Will Wade is LSU’s new basketball coach. Ten days after Johnny Jones was fired after five ultimately rather fruitless and frustrating seasons, LSU has it’s new guy that will hopefully put the program back on the map and a fixture in the NCAA Tournament, where they’ve been just two times in the 11 seasons since John Brady’s team made that shocking run to the Final Four.
There were a lot of names bandied about as to who the next coach of the Tigers should be. There were murmurings of Notre Dame coach Mike Brey at the start, which always seemed like more of a pipe dream. It was said Nevada head coach and former LSU assistant Eric Musselman was interested. Then came talk of Kermit Davis, who’s had a strong run at Middle Tennessee and was also a former Tiger assistant. And finally there was the rumors of former Indiana head coach Tom Crean. It seemed over the last two or three days that the job would come down to Wade or Crean, and Wade ended up winning out. Most people are very happy about it, but some think Crean or Davis would have been the better call. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t think there’s any doubt Wade was the right call for LSU’s next head coach.
Let’s look at Wade’s resume. He’s 91-45 as a head coach, 55-15 in conference play, was SoCon coach of the year in his first season as a head coach at Chattanooga, where he went 40-25 in two years. He was 51-20 in two years at VCU, with a A-10 Regular Season title and two trips to the NCAA Tournament, including a win in 2016. He’s proven to be a pretty dynamic recruiter, being the lead recruiter for Shaka Smart’s VCU teams from 2009-2013. All by age 34. He’s a top-notch young coach who is climbing the ladder and well thought of in the college basketball ranks. That’s what LSU should be looking for. LSU really isn’t in the position to hire a big name or “it” guy, but they can hire a guy who can get to that point. That’s exactly what Wade is.
Contrast this with Davis and Crean. Davis spent five seasons from 1997-2002 as an assistant on John Brady’s staff. Since then he’s been the head coach at Middle Tennessee, where he’s done a very commendable job, winning 63 percent of his games and doing an especially great job over the last six seasons, winning two Sun Belt Conference regular season titles, and then two Conference USA regular season and two Conference USA tournament titles since the Blue Raiders changed conferences. They’ve been to three NCAA Tournaments in the last five years and won a game each of the last two years. But Davis is 57. And while he’s a better coach than Johnny Jones, Jones was a middle aged coach with LSU ties who had done a good job at a lower-rung school — he went to the tournament twice at North Texas. LSU didn’t need a coach of a similar ilk to one who had just failed them, they needed something different.
Crean is different to Davis, but still not a better choice than Wade is. Crean’s been to a Final Four, and dragged Indiana from the abyss to two Big Ten regular season titles and also two trips to the Sweet Sixteen. But he’s a guy who was just fired after nine arduous seasons at IU, and he’s probably more of a flight risk to a bigger school if he has success at LSU than Wade is, seeing as Wade has reportedly referred to LSU as a “dream job.” Crean isn’t a retread in the typical sense, but he’s not an up and comer with the fire that Wade possesses.
LSU had themselves some very good options this go around when hiring a head coach, certainly more than during past attempts at hiring a man to turn around LSU Basketball’s fortunes. But they made the right decision this time, in hiring a fiery, tactically sound head coach who also has proven to be a very good recruiter that’s continuing to climb the head coaching ranks to rave reviews in Will Wade.