds of... Well, so many different putting things. Whatever. But... That was a bit different.

That was a bit odd. He can hit it though. He can hit it.

Yeah, he can. He enjoys the game. You know what he's really enjoying is he's playing with his son Chase now, who is, I think, a sophomore in college. And his son has gotten into it and is a pitcher, primarily pitcher, sometimes outfielder, and can hit it a mile.

And so that's great that you can do that father-son bonding as athletes. You and I were talking earlier about we were getting ready to do a Wake Forest baseball series when bam, the pandemic just hits everyone between the eyes. And, you know, the Wake Forest baseball season was underway and all indications were it was going to be a pretty good season, right? And then just you get the rug, you know, taken out from under you and everything puts on... gets put on hold.

It's canceled. And Larry, with baseball, a little bit different, you know, guys in their draft years and all the implications there. Now you've talked a lot with Tom over the last several weeks, but that was a pretty big curveball to take on. And my goodness, when you look at what he's had to deal with as a head baseball coach, it's amazing.

And he just continues to come out on the other side. Well, and he came out of this particular situation in pretty good shape when the draft changed to five rounds because they expected to lose maybe seven or eight players from that Wake Forest team to the pro draft. And Jared Schuster went first round to the Braves, but then a couple of guys weren't taken in those five rounds. And so he's going to get some superstars back. And really you want to say Merry Christmas to him kind of the way that draft went. Well, and you get guys back coming next year that you didn't think you were going to have.

Which also makes you, though, realize that you have to change the way that you do your recruiting a little bit because you've got guys coming back that you were sure were going to be gone. And we'll let him talk about it. Yeah, he's here. Hey, coach, how you doing?

Good, Larry, Stan, how you guys doing? Did we catch you on like the 18th tee or what? No, I was on my telephone and I just lost track of time.

Maybe I'm in, certainly not in as good a shape as I want to be. Did you hit riders high? You just got all loopy and you forgot?

Well, I didn't forget. I thought I started earlier than I did. I thought I gave myself enough cushion to catch my breath and be home with you guys, but I'm good now. If you're on your bike, I mean, that banged up knee of yours must be doing pretty well.

It's better. I got full range of motion about it. You back on the golf course yet? Well, mostly. Yeah, yeah.

I'm going to play tomorrow. Oh, wow. We've been talking about your army approach to the game, right, left, right, with your driving and... Left, right, left, yeah. Yeah. But, Larry, listen, we want to get your take on maybe, let's start with Jared Schuster.

I said that too quickly. Jared Schuster and his first round selection by the Braves. Wow, that was good for him, right?

Yeah, just awesome. Couldn't happen to a better kid, Larry. He's just one of those blue-collar kids who put the work in. As you guys know, you've watched them develop over the last couple of years. I mean, freshman year had a couple of decent moments, but mostly typical freshman stuff. Sophomore year pitched really well early, and then once we hit conference, scuffled a little bit, and then this year it just kind of all built up to that Louisville start where, you know, he out-pitched another first rounder in Bobby Miller. And then on the flip side, you expected to lose a large number of guys, and the draft got shortened because of the coronavirus situation, and so you get people back that you didn't expect to have back, and that creates some whole new situations for you.

Yeah, without question. I mean, there's a lot of good in that, obviously, when you get, you know, the best three, four, five punch in the country back, you know, for their fourth year. I mean, that doesn't happen very often, so that's obviously a bonus for us. And then, you know, you add some pitching that you didn't expect back with Will Fleming and Tony Mendez, and, you know, all of a sudden, you know, the makeup of your ballclub is a heck of a lot different. Now, the flip side of that is, yeah, part of you feels bad for the freshmen and sophomores that have been waiting a year or two for their turn, and this coming year was supposed to be kind of their time, and now that you've got all these guys back in the program for another year or so, you know, certainly I think I was telling somebody earlier today that, you know, I think all the teams are gonna be a little more talented. The question is, how do you manage your clubhouse, and how do you manage the culture of your team? Because, you know, just because you're more talented doesn't necessarily mean you win more games. Well, and I'll never forget Sparky Anderson saying that his job as the manager is to keep the 25 guys in that room happy so that they all produce to the maximum of their ability, and that gets to be a tough thing, especially when you've got the 35 that you have in your locker room, but guys like they're at bats. Yeah, no doubt, and again, they all work very hard, they're all super talented, they all come from communities where, you know, quite frankly they're one of the best players to ever come out of their school and or community.

So, you know, sometimes when that playing time doesn't happen right away, that frustration level builds and can detract from with these missions. Well, I'm sure that you will find a way to manage the catastrophic situation because you've kind of had a history of that and you're managing this virus situation at Wake Forest, but you've had some experience with that in the past. As the coach at New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit, and you had a situation, I think it's a fascinating story that not as many people have heard as they should, when Katrina hit and you actually had to take your team to numerous places to train.

Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like? Yeah, certainly, you know, we joke about it, you know, our guys went from eating jambalaya and crawfish to eating burritos and and tortillas. So, it was a big culture change, you know, at the University of New Orleans, most of our guys were from the state of Louisiana. We had some from out of the state, but the majority of our team was kind of born and raised in that area. And, you know, not only are they moving to New Mexico, which is an entirely different culture and campus setting, but they're also worried about what's going on back home.

You know, they've got families that they left behind and who are struggling to make ends meet and find work and rebuild their homes. So, again, you know, managing that, you know, was a challenge. But, you know, I had Bill Cilento, our recruiting coordinator and hitting coach and the associate head coach here at Wake with me then, and Billy was certainly instrumental in making that, you know, go really well for us. Coach, you know, we were talking about some of the challenges you faced as a head coach prior to you coming on with us.

You know, 9-11 certainly, you know, you had a player, Anita Kidney, you gave him one. Now you're dealing with COVID. All you Wake coaches are coaches without a team, kind of, sort of, because you can't get with them, you know, in the same room. How have you been dealing with COVID and this new challenge that you and your staff are faced with? How are you making it?

How are you getting things done? Well, I think communication is the key and just trying to stay connected with those guys, making sure we touch them, you know, several times a week. We've had a Zoom call each of the last four weeks that was led by one of our classes, you know, truthfully talking about team culture, you know, so the seniors led things off and shared an article with the group and kind of went through the talking points and then the juniors the next week, sophomores, then freshmen, which I thought was a really cool exercise that engaged the whole team and something that's important, you know, brotherhood and camaraderie and kind of everybody pulling in the same direction, you know, that stuff that, again, regardless of your talent level, you know, really makes or breaks the, you know, your season.

So, again, just lots of communication, staying connected and just trying to touch them via text, phone call or email, you know, as many times as we can. Well, and baseball is a little bit of an unusual sport in that as a freshman, you don't generally expect a guy to contribute a lot. You want your stars to play, but they generally aren't your superstars. Sophomore and junior seasons are the really important ones, so you figure that with your best players, you'll have them two seasons, but then probably lose them to the draft.

Now that senior leadership takes on a little bit different story, too, with some of your stars coming back to fill those roles and you've got a big senior class. Yeah, for sure. And, you know, I think those guys are all coming back with a little bit of an edge, which I think is a good thing.

I mean, I think you need that. I think they're out to prove something to everybody. They're out to prove to the major league scouts that that, you know, didn't have them in the top few rounds, even though, you know, we know it wasn't that simple.

You know how that money saver more than anything else. But again, you know, I like a little bit of that that competitive edge reminds me of those UNO teams that every time we played LSU, every one of those kids was out to prove that LSU should have recruited them. So I think our guys are going to go out there this spring with a chip on their shoulder to prove to everybody, hey, you missed the boat last year and this year you're going to have to pay for it.

Tom, 2020 is one of those years where, you know, we'd all just soon forget it and hope to get to 2021 as quickly as we can. Last few weeks, we've, all of us in America have been dealing with a lot of social issues. Some of the Zoom calls you've had with your players, have you talked about that? Have they asked a lot of questions of you and how are you engaging them to be a part of the, you know, larger footprint of the athletic department and university and, you know, being part of the solution to some of these issues that we face today? Yeah, you know, Stan, that's a great question and a great point. This is certainly a lot bigger than COVID and a lot bigger than our baseball season, you know, what's going on in America right now. And again, I think the country can learn a lot from sports, you know, using sports as the example.

I mean, diversity, there's no platform in America where diversity is more evident and expected than there is in sports. So again, our guys are all, like everybody else in the world right now, they're all very engaged in this discussion. They're all kind of willing and wanting to say and do something and I think it's our job as coaches to give them a safe space and platform with which to express themselves.

Again, there are no wrong opinions right now. We want to know how everybody thinks and again, kind of develop a culture where, you know, we can have those important conversations and make a difference in the world moving forward. You know, and you forget sometimes that this is such a developmental age for these people that are going to school and becoming athletes and what they go through on the field and in the classroom. And then you're, as a coach, you're turning them loose into the world and a lot of their ideas and formulations are coming. So the idea of having these conversations about what they're going to be facing and how they can use that and be a part of it is just huge for any kind of a college athlete. Yeah, without question, Larry, I mean, again, that accountability piece and that ownership piece, these young men get to us when they're 18 years old and they're trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for. And it's not our job to tell them who they are or what they stand for. It's our job to give them, you know, information and resources so they can figure that out and then go out into the world and represent, you know, the Deacon Nation and their families and their communities in the best way possible and be the best versions of themselves. Again, you know, 35 guys on your roster, that's going to be 35 different formulas. But, you know, hopefully 35 guys going out there who understand that life is bigger than baseball and, you know, they need to be an equal partner in that mission.

Tom Walter, head baseball coach at Wake Forest. We appreciate your time. Good luck on that knee rehab and we'll see you on the golf course sometime soon, okay?

I hope so. Thanks for your patience today and please thank your producer for his persistence to get me. So I finally figured it out, but I needed to pick up. Tom, thank you again.

Talk to you soon. Thanks, Dan. Thanks, Larry. That's a good egg right there.

Oh, it's the best. Yeah. You know, I mean, think about giving up a kidney for somebody that has never stepped foot on your campus to play for you. Say no more. Say no more.

Say no more. He is a terrific person. He's a good one and he is, you know, I can't imagine a better leader of young people than Tom Walter because he, yes, he says it, but he lives it. He lives it. He lives it.

And, wow, are we fortunate to be able to be around him. All right. You are listening to The Drive on Sports Hub Triad. We've got lots more to come. We've got to sneak in a quick break and we'll continue after this. Five o'clock block interview is brought to you by Beamer Tire and Auto.

Beamer Tire and Auto, the home of five star reviews offering tires, brakes, state inspections, oil changes, and check engine diagnostics by ASE certified technicians. Wow. You didn't get your bass fishing question in there. No, I didn't because Dr. Urey was a parasitologist. And first of all, I wanted to ask him, how do you go in and say, I think I'd like to be a parasitologist. That's what I want to be for a living.

But he also, I saw a great picture of him holding a largemouth bass because he studied parasites on bass. And I wanted to ask him if he had any good fishing holes around Winston-Salem that I could check out. I've got a cell number.

I'll sell that to you. But, all right, we're going to bring in Jen Hoover and talk a little Wake Forest women's basketball. Coach Hoover, how you doing? Doing great.

Thanks. Oh, man. I want, before we talk about your team, your program, I wanted to get your reaction to the news that kind of broke, obviously, earlier today with Coach McCalley down at Duke stepping aside. Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, surprise. And I've already reached out to her and, you know, told her she'll be missed.

You know, obviously, anytime there's a coaching change in this conference, it's, you know, one great coach moving out and, you know, anxious to see who kind of comes in and who becomes a new competitor. But she's done a lot there with that program. And, you know, it's, you know, I'm glad I got her before she went out at her place.

I did not remind her of that, though. You got some folks this past season, didn't you? You guys, I think, won the most ACC games since you've been the head coach, and you're entering your ninth season now.

But you had a good run. You look like a post-season team there at the end. Yeah, we did. You know, our kids did a great job just kind of keeping, you know, I thought we started the conference season really well, and we finished it. But we just got to be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the middle of the season.

Yeah. Looking forward to what we have coming back. Talk to me a little bit, Jen, about your program, where you think it is. Obviously, again, made a few strides. I mean, not as many as you hoped, but made some strides with what you're trying to do and what you're trying to build at Wake.

And what are the things that you need to keep doing and doing well? Well, you know, I think this year was a step back in the right direction. You know, we had made some strides and had gone to back-to-back NIT seasons a few years back and really felt like that the next team was going to be that team that broke us through. And then we just had two years of just talking up to bad luck, just injury after injury after injury. You know, I'm happy to say, knock on wood, that this past year, you know, we brought in a new sports performance coach, and I think we've seen some results of a lot of prehab and preventive action.

Jenna Reddy, she's from Charlotte, but she's been with us since last fall. And I think, you know, now we're doing so much more to just make sure we're not overworking these young ladies, and we're also preparing them to try to prevent as many injuries as possible. And, you know, I think we're close to where we want to be, but we want to win championships.

So, you know, when you look at it that way, we've still got a ways to go. And, you know, I think our players are bought in. They understand that, you know, these new facilities we have, why not us? That's what one of our kids, Gina Conti, said on a phone call we had recently. We've been doing a little bit of TED Talks throughout this COVID thing. And one of the TED Talks we watched, it made her think of something her dad has told her all her life.

And my husband used to say that a lot too. Why not us? Why not this year?

Why not now? And I think that's the mentality this team has taken on. And, you know, just so excited to get them back here and kind of start working towards what we can see.

The facilities are just incredible, and certainly an advantage that you look to take advantage, that you look to build on. But as you're building that momentum, and then all of a sudden, like, the current situation hits, how do you keep the program going forward? I mean, what do you do as a coach to say, we've got this really unusual situation we never had before, and let them know that you're on top of it, and we're going to keep this program going the way it needs to be? Well, I mean, myself and our staff, I think we've done a great job, and our kids have just staying connected and really staying intentional with our conversations.

We've done a ton of Zoom calls, I'm about Zoomed out, if you will. And we've just really been talking about what we want this to look like, and how we go about it. And to be honest, that, you know, we're prepared to make a game plan, and we've got one.

But when you go into a game, you've always got to be ready to make adjustments, and you've got to be adaptable. And these kids have done that all their lives, and with all the teams that they've played on, and something we try to preach here at Wake Forest is it's more than basketball, these are life lessons. And, you know, I told them on a phone call this week, much what you see out there now, it was July 1st, and this is halftime, and the first half, to be frank, sucked of 2020. But now, let's win the year, let's win it. And they've all been positive and on board, and they're all excited to be back on campus this coming week. They're due back, and, you know, to just start taking baby steps forward in a safe and cautious and as productive way as we possibly can. Yeah, there's a great line out there that, and I'm not sure who's quote it was, but it's, in the game of life, nobody remembers the halftime score.

That's right. Jen, what do you think it's going to be like when you finally do get your ladies in a room? You can, and I know you, you're going to put your arms around them, you're going to hug them as safely as we can, but it's going to be different for all coaches, right? I mean, you've gone so long without being physically with your team, and it's, you know, maybe we all take that for granted. I don't think we will anymore, but what do you anticipate that dynamic when your team is finally back together again is going to be like? Yeah, it's going to be tough because, you know, we've really tried to implore to the young ladies that, like, this is going to be different. It won't be what it's, you know, been before, and for our freshmen coming in, you know, it's going to be different.

We're all going to have masks on. I really can't hug them, so, like, we're going to have to kind of refrain from that a little bit initially, but, you know, I think the thing that's been so encouraging to us and our staff is that our kids have not our kids have not wavered. They're excited to be back on.

They're coming back on Monday. You know, the administration from our doctors down through the university have been so supportive and helpful and spent a lot of time coming up with a great plan and understanding the protocol, and, you know, for our kids, it's going to be really different at first. The first 48 hours, they'll be in isolation in a room by themselves, and, you know, food being delivered to them, and, you know, when we walk around on campus this year, you're going to see everyone's going to have a mask on. We're going to look back at, you know, 2020, fall of 2020, and photos and yearbooks with all these masks on and wonder, you know, what's going on.

I've seen young ladies already out when I've been out that are starting to accessorize their outfits with their masks, so, you know, my husband is a big Wake Forest year getter for me, and I've already got a Gator mask that's WF, and I've got some other masks that are Wake Forest, and so, you know, we're all on board and ready to go, you know, make it as a positive experience as we can, and, you know, anytime we got a chance to wear a little bit more gold and black, and as you can hear, we're in. Well, you talked about positive experiences. You are Mrs. Positivity every time that I've been around you. It exudes from you the positive attitude of our life, and it's got to be a nice feeling to have the kids pick up on that when they get down and go through these unusual things, to have that feeling of confidence in their leadership with somebody that does have that positive attitude.

Yeah, I appreciate that. I just, I think, you know, and I'm big on the energy that you give off, and I think our kids feed off of that, and I feed off of their energy, and this has been a tough time for me, as Sam kind of alluded to. I'm not an introvert, and I'm not a, you know, stay at home or stay in a room and do work.

I like to be out and face-to-face, people-to-people, and this has been a struggle. You know, luckily, I've had a lot of time out there with my husband and my daughter, and we have a new puppy that we have officially came up with a new name of Piccolo. He is a great game puppy, so we have got a good ring to it. Yeah, we kind of entertained ourselves a little bit in some other ways, but, you know, it's just different, and that's what we've kind of told our kids. You know, it's different doesn't mean it's bad. It's just we have to embrace the difference and come out of it better than we would have if we kind of would have just focused on the negative. So we really, as a group, I think our seniors have done a great job with leadership, and we have sisters amongst our program. We assign upperclassmen to the freshmen, and they do a lot of chatting and kind of taking care of each other through their sisterhood, and then our seniors also are doing a great job just kind of, you know, keeping the team in touch with us, with outside of what our staff is already doing, so that we all do feel connected and just getting to know each other and ready to get going. We're spending a few minutes here on the drive in hour number three with Wake Forest head women's basketball coach Jen Hoover, who is sneaking up on a decade in that role as a player.

She was a three-time All-ACC competitor, and for the longest amount of time was second or was first all-time in points and rebounds before that got taken away from you, Jen. But we've talked a lot today with Mark Owens and Jimmy Quander and Coach Walter and Dr. Urie about the social challenges that we face today in America. I know your team has been very outspoken over the last several weeks on social media. How do you see your group of young women being part of the solution going forward with the rest of the university? Yeah, I mean, I think our group has been great just in having open conversations and really being respectful of everyone's perspective and opinion. You know, different things affect everyone differently, and I think they've really gotten to know each other on a deeper level because we have four freshmen coming in, and some of their first conversations were these deep, difficult conversations, but necessary conversations, much like Dr. Urie said. And I couldn't be more proud of our players across the board in the way that they're kind of handling it and expressing themselves, but also being very respectful of others and understanding that college athletics to me is one of the prime examples of how you can show the diversity on our team is remarkable. I mean, we've got internationals, we have families, single-parent families, you know, regular families, we have minorities, we have a little bit of everything on our team, and we're not all alike, but we have a common mission and we really speak a lot about how we want to be treated is how you want to be treated and how you treat each other. And I think our kids have done a great job and they've got a lot of great ideas, and now we're just trying to kind of figure out our big thing is we don't want it to be just one statement we've made or the players don't want it to just be one video or one statement. They want to continue to try to find ways that we'll partner with other people on campus and other students and other students and continue to act and continue to be a part and have the impact of being a part of the change.

What do you anticipate campus life's going to be like, Jen, any different? I mean, you know, you talked about, you know, athletics and that's kind of been part of the theme today about there is no better perhaps opportunity than an athletic team to help move the ball forward. I think in a lot of ways the same can be said about a university setting, a campus setting. I mean, look at the diversity at a place like Wake Forest, people from all around the world with a common goal of being a productive Wake Forest student and leaving after a number of years with a degree.

Oh, absolutely. I think when you look at, you know, college athletics and then at Wake Forest, one of the things that makes it so special is that our athletes, you know, make up almost 10 percent of the student body and then they're able to, with them integrated into the student body, they're not isolated and separated away from the students in a normal setting. So, I think they have even more of an ability to really have an impact because they're living in a dorm with regular students from wherever they're from and whatever their background is. They're not just living in these apartments that are just student athletes and, you know, I think when you have that day-to-day interaction and you, you know, you kind of get to know what someone else's walk of life looks like is when you can actually kind of have a little bit more respect for what they've gone through and what they've come through and what they're trying to accomplish at Wake Forest. I mean, some of the most smartest people, you know, I've met were fellow students when I was at Wake Forest and things they wanted to do and, you know, I think our players, one of the reasons you come to Wake Forest is to experience some of that, is to have that opportunity to sit in those classrooms, not take online classes and so that's been a big challenge for our players, you know, coming, finishing up the semester. Obviously, we all understood it and I think our kids thrived and we ended up with a 35 GPA, but it's not what you come to Wake Forest for, is to take online classes or to be isolated as athletes. Now, some of that is going to need to be done this year, just to be, you know, perfectly honest in the way we're trying to make sure we have college athletics this year and we don't know exactly what all that's going to look like, but, you know, there's some pretty strict protocol all the athletes are having to come back to to try to give us every possibility of being able to have fall seasons and football and basketball and all our college athletes and they're all willing to make sacrifices and commitment to get that done.

So, you know, that part is exciting but challenging. Well, it will be a challenge, but you're exactly right about the fact that a student at Wake Forest, as an athlete, you're crossing the campus and you're seeing people that you talk to all the time and have as friends outside of the athletic community and you talked about communication. I'm, during a lot of this that's been going on, I'm reminded of the Gerald R. Ford quote of disagree but don't be disagreeable and when you can communicate because they're teammates and you can look each other in the eye and say, I don't necessarily agree with that, but I was brought up in a different area of the country, I was brought up in a different way and you have those discussions and are able to do it as teammates, it starts to sink in at this very, very important time of life for these young people. Well, I totally agree and I think that's the thing that I think we've already seen some change because people are continuing to have those conversations and have open conversations. We had two of our freshmen that just were appreciative of the fact that now they're a part of a group that they can have these conversations in and, you know, it's rewarding to hear that and to hear their parents talk about, they're just so appreciative that we continue to talk about their experiences because everyone's experience is different and it's not right or wrong, it's your own individual experience and what you hear and see things happen, that affects it and again, our players have been great with that and I can't wait for them to get back.

This whole student-athlete athletes have had some kind of town hall meetings where they've had some discussions as well and, you know, I'm looking forward because I do think this generation is a generation that, you know, wants to be out there on social media, wants to be a part of, isn't afraid to kind of be a part of change and to impact things in a positive way. Coach Jen Hoover, we will leave it there. Thanks so much for your time today and good luck with that new pup and good luck with your gals when you get them back. I know you're looking forward to that.

Thank you so much, Cody. That is Jen Hoover, head women's basketball coach at Wake Forest. Good stuff as always from her. I mean, you know, whenever we're at a Dave Clawson show, there she is. Wherever, you know, basketball coaches show, there she is. I mean, she's everywhere that she can be.

I think there's maybe more than one of her. And you always feel better when you walk away from her too. You feel just a little bit better about life. We appreciate that. All right, we're going to take another quick timeout. We continue here on the drive following a few minutes here. We're going to have John Curry last half hour of the show and that will wrap up our Wake Forest takeover here on the drive on WSJS. Back to the drive with Josh Graham on Sports Hub Triad. Final half hour of the drive here on the Sports Hub Triad today. Most dramatic music of the day leading into the head coach, John Curry.

15 months or so in now as the athletics director at Wake Forest. John, how you doing? I'm doing awesome, Stan. How are you and Larry?

We're hanging in there, man. This is a tip of the cap to Will Pantages and your staff for getting this guest list together. We've covered a lot of ground, a lot of neat topics. So, thanks to your staff for help putting this together. It's been a lot of fun.

John, your phones are breaking up just a little bit. I teased you the other day on a Zoom call with Coach Forbes. I was with Ron Wellman, your predecessor, and I said, Ron, are you missing being the athletic director at Wake Forest?

He said, with what John Curry's had to deal with, absolutely not. I tell you what, these last several weeks have been challenging for sure, hadn't they? Well, Ron sent me a really nice note about two or three weeks ago and he told me he was thinking about me with all the different things we were going through that seem like they're a long way away from what our core mission usually is, but at the end of the day, we're in the education business.

When you're in education, in higher education, and you have a responsibility to help people learn to adapt in a world that's continuously evolving and be adaptable in a world that's increasingly more inclusive with strong skill sets from people of all kinds of backgrounds, these are the moments that we can either run away from, which is not a good strategy, or we can embrace and learn and get better and stronger and tighter as a community. Well, and John, too, when you have people to work with like Mark Owens and Jimmy Quander and Herman Urie, Tom Walter, Jen Hoover, all the coaches, all the coaches, you guys are ahead of the game. That's a pretty impressive list of people.

I am so disappointed that I was out of the listening area, wasn't able to listen to all those folks earlier today because I know this is like the lowest intellect part of the show during the group compared to that, Cass. But yeah, I mean, Herman Urie, what an incredible pioneer and leader for Wake Forest. He continues now as the vice chair of the board of trustees to provide extraordinary leadership. And Jimmy Quander, who I knew when I was first starting out here a long time ago and then to be able to reconnect with him this past year, I don't know if he said it, but I was actually walking around our first game behind the scoreboard and I ran right into him and John Leach and how we had this great conversation. And so one of the commonalities of that, the people that you listed, all those people are in our community, sharing, giving, teaching, serving our community. And although Mark did not come here just because of Wake Forest, all the rest of the people that you mentioned are in the Winston-Salem community and giving to this community because Wake Forest brought them here. And I think that's a really special aspect of Wake Forest's responsibility to serve Winston-Salem.

John, let's jump into a couple things and just let you kind of give the state of the union, if you will, in a condensed version, obviously. So much talk now about everybody's, you know, Jen Hoover was just talking about, you know, we're just a few days away from getting her ladies back on campus. We're all thinking about fall sports right now. Larry and I are thinking about football as so many people are. With regard to COVID and where we are and the student athletes coming back, where would you say Wake Forest is getting ready for the fall campaign? Well, number one, we're excited.

Although we all are operating in a brand new world. So there's, you know, you don't know necessarily what the day is going to look like the next day, given the rapid evolution of the COVID situation. In many ways, and I've probably used the decathlon example with y'all before, but, you know, the last event in the decathlon is a 1,500-beater run, right? And so maybe we're on the third or fourth event in the decathlon. And if you ask me right now, what's going to happen what exactly is going to happen on September 5th, I would respond to you that, you know, if I'm in the third or fourth event in the decathlon, I don't have any idea where my long-range running shoes off is a 1,500-beater run.

You know, that is so far away from now. You know, our focus has to be right now on taking care of our student-athletes as they return. We've had extraordinary support throughout our campus, great leadership from DeNiro who's chairing the CSEP committee, leading to Wake Forest restart, President Hatch, the communication from President Hatch on the 30th, announcing how Wake Forest is going to come back to school, so to speak, in a few months was very well done. I mean, it's just incredible.

And you see all the pages and pages and pages and policies and protocols of that document. You can see this incredible team effort that's happened with people throughout campus. You know, sometimes people think that, you know, working remotely means you're not working as hard. And I think for all those folks across our campus, they've worked harder than ever. And for a good reason.

We have a wonderful student community at Wake Forest. It's a critical component of our overall community, and we're ready to get back going. John, it just seems like in this information age and as a society, we not only are looking for a definitive answer, we're looking for a definitive time for that answer. Like, tell us what's going to be happening August 17th, where I should be and what's going to be happening then. And it just isn't available under the circumstances that we are in now.

You know, there are some things you can plot for long term, but stuff's changing hourly, daily, as you said a little bit. And you're one of the people that everybody looks to. How do you handle that personally? How do you handle that?

Well, I was talking to one of our community leaders and a mentor of mine the other day, and he talked about in his business office, you know, they were... I think he went away. He went away. We'll try to reconnect. We have the technology. You know, it's a bad question, I guess. How can I dump this question?

I'll just act like my phone. Yeah. Are you there?

Are you there? Yeah. But, you know...

I've done that before. Well, you know, and it's obvious. And we've talked about this point the whole show long. We just don't know.

And that's the hard part. Except we as people now want to know. Well, we get used to knowing. Yeah. And we want something definite.

We want something absolute. And it's just not there. Yeah. You back, John? I don't know what happened. All of a sudden I looked at my phone and my wife's face was there. Well, that's a nice face, though, right? But I think she was so enjoying listening to my voice that she just wanted to see me. She's only human. But anyways, we were... I was droning on about all this stuff, Larry.

And so here's a great example. The French Soccer League, the French Division I Soccer League, announced in early April or late March that they were not playing this year. The German Soccer League and the Premier League in England and others announced that they had made a decision yet. And eventually the Premier League, or excuse me, the Bundesliga in Germany, came back without fans. And they've been playing now for over a month and a half. And the people in France are really upset because they called the ball too early.

And so they couldn't have a season. And so it's that balance of not trying to make decisions until you have as much information as you possibly can have. But then at the moment that you make a decision, you may not have all the data points. And so it's impossible to make a perfect decision in a time like this.

You have to make a decision based upon the best possible evidence and the best possible information and the best possible communication of all the different scenarios. And I will say I think Mayor Joines has done an extraordinary job of leading our city through this time. And I'm appreciative of that. John, we've talked to most of our guests today about the challenges we face, not only with the pandemic, but some of the racial situations that have popped up over the last several weeks. And we've talked with each of them about how Wake Forest Athletics, how our city can all be a part of the solution going forward. Your take as the head of the department in athletics, how do you see the university, our athletic teams, football, basketball, all of them down the line in being able to help get the ball across the goal line, so to speak?

Well, first of all, obviously, it's been an extraordinarily painful time, even though I can't completely comprehend the pain felt by people of color during this time and for many years. But I'm very encouraged that we're able to, it seems, and I was on an ACC call this morning, and Mary McElroy, who's leading the conference's effort in this regard, said she was optimistic, because it seems that we finally got people's attention in a way that people understand that we have to make some more progress in this area. So I'm encouraged. We've had a lot of great conversations inside the athletics department. When I say great, they're great in that they've been very candid and sometimes very vulnerable and very raw with our student-athletes. I meet regularly now with our black coaches and administrators, which is a great thing. I actually started doing that when I was at Kansas State five or six years ago, and I've been able to pick that back up over the last month, and that's been very productive. Certainly, we've had extraordinary leadership from President Hatch.

President Hatch didn't start the Slavery, Race, and Memory project two weeks ago or the President's Commission on Race, Equity, and Community three weeks ago. That stuff all started, in some cases, almost two years ago. So that's built a really great foundation for now, the intensity and the activism, so to speak, to make a big step forward. I'm really proud of the way our student-athletes have spoken up and the way our coaches have done their best to listen. We're not going to be perfect, but we're going to make progress. One of the neat things about athletics, even Wake Forest athletics, geographically, it's kind of right on the line, the historical line between East Winston and West Winston, so to speak. So we should play a special role in bringing our community together. Just like last year, we had our Red Sea and Sound Band up for the first time ever at our game, and I guess that's how Utah State came, continuing to make progress together is going to be continuing to make our city the best city in the South to live in.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-12 01:46:39 / 2023-02-12 02:05:07 / 18

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