Another bout of success led to another coaching search for Virginia Commonwealth’s men’s basketball program. This time it’s Will Wade leaving for a bigger job, as the Rams’ coach departed after just two seasons in Richmond for Louisiana State, becoming the fourth coach to leave the Rams for a bigger job in the past 11 years.
ESPN reported the news on Tuesday morning. Wade’s tenure marks the shortest tenure of any of VCU’s successful coaches, leaving after getting the Rams to the NCAA tournament in both of his campaigns with the team. Both of Wade’s teams earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, beating Oregon State in the first round in 2016. Will Wade leaves Richmond with a record of 51-20, but did not seem to leave on great terms according to VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin’s comments to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“Will and I agreed on the necessary next steps, and we met all of Will’s requests,” McLaughlin said. “He ultimately decided he would rather coach elsewhere.”
McLaughlin said that VCU will begin its search for Will Wade’s successor immediately. Since making the Final Four in 2011 under then-coach Shaka Smart, the Rams have not missed the NCAA tournament, earning a single-digit seed on three occasions. Prior to Jeff Capel guiding VCU to the 2004 NCAA tournament, the Rams had made just one NCAA tournament in the previous 19 years. Since Capel left for Oklahoma, however, every coach VCU hired has made at least two NCAA tournaments, and the school has not had to fire a coach since 2002.
Hiring Will Wade comes with a few risks for LSU, with the most obvious one being Wade’s contract. In addition to Wade’s buyout, a clause in his VCU contract requires the school that hires Wade to schedule a home-and-home series with VCU within three years of his hiring. Given the shape of LSU’s program, which has recorded double-digit losses for nine consecutive seasons, those games could be a major problem for the Tigers against a solid Rams squad.
The other, more serious risk is the tendency of VCU coaches to struggle when they move up to the Power 5 level. Of the three previous Rams coaches to take a bigger job, both Capel and Anthony Grant have already been removed from their respective jobs, with Capel forced out at Oklahoma after failing to make an NCAA tournament without Blake Griffin on his roster and Grant was fired after making one NCAA tournament in six years. Even Shaka Smart has struggled at Texas, going just 31-35 in Austin.
Will Wade inherits a program that has a proud past, but has won just one NCAA tournament game since 2006, when John Brady guided the Tigers to the Final Four on the backs of Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis. Regardless of his initial start, Wade should have time to attempt to turn the Tigers around, as no coach at LSU has lasted less than four years since Frank Truitt was fired after a year in 1966.
Readers, is Wade the man to turn around LSU? Where does VCU go from here? What impact will this have on the SEC and the Atlantic 10? Sound off in the comments below and like and share this story!
Commentary by Dan Angell