Three weeks before COVID-19 forced the Atlantic Coast Conference to cancel its basketball tournament and the NCAA to shutter March Madness, Dave Odom was back on the court at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
He was in his element, surrounded by many of the Wake Forest players he coached to the 1995 ACC title. Only, he wasn’t calling plays; Odom was being honored as a banner was hung in his honor in the rafters next to four of his players -- Randolph Childress, Rodney Rogers, Josh Howard and Tim Duncan.
The ceremony at halftime of Wake’s bout with Georgia Tech recognized a man who has won more games in LJVM than any other coach. And it spotlighted the coach who was the architect of Wake Forest’s return to prominence in the ACC.
Odom inherited a team in 1989 that had suffered through four straight losing seasons. Under his guidance, though, Wake won consecutive ACC tournament titles and made seven straight appearances in the NCAA and three in the NIT, winning that event in 2000.
Odom reflected on that journey in an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal in 2009 when he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
“I think about the way it was when we came and the things that it took to build a program to where I thought was its rightful place among the elite in college basketball,” Odom said. “And then I think about the way it was when I left. It was in good shape.
“When I think about my time as a coach there, that’s what I’m proudest of, that it got better and better as we went along – and the fact we were able to sustain it for such a long period of time.”
Odom’s record in 12 seasons at Wake Forest is 240-132. He was named the ACC Coach of the Year three times and won the same honor in the Southeastern Conference in 2004 after leaving Wake to coach at South Carolina.
But beyond the victories and personal honors, Odom values the relationships he formed with his players and in the coaching community.
“When the wins and losses are counted, championship trophies and plaques are on the wall, the only thing that remains are the relationships and the memories that you have in search of those wins and championships,” Odom told the Journal. “That’s the thing that remains. That’s the thing that lasts.
“And I’ve got more than enough for a lifetime.”
Odom’s enduring impact on his players can best be summed up by what Childress, now an assistant coach at Wake Forest, said prior to the ceremony last month.
"I have had countless conversations with him over the years and I haven't made an important decision in my life without talking to him first,” Childress said. “He is equally important to me now as he was 25 years ago, and he is someone I still count on for his wisdom, advice and support."
Odom, who is the NCSHOF’s March Member of the Month, is a native of Goldsboro. A three-sport star at Goldsboro High School, he went on to play football and basketball at Guilford College, where he was named the school’s most outstanding athlete in 1965.
After graduation, Odom returned to coach at Goldsboro before leaving in 1969 for Durham High. While there, he worked at Duke’s basketball camps and soon found himself making the move to the college ranks, leaving to work as an assistant at Wake Forest in 1976.
In 1979, Odom was hired as the head coach at East Carolina. He remained there until 1982 when he joined Terry Holland’s staff at Virginia. Seven years later he took over for Bob Staak at Wake Forest where he stayed until 2001 when he headed for South Carolina.
Odom, who retired in 2008, has a career record as a collegiate head coach of 406-278.