On March 20, 2017, LSU named Will Wade as head coach of its men’s basketball team. Wade becomes the 22nd coach in Tigers history and arrives in Baton Rouge after guiding the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams to two NCAA Tournament appearances in his two years at the Richmond, Virginia school.
So for LSU fans unfamiliar… who is Will Wade?
College basketball analyst and Yurview contributor Chris DiSano (@CDiSano44), who has known Wade for nearly a decade, sat down with the new LSU mentor to discuss several topics related to LSU basketball:
Chris DiSano – Can you take us through your decision process to leave VCU for LSU? Other than family members and close friends, what other folks in the coaching community did you lean on for advice?
Will Wade – Sure. Whenever you make a decision of this magnitude you try to gather as much information as possible. I really lean on former coaches I’ve worked for. Coach [Oliver] Purnell, Coach [Tommy] Amaker, Coach [Shaka] Smart… I lean a lot on those guys for advice and guidance. They have been through all of this and know the ropes very, very well. I leaned on those guys. My wife and I weighed out pros and cons and then you make a decision and move full steam ahead.
CD – Was there anything about the LSU job that you learned from them which resonated with you?
WW – It was funny, Coach Purnell was up for the job before LSU hired Trent Johnson [in 2008], so he was very familiar with the job. Coach Amaker was a player and coach at Duke when our Athletic Director, Joe Alleva, was at Duke… so he had some familiarity. And Coach Smart has been down in this area at Texas. So all three of those guys had a unique perspective on LSU that was helpful to hear.
When you meet with people and you sit down face-to-face and get a good feel for them… I’ve always thought LSU was a tremendous job. When you sit down with Joe Alleva and Eddie Nunez and they go through what they’re going to do for the program, their vision for the program, and how we can get there together, I thought that was very impressive and important.
One thing we had at VCU was that everybody was in alignment from our President — all the way through. We’ve got that now at LSU. When you have everybody in alignment, you have a tremendous opportunity to win at a high level.
CD – When you look at the SEC, what are your thoughts on the league as a whole?
WW – I think the league is really good. There are a lot of long, athletic guys. Obviously, how the league performed in the NCAA Tournament didn’t leave much doubt how the league played this year – especially in the postseason – which is how you’re measured. Almost all the teams are athletic and long. The teams that separate themselves are also strong — brute strength… Florida, South Carolina… just grown men — strong and powerful. We’ve gotta get stronger and that will help us out.
CD – How important was it for you to learn about the SEC’s approach/commitment on the basketball side?
WW – You’re always looking at all angles of the job. Our President here, King Alexander, is a former basketball player and a big time basketball fan. And when you look at what the SEC has done with their scheduling initiatives, hiring Dan Leibovitz to run the basketball portion, bringing in consultants, and more… there’s a high level of emphasis on making the SEC very competitive in basketball. You look at all those factors, internally on your campus and externally within the conference office; I felt like, once again, the conference was aligned in trying to push their teams and continuing to raise the profile of the SEC.
CD – For those unfamiliar, can you describe your style of play… and I know it’s early, but do you anticipate modifying that approach at all?
WW – Well, we’ll modify but our basic approach is to be the aggressor on both ends. We want to get downhill and attack the rim as quickly as we can on offense. We want to attack the ball defensively.. make every pass tough, contest every pass on the perimeter and make your life difficult on both ends. We want to be good in special teams situations… anything out of a huddle we want to be very good in. It’s going to be an aggressive, attacking, fast-paced attack that gets up and down the court and allows our guys to play in space and make plays in transition. It should be exciting and fits the caliber of athletes we can recruit down here.
CD – How have your previous two head coaching positions prepared you for this job and what is one key takeaway from each experience?
WW – Each experience is different. At Chattanooga, it was a little bit of a rebuild and retool situation which is what we’re going to need to do here at LSU. So you learn from your mistakes… I probably went a little bit too fast when I initially took that Chattanooga job, so I’ve taken a little bit more time with what I’m doing here at LSU.
At VCU, you learn the nuts and bolts of running a big time basketball program. There, I learned how to deal with the corporate side of basketball that will certainly suit me well here. But you take a little bit from everywhere. I was looking at my old marketing ideas from Chattanooga and so I’ll dust some of those off here at LSU. At VCU, I was using my notebooks on different facets of the program and applying them here with how we’re going to deal, say with media, and other parts of the program. So you combine both of those experiences and you draw from both of them to help you here.
CD – In your first few weeks on the job, what have you learned about your team and what excites you about this opportunity?
WW – I was really excited after working our guys out, spending time with them in the gym. I’ve said this before… we have a lot to work on but we have a lot to work with. We have a lot of room for improvement but we have a lot to work with. We’ve got some guys who are really committed and working hard — wanting to be really good players. We have long, athletic bodies. We need to tone our bodies up, get some weight on them, and shape them up but we certainly have some good pieces and good chemistry. I like how hard they are working, how they care about each other, and I’ve been impressed with them so far.
CD – Any surprise or learning about the school or area, in general, after having spent a few weeks here?
WW – I love the passion of everybody down here for LSU. I mean, everywhere you go, people want to talk LSU Athletics. I was eating at a restaurant three hours from here in Louisiana and people were coming up and talking LSU basketball with me. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet people and seeing that passion and I look forward to meeting more folks and continuing to build our basketball fan base back up.
CD – Lastly, let’s game out the summer for LSU fans and supporters… What will your next several weeks be like?
WW – We’re gonna hit the road recruiting and recruit hard. We’ll start summer school, spend some time with our team and get ourselves better in the weight room.. along with a little bit of skill instruction. We’ll hit the road again in July and continue to recruit to build our team and our future classes. In August we’ll start back to school and really get going full tilt. So we have a busy, work-filled, summer ahead of us but we’re really excited about the opportunity in front of us.