Will Wade made exactly the type of move Shaka Smart annually resisted.
Instead of staying at VCU until an elite job comes open, Wade is leaving for a program that has been to the Sweet 16 twice in the past 30 years.
LSU announced Monday night that Wade will be its next head coach. Wade is replacing the recently fired Johnny Jones, who missed the 2016 NCAA tournament despite having Ben Simmons on his roster and then nosedived toward the bottom of the SEC standings this season.
It’s a safe bet that Wade will be an upgrade over Jones, whose teams typically boasted elite talent yet badly underachieved. Wade, 34, boasts a 91-45 record in four seasons as a head coach, the first two at Chattanooga and the most recent two at VCU.
Why would Wade leave VCU after two seasons in which the Rams finished in the top two of the Atlantic 10 and made the NCAA tournament?
One reason could be the appeal of LSU, a school with modest expectations for basketball yet plenty of resources and in-state talent. The Tigers have seldom enjoyed more than sporadic patches of success in their history, but merely making regular NCAA tournament appearances would be considered a success there and the right coach has the chance to achieve even more than that.
The other reason could be that VCU might be poised for a dip next season. Five seniors including JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox are graduating from this year’s 26-win team and many of the guys who will replace them are unproven.
The Rams do have high hopes for sophomore-to-be De’Riante Jenkins and redshirt sophomore Samir Doughty. They’ll also add sharpshooting Maine transfer Issac Vann and a promising four-player recruiting class.
So the cupboard certainly wasn’t going to be bare for Wade had he stayed at VCU, but there was a chance the Rams could miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years. Maybe Wade didn’t want to take the chance of losing momentum, so he jumped on the best opportunity he had.
Now he’s gone from a top-two job in the Atlantic 10 to a second-tier job in the SEC. That’s not necessarily a bad move, but it’s definitely a risky one.
– – – – – – –