Wake Forest names Steve Forbes head men’s basketball coach

Winston-Salem, NC – Wake Forest Director of Athletics John Currie has named Steve Forbes the 23rd head men’s basketball coach in Demon Deacon history.

A 30-year coaching veteran, Coach Forbes is a proven winner and builder of championship cultures with a 260-77 (.722) overall record in his five years as the head coach at East Tennessee State and at three previous community college head coaching stints. ETSU won 130 games and two SoCon championships during his tenure, while all 22 of his seniors earned their ETSU degrees. Forbes joined elite company in 2018-19, becoming one of just 10 active Division I head coaches who have reached the 100-win mark in their first four seasons.

“I am grateful to John Currie for the open and inclusive process that led to today’s announcement,” said Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch. “The tireless efforts on behalf of his alma mater have yielded great benefits and I am pleased to welcome Steve Forbes to the Wake Forest family. I want to thank our dedicated search committee and the leadership of our Board of Trustees in supporting the search process. Steve, Johnetta, Elizabeth, Christopher and Johnathon Forbes will be tremendous additions to the University community.”

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to be the head men’s basketball coach at Wake Forest University,” said Forbes. “I’m very appreciative of President Nathan Hatch and Director of Athletics John Currie for giving me the opportunity to work with a terrific group of young men. 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. 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 said. “I will be eternally grateful to President Dr. Brian Noland, the fans, and those student-athletes with whom I shared such special experiences. They have taught me so much and changed my life.”

“Coach Forbes has an incredible track record of success, matched only by his reputation for building strong and lasting relationships,” said Currie. “He operates with a high level of intensity and is not only an effective coach on the floor, but a great recruiter as well. We welcome him and his family to Deacon Nation and I’m looking forward to supporting him and his staff as they build a championship program both on and off the court.

“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. 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.”

Currie’s search began late Saturday night with a search committee including Provost Rogan Kersh, Dean of the College Michele Gillespie, Dean of the School of Divinity Jonathan L. Walton, Faculty Athletics Representative Pete Brubaker, Deputy Athletic Director Lindsey Babcock, Associate Counsel Pete Paukstelis, and Currie. 

“It was so important to our student-athletes for us to conduct this search as thoroughly and efficiently as possible and I am grateful for our campus leaders being willing to jump in and spend Sunday and Monday meeting with candidates to find the right person to lead our program,” said Currie. 

“We also want to thank our consultant Chad Chatlos of Ventura Partners.  Chad was an absolute warrior throughout this process,” said Currie.  

Forbes won at least 24 games in each of his five seasons as the head coach for the Buccaneers while finishing third or better in the SoCon every year.

During the 2019-20 season, ETSU was having its best season in program history before the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. The Bucs finished with a 30-4 record and SoCon regular season and tournament titles. Forbes earned conference coach of the year along with the Hugh Durham Award, given to the most outstanding mid-major coach in the country.

An assistant under three Final Four coaches over the course of his career, Forbes developed his coaching style under some of best head coaches in the game. National powers Tennessee and Wichita State both reached the pinnacle of success with Forbes on the bench.

The Vols ascended to their first No. 1 overall ranking in program history in 2008 while winning a program record 31 games. In 2015, Wichita State won a NCAA record 35-straight games to start the season, earning the first No. 1 seed in program history.

In addition, Forbes spent two record-breaking seasons in College Station, Texas (2004-06) when Texas A&M set a program record for Big 12 Conference wins. Picked to finish last in the Big 12 prior to the 2004-05 season, the Aggies won their first 11 games and went on to a 21-10 record and an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. In 2005-06, Texas A&M advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987 while recording a 22-9 record, the third-most wins in school history. 

A native of Lone Tree, Iowa, Forbes graduated from Southern Arkansas University with a degree in secondary education in 1988. A former baseball student-athlete for the Muleriders, Forbes spent one year at his alma mater as the sports information director before embarking on a coaching career.

Forbes and his wife, Johnetta, have three children, Elizabeth, Christopher and Johnathon.

Forbes NBA Players (Round Drafted)

  • G Fred VanVleet (UDFA) – Wichita State ’16 – Toronto Raptors
  • G Ron Baker (UDFA) – Wichita State ’16 – New York Knicks
  • F Cleanthony Early (2nd) – Wichita State ’14 – New York Knicks
  • F Tobias Harris (1st – 19th overall) – Tennessee ’11 – Milwaukee Bucks
  • G Scotty Hopson (UDFA) – Tennessee ’11 – Dallas Mavericks 
  • G Acie Law III (1st – 11th overall) – Texas A&M ’07 – Atlanta Hawks
  • F Paul Millsap (2nd) – Louisiana Tech ’06 – Utah Jazz*
    • *Recruited to Louisiana Tech but did not coach
  • F Antoine Wright (1st – 15th overall) – Texas A&M ’05 – New Jersey Nets
  • F Kaniel Dickens (2nd) – Idaho ’00 – Utah Jazz

East Tennessee State (2015-20)

  • Forbes finished his fifth season with 130 wins and a .748 win percentage.
  • After winning his 100th game at ETSU in the 2018-19 season, Forbes joined an elite group as only 10 current active Division I head coaches have reached the 100-win mark in their first four seasons – Shaka Smart, Eric Musselman, Brad Underwood, Josh Pastner, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few, Steve Prohm, Roy Williams, Mike White, Chris Beard and Jim Boeheim.  
  • Individually in his first four seasons at ETSU, Forbes has coached 10 All-Southern Conference selections, including Desonta Bradford earning Player of the Year and Bo Hodges claiming Freshman of the Year honors in 2017-18.

Wichita State (2013-15)

  • Helped coach Wichita State to two of the most successful seasons in program history.
  • The Shockers went 30-5 on the season and recorded its third consecutive season of 30 wins or more. The No. 7-seeded Shockers advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 3 seed and ACC champion Notre Dame.
  • In 2013-14, Wichita State won a NCAA record 35-straight games before losing to eventual National Runner-up Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers’ 35-1 record also shattered all of WSU’s and the MVC’s winning streak records, including Indiana State’s 33-game record in 1977. WSU entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed, a first for the program.

NW Florida State (2011-13)

  • Coached the Raiders to a 62-6 record during his two-year tenure in Niceville, Fla.
  • Five of his junior college players recently transferred to Division I schools after he coached them.

Tennessee (2006-11)

  • In the five seasons in Knoxville, Forbes helped coach the Vols to an average of 26 wins per year, and advanced to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments – making three Sweet Sixteen appearances and advancing to the program’s first-ever Elite Eight in 2010.
  • The Vols won a school-record 31 games in 2008, and their 14-2 league record gave the program its first outright SEC championship in more than 40 years. Following a 66-62 win at top-ranked Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008, UT earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history.
  • Forbes’ experience also helped Tennessee’s 2006, 2008 and 2010 recruiting classes to a top 10 national ranking by multiple ratings services. 

Texas A&M (2004-06)

  • In just two seasons the Aggies went from a team that had posted a 7-21 record the previous season and hadn’t received a postseason invitation in 11 years, to a program that averaged more than 21 wins in his two seasons and advanced to postseason play both years.
  • A&M posted back-to-back seasons with the most Big 12 Conference wins in school history with Forbes on the bench. Picked to finish last in the Big 12 prior to the 2004-05 season, the Aggies won their first 11 games and went on to a 21-10 record and made an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament.
  • In 2005-06, Texas A&M advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987 while recording a 22-9 record, the third-most wins in school history. The Aggies defeated Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual Final Four participant LSU on a last-second shot.
  • Texas A&M’s recruiting also benefited from Forbes’ experience, as each of the Aggie’s two recruiting classes during his time in College Station were ranked among the top 10 in the nation. at Illinois State and spent three years at Louisiana Tech (2000-03), where he helped sign two nationally-ranked recruiting classes, including a top-10 class in 2003.

La. Tech (2000-03) / Illinois State (2003-04)

  • Coached at Illinois State and spent three years at Louisiana Tech (2000-03), where he helped sign two nationally-ranked recruiting classes, including a top-10 class in 2003.
  • In 2002 the Bulldogs posted a 22-10 record and went 2-1 in the National Invitation Tournament, their first postseason appearance in 10 years.

Idaho (1998-99)

  • Joined the staff in 1998 before being promoted to associate head coach for the 1998-99 season.
  • In his first season, the Vandals improved to 16-11 and signed a nationally-ranked recruiting class.

Barton County Community College (1995-98)

  • Forbes compiled a 68-28 record in three years as the head coach at Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kan.
  • During his three seasons competing in the Jayhawk Conference, the Cougars produced three All-Americas, twice finished the season with a national ranking and earned victories over 15 nationally-ranked teams.

Southwestern Community College (1989-91)

  • After spending two years as an assistant coach at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, Forbes was promoted to head coach in March 1991.

Background

  • A native of Lone Tree, Iowa, Forbes graduated from Southern Arkansas University with a degree in secondary education in 1988. A former baseball student-athlete for the Muleriders, Forbes spent one year at his alma mater as the sports information director before embarking on a coaching career.

Personal

  • Forbes and his wife Johnetta have three children, Elizabeth, Christopher and Johnathon.

Head Coaching Records & Notes

YearSchoolRecordPct.Conf.Pct.Postseason
2020-21Wake Forest
2019-20ETSU30-4.88216-2.889 
2018-19ETSU24-10.70513-5.722CIT First Round
2017-18ETSU25-9.73514-4.778 
2016-17ETSU27-8.77114-4.778NCAA First Round
2015-16ETSU24-12.66614-4.778Vegas 16 Semifinals
2012-13NW Florida State30-4.88211-1.916NJCAA DI National Runner-Up
2011-12NW Florida State32-2.94111-1.916NJCAA DI National Runner-Up
1997-98Barton County CC29-4.87814-2.875 
1996-97Barton County CC24-8.75011-5.687 
1995-96Barton County CC15-169375-7.416 

Coaching History

SeasonsSchool/TeamTitle
2020-PresentWake ForestHead Coach
2015-20East Tennessee StateHead Coach
2013-15Wichita StateAssistant Coach
2011-13Northwest Florida StateHead Coach
2006-11TennesseeAssistant Coach
2004-06Texas A&MAssistant Coach
2003-04Illinois StateAssistant Coach
2000-03La. TechAssistant Coach
1998-2000IdahoAssistant Coach
1995-98Barton County CCHead Coach
1993-95Barton County CCAssistant Coach
1991-93Southwestern CCHead Coach
1989-91Southwestern CCAssistant Coach

Personal Information

  • Birthday: March 22, 1965
  • Hometown: Lone Tree, Iowa
  • Education: Southern Arkansas, ’88 (B.S., Secondary Education)
  • Wife: Johnetta 
  • Children: Elizabeth, Christopher, Johnathon

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