Former VCU coach Wade returns with No. 23 LSU
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Not everyone at VCU has forgiven Will Wade for leaving the Rams basketball job when he decided to pack his bags and head to LSU.
Wade is expecting to hear about it — and maybe a few other things — on Wednesday night.
Wade knows he’ll be entering a charged environment when the No. 23 Tigers take the court against the Rams.
“The atmosphere is incredible on any night,” Wade said Monday. “It’ll be turned up even more I’m sure for us.”
Wade was an assistant on Shaka Smart’s staff for four years from 2009-13 before he took a head coaching job at Chattanooga. He returned to VCU in 2015 with a memorable promise that “Havoc still lives here,” a reference to their frenetic defensive style.
But his second departure after two seasons as VCU’s head coach felt abrupt to some Rams fans, even though Wade led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments.
Acrimony grew when Wade was named in a Yahoo report about excerpts of an FBI wiretap that captured the coach speaking with Christian Dawkins, who was convicted of funneling illegal payments to the families of college basketball recruits. LSU suspended Wade for the postseason amid the allegations and VCU began investigating Wade’s recruiting tactics during his two years as the Rams coach.
Wade denied any wrongdoing and was reinstated after a meeting with LSU officials last April.
VCU found no evidence of wrongdoing by Wade, though that likely won’t stop Rams fans from reminding him of the suspension.
But least one person is looking forward to seeing Wade — current VCU coach Mike Rhoades.
He and Wade were assistants on Smart’s staff at VCU and roomed together on the road. They also shared an office and Rhoades said Tuesday they remain good friends.
“I talk to him, text with him,” Rhoades said. “He’s a good dude, man. He works his butt off. He’s meticulous in his approach.”
Rhoades said he stayed in touch with Wade during the suspension and fallout from the investigation.
“I don’t turn my back on anyone. I wasn’t raised that way,” he said. “You can turn your back or you can let people know you’re there. That’s what I did.”
Wade’s Tigers will be facing four of his former players or recruits at the Siegel Center: De’Riante Jenkins, Malik Crowfield, Isaac Vann and Marcus Santos-Silva. Jenkins said he and Wade stayed in touch for a while after Wade left, “but over time, we both just went our own way.”
Jenkins said he won’t be having any thoughts about nostalgia once the ball is tipped.
“Besides Will Wade returning to VCU, I feel like the most important thing is VCU winning,” he said.
The game is one mandated as part of the contract VCU gives coaches in the event they leave. It applied to Jeff Capel when he left for Oklahoma, Anthony Grant when he left for Alabama, Smart and Texas and now Wade.
Rhoades described the contract clause as “genius, if you think about it” because of the opportunity it gives the Rams. “Any time VCU has a chance to play a Power Five school anywhere, especially at home, is a great opportunity,” he said.
LSU had an option to pay $250,000 to get out of the game, but Wade has said he didn’t want that to happen.
“It’ll be as lively an atmosphere as we have played in in a while when we go there,” he said. “So, every game’s a sellout. They love their basketball and they’ve got a really good team. They’re a team picked to win the league. They’ve got good players. ... It should be fun.”
AP sports writer Brett Martel in Louisiana contributed.
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