LSU has its new men’s basketball coach.
By all accounts, he’s one of the hottest young coaches in America.
The Tigers hired Will Wade this week – ending a 10-day national search to replace Johnny Jones, who was fired shortly after the completion of the season.
Wade, 34, is considered by many to be an up and coming star in the college basketball coaching circles – a guy who has the potential to be make one of the biggest splashes of all the coaches hired this offseason.
Before taking the job at LSU, Wade coached two seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University, leading the Rams to a 51-20 combined record, including two-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.
He also coached Chattanooga for two seasons, posting a 40-25 record with the Mocs.
Reports say that Wade will be given a six-year deal at LSU, which likely shows that LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva will have a lot of patience with the new coach as he attempts to overhaul a Tigers program that went 10-21 last season.
Wade was introduced to the LSU community on March 22 at the Student Union. In his press conference, he said he is excited to take on the challenges that come with the Tigers job.
Here’s how we think he stacks up – both in strengths and weaknesses.
Will Wade is a VERY good recruiter. At VCU, he had a knack for finding talent that was overlooked by larger programs, but yet still capable of making an impact at the college level. In 2016, VCU signed a four-star player, De’Riante Jenkins, who was part of ESPN.com’s Top 100 – one of the only mid-major programs to ink a player of that distinction. His 2017 class is even better, possessing two ESPN.com Top 100 players and three total four-star players, headlined by forward Mayan Kiir and guard Lavar Batts. As for Louisiana recruiting, Wade has ties here, too. In 2016, he signed Riverside Academy standout Malik Crowfield, who is a LaPlace native.
Under Johnny Jones, LSU struggled mightily on defense – especially this past season when the Tigers were one of the worst defensive teams in the entire country. Under Wade, that’s likely to change. The Tigers new coach heavily emphasizes defensive intensity and a commitment to forcing opponents into bad shots. The Rams allowed just 66.9 points per game this season – a number that easily trumps the 83 points per game that LSU allowed in Jones’ final year. Wade likes pressure sets, so expect the Tigers to try and attack opponents the entire length of the floor.
Other coaches on the market were far more experienced than Wade, who is in his mid-30s, and has no experience coaching in major-conference college basketball. But it’s not like Wade is a novice at this craft, either. At VCU, he has coached in three NCAA Tournament games, taking the Rams to the Round of 32 last season. At Chattanooga, Wade also coached a postseason tournament, leading his team to the CIT where they lost in the first round.
The word ‘energy’ always seems to come out when someone speaks about Wade and his style of coaching. By all accounts, he’s a high-octane, full-throttle kind of dude who has charisma to rally people around a program. Local columnists have compared his enthusiasm to that of Dale Brown – the best coach in the history of the Tigers’ program. That’s high praise.
There’s always a risk when luring coaches from smaller conferences. Sometimes the hires work out fine (see also: Florida hiring Michael White from Louisiana Tech) and sometimes they don’t (see also: South Carolina hiring Darrin Horn from Western Kentucky). But those who are around Wade and have studied how he runs a program say that he’s a bright, energetic mind who is capable of doing great things at this level. The challenge now will be on LSU to give him the proper support needed to make this all work. Yes, this is a football-first university. But for basketball to win, it needs the proper funding and budget, too. Wade is a good start, but he needs help from the top throughout his tenure for this all to work out.
Photo by RaeLynn Roussel.