Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 14 Coach Countdown of the 2016-17 season. We like to rank the players of the A-10 each season, but we’d also like to take a look at the brains of the operations. Who were the best coaches of the 2016-17 season? Who were the worst? Our site voted and compiled a list based on last season alone. This list is representative of how well each coach performed in the 2016-17 season, not in his entire career. Today, we feature #5 Will Wade.
1. Never lost to Richmond (or Old Dominion)
When you’re the head coach of VCU these days you are expected to do three things really: 1) make NCAA tournaments 2) beat Old Dominion and 3) beat Richmond. Frank Williams Wade my no longer be the head coach of VCU, but he will have departed after two seasons of doing nothing but checking the boxes of VCU’s “musts”. Wade’s teams danced in back-to-back seasons, making A-10 tournament title appearances in both and went a perfect 7-0 against the Rams’ rivals including a 3-0 record against the Spiders this past year after escaping a Spider death bite late in the A-10 tourney semifinals.
2. Rams 0.4 the win
VCU had arguably one of the wildest weeks in A-10 history this season, surviving back-to-back “game-winning” threes from opposing teams. Wade can’t claim credit for VCU escaping St. Bonaventure. That distinction goes to a number of other characters, but we won’t reopen that wound. But Wade’s play call at the end of the following game was a VCU classic moment. Once again finding themselves down one with 0.4 seconds to play, Wade called a classic inbound play that rookie GW coach Maurice Joseph and freshman GW center Collin Goss should’ve seen coming. It was a play ran to perfection and with a level of ease that you have to tip your cap too. Back-to-back wins in miracle fashion as a part of a nine-game winning streak, clearly two of Wade’s best moments at VCU in a week that will never be forgotten by Ram fans.
1. The dude left
The Will Wade era at VCU lasted essentially the blink of an eye, seeing Wade somewhat surprisingly take a job at LSU this past offseason, a team Wade’s Rams beat by double-digits earlier in the year. I guess it shouldn’t however come as a huge surprise to Ram fans, after Wade opted to bolt UT Chattanooga after just two seasons as well. Last year, with rumors of Wade potentially leaving for a job at hometown Vanderbilt, a DI coach told me he thought Wade might take that position, but if he didn’t, would likely be gone the following season assuming he had a successful year. A hopeful VCU grad with dreams of a Gonzaga-like future, I didn’t want to believe that. Clearly, I should have.
2. Miserable starts limited VCU’s ceiling
Halftime score: Rhode Island 40, VCU 27. It was a first half trend of big games during the Will Wade era that was a bit of a head-scratcher. The Rams fought back to threaten Rhody late, getting within a basket within the final minute of play, but had dug themselves a huge hole that had helped Dan Hurley and Co. win their first A-10 tourney title since 1999. The previous season’s title game saw a 43-34 SJU lead over VCU in the Hawks’ rout of the Rams. VCU danced regardless but eventually fell in a close game to Oklahoma, a game they trailed at the half 44-31. They repeated that pattern in this year’s NCAA tournament, trailing St. Mary’s by 15 at the half. Adjustments seemed to be a specialty of Wade at VCU. Game plans however were somewhat of a different story.
Some SEC blogger will have to update you on Wade’s next season, as he’ll take his talents to Baton Rouge to attempt a turnaround of an LSU program that managed to suck even with a recent overall No.1 NBA Draft pick on their roster. Note: VCU could potentially face Wade and LSU in this year’s upcoming Maui Invitational. My guess is Wade’s coaching talent gets the Tigers into respectability (the guy is a GREAT X’s and O’s coach and despite some social awkwardness, manages to pull in the recruits), but I’ll be interested to see how his personality — often abrasive — plays longterm with his players, fans and boosters. Good luck.
As for VCU, new Rams head coach Mike Rhoades — a former assistant under Shaka Smart with Will Wade — was able to retain half of Wade’s recruiting class (watch out for versatile 4-star Montverde forward, Sean Mobley) while securing two potential impact transfers and two of his own freshmen as well. Like Wade at UTC, Rhoades was able to turn around a miserable Rice Owls team in his three years there and will inherit a VCU team that could, once again, have NCAA tournament potential. Rhoades oddly enough inherits a roster more suited to his fast-paced, small ball, three-point shooting approach than Wade’s “pound it in the paint” style. Expect Justin Tillman and De’Riante Jenkins to be next year’s stars for the Rams with a potential breakout season from point guard Johnny Williams (yes,THAT Johnny Williams). Longterm impact transfer Marcus Evans (via Rice with Rhoades) could become a future star in the conference after averaging 21 points as a CUSA freshman then 19 this past year.