NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Past Conferences: Southern, Independent
City: Winston-Salem, NC
Stadium: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
NCAA Tournaments: 1939, 1953, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2017
National Championships: None
Conference Titles: 5
The Demon Deacons played in the very first NCAA Tournament in 1939 but they’d be sporadic -at best- participants in postseason events until the 1980s. The first major star the program produced was Dickie Hemric, who remains -nearly 60 years after he left the school- the team’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Hemric was with the team for its final two seasons in the Southern Conference and his first two in the ACC. He was the ACC’s Player of the Year in each of those two years, averaging 27.6 points and an incredible 19.1 rebounds as a senior. It’s quite possible nobody ever touches his ACC record of 1,802 career boards.
There was a burst of success post-Hemric in the early 1960s with four years in which the team was a combined 46-10 in ACC play. Those teams, featuring future broadcaster Billy Packer and star forward Len Chappell, played in the NCAA Tournament in 1961 and 1962. The Demon Deacons lost in the Final Four in ‘62 before defeating UCLA in the third-place game.
Between the 1964-65 and 1979-80 seasons, Wake Forest had only two winning campaigns in the ACC and one postseason appearance, reaching the Elite Eight in 1977 under head coach Carl Tacy.
Tacy would take three more teams to the NCAA Tournament in 1981, 1982, and 1984, the last one upsetting No. 1 seed DePaul en route to another Elite Eight appearance. Muggsy Bogues, the 5-foot-3 dynamo who remains the school’s all-time assist leader, was a freshman on that roster.
Tacy left a year later, and the school went through five straight losing seasons before Dave Odom, who took over in 1989, helped author the program’s best years, complete with a massive uptick in talent.
Best Years: The Odom Era
Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress were the first big stars of the Odom era, both coming aboard during the 1990-91 team’s run to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. They were the unquestioned stars on a Sweet 16 squad in 1993, the year before the best player in program history stepped into the mix.
Tim Duncan was an aspiring swimmer while growing up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, before transitioning to basketball, as he grew into his nearly 7-foot frame. He and Childress combined to average 36.9 points on the 1995 ACC champs that again went to the Sweet 16, and he led the 1996 squad to the Elite Eight while winning the first of two straight ACC Player of the Year awards.
As a senior, Duncan guided his unit to 24 wins and the team’s seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. A second-round upset at the hands of Stanford ended his remarkable career, but he’d make Wake Forest proud with a 19-year run as perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history.
Naturally, there would be a dip in success post-Duncan, but it didn’t last long as Odom won the 2000 NIT and then saw replacement Skip Prosser keep the program competitive in the ACC. Prosser’s 2002-03 team won the ACC regular season title, and, the following season, he took a squad to the Sweet 16.
The star on that team was point guard Chris Paul, who led the Demon Deacons to a school-record 27 victories in 2004-05 before turning pro and becoming an all-time great in the NBA. Paul’s last game was one for the books, as a second-seeded Wake Forest team fell 115-105 to West Virginia in double overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Paul’s departure proved to be difficult to overcome for the program, as it has played in the NCAA Tournament just three times since. There was a disappointing six-year run under Kansas legend and former NBA All-Star Danny Manning, who went 78-111 as head coach of the Demon Deacons.
Steve Forbes took over following the COVID-shortened 2020 finish and seems to have turned things around. The 2021-22 Demon Deacons went 25-10 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT. NCAAB odds for a return to the Big Dance are improving.
Dickie Hemric: 2,587
Randolph Childress: 2,208
Len Chappell: 2,165
Dickie Hemric: 1,802
Tim Duncan: 1,570
Len Chappell: 1,213
Muggsy Bogues: 781
Ishmael Smith: 612
Skip Brown: 579
Murray Greason: 285
Dave Odom: 240
Carl Tracy: 222
What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?
Chris Paul’s sophomore campaign – his last before turning pro – yielded a program-high 27 wins in 2004-05.
What Was the Worst Season in Program History?
The 2010-11 Demon Deacons lost 24 games, most in their history, while going 1-15 in ACC play. It was a young team, with only one contributing senior, and played like it. Wake Forest Demon Deacons team stats showed a differential of exactly 100 in the turnover department compared to opponents (494-394).
Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?
If Paul stuck around for two more years or if Hemric played in the modern era they’d have something to say in this debate, but it’s Tim Duncan eight days a week. A two-time ACC Player of the Year and National Player of the Year as a senior, Duncan led the league in blocks four times, rebounds three times and scoring once. He averaged 20.8 points and 14.7 rebounds as a senior before going first overall in the 1997 NBA draft and carving out one of the best pro careers of all time.
A 2020 inductee to the National Basketball Hall of Fame, Duncan was a five-time NBA champ with the San Antonio Spurs.