Build a solid foundation for the LSU basketball program. Check.
Recruit players that would work hard, play hard and be committed to the LSU program. Check.
Change the mindset to believe in consistent winning. Check.
Represent the University as coaches and players in a positive way both on and off the court. Check.
Entering his third season as the head coach of the LSU Fighting Tiger basketball program, Coach Will Wade has been able to check all the boxes of program building that he set out to accomplish when he was named the 22nd head coach of the LSU program prior to the 2017-18 season.
This past season, Coach Wade, his staff and players put together a team that posted a 16-2 record in the Southeastern Conference, winning the 11th regular season title in school history and going on to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16.
But one sentence does not tell the story of the championship season, both on and off the court. How does a Coach and a team handle the worst possible tragedy, the death of a teammate? Not just a teammate, but a friend and a person known throughout the LSU community.
Junior Wayde Sims was killed in the early morning of Sept. 28, just hours before what was to be the first team workout in preparation for the 2018-19 season.
Coach Wade and athletic staff met early that morning with the team and began the long process of reflection and recovery. Coach Wade met with the media in a press conference later that morning that was televised live on many outlets including the SEC Network. He was honest and frank about the situation and thoughts and memories of Sims. His ability to get out in front of the ongoing situation answered many questions and stopped growing speculation about the death.
The team dedicated the season to Wayde and his parents, which included former Tiger player Wayne Sims. Fingers showing Wayde’s 44 number were displayed prominently and Coach Wade’s mantra of “We’ll be playing with six” in reference to Wayde watching and being with the Tigers sure seemed to be prophetic.
Time after time, the Tigers appeared to need a spark to stay alive for a win and things would turn around. LSU would go a perfect 9-0 in the league on the road, winning four overtime games and another at the buzzer. The Tigers would win 16 league games, one of their best overall 18-game league records.
As good as the players were in November when the season started, the team showed improvement from start to finish and that was all due to Coach Wade and his staff and the work that was put in on the court, in the video room, in scouting reports and so much more.
It was all part of the vision the coach has for the program. It’s a vision to have “unwavering commitment to put the team first, to put the state first, to put our school first to represent all of these folks in a first-class fashion. We are going to be a hard-working team that represents this great university that represents this great state.”
Frank William “Will” Wade said those words on March 20, 2017 when he was named the head coach at LSU. He came to LSU after a stellar two-year stint as the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and two years at UT-Chattanooga.
In two seasons at LSU, he is the first Tiger mentor to get the Tigers to post-season play in both of the first two seasons on the job. He’s been on the bench for 43 wins over two seasons and he is now one of just five LSU coaches to lead his team to an SEC Championship.
Through the first two seasons, the Tigers under Wade have posted wins that excited the LSU fan base, another item that can be put on the positive check list for the program.
So far in two seasons, LSU under Wade has posted 16 wins in the Quadrant I rankings in the NCAA RPI/now NET rankings. After five in 2018, Wade’s Tigers posted 11 Q1 wins in 2019. This year that included at No. 4 NET ranked Kentucky, versus No. 9 Tennessee, No. 13 Auburn and at No. 21 Mississippi State.
The Tigers also had the ability to win in so many different ways. In the final seconds (at Kentucky, versus Tennessee and Maryland) and on the road in overtime (at Arkansas, at Missouri, at Mississippi State, at Florida). The 2019 Tigers became the first LSU squad to go 9-0 in the league on the road and ended the year tied for the longest road win streak in the country.
In two years, the Tigers have drawn four crowds that are in the top 12 single game attendances in the present seating configuration of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Fans are caring again about LSU basketball, not just because of wins, but because of what they have seen on the court.
The fans have seen the things that Coach Wade promised when he took the job – an energized staff that was integrated in the game making coaching decisions and alterations as needed; player that were working hard to enact a game plan and making big plays.
More than anything, LSU fans saw the advancement of returning players under Coach Wade and his staff and the way that the new player blended with the improved veterans.
Three member of last year’s championship team – Tremont Waters, Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams – will go to NBA training camps. Waters was picked in the second round of the 2019 draft by Boston, while Reid has signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bigby-Williams has signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Charlotte Hornets.
Skylar Mays will be the lead senior on this team and his two years with Coach Wade has shown the coaching ability of the staff with a solid player wanting to advance, improving in big steps each year. He was a second-team All-SEC selection and was a first-team Academic All-American as selected by CoSIDA.
Waters was selected First Team All-SEC and the league’s co-Defensive POY, while Mays was a second team choice. Reid was selected on the all-league freshman team.
Wade, one of the younger coaches in Division I, who will turn 36 on Nov. 26, has also proven to be one of the most energetic both in practices and games, and his players have responded in kind. Wade has also brought analytics and trends to his coaching practices at LSU and his ability to know situations and tendencies has proven beneficial to the Tigers in his first two seasons.
Wade has been out-and-about during his tenure speaking to his tipoff club and to student group making sure they feel a part of the program. He has also spoken to several business groups about leadership. Coach Wade has been seen on the night prior and on game day for football visiting with folks in the RV lots.
PRIOR TO LSU
The native of Nashville, Tennessee, directed VCU to a 51-20 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. The 2016 Rams advanced to the second round of the tournament, defeating seventh-seed Oregon State before losing to Oklahoma. Wade was the youngest head coach in the NCAA Tournament in 2016. In 2017, VCU lost to St. Mary’s in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
The Rams were 28-8 over his two years in the Atlantic 10 Conference, posting 14-4 records both years. The team was 25-11 in 2016 and earned a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season crown. The 2017 team won 26 games and finished second in the league, one-game behind Dayton.
Under his tutelage, guard Melvin Johnson earned First Team All-Atlantic 10 honors in 2015-16 while Je Quan Lewis represented VCU on the 2016-17 first team. Mo Alie-Cox was named to the A-10 Defensive Team in both 2016 and 2017.
Wade previously served at VCU as an assistant with the Rams under Shaka Smart from 2009-13. VCU was 113-37 during that time, reached three NCAA Tournament and won the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Championship. He was part of the staff in 2011 when VCU advanced from the NCAA “First Four” all the way to the Final Four in Houston.
Wade is credited with being a key figure in four top non-power five recruiting classes in his four seasons at VCU.
Prior to becoming the head coach at VCU, Wade served as the head coach at Chattanooga for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
His first Mocs squad went 18-15 in 2014, finishing 12-6 and second in regular season Southern Conference play. The 18 wins overall were the most by the program since 2008-09 and the 12 wins in league games was the highest total since 2010-11. The team made the school’s first postseason appearance since 2009 in the CIT.
Wade was honored with the Anton Foy Southern Conference Coach of the Year award for his efforts in 2014.
The Mocs won 22 games in 2015 and finished 15-3 in the league as Wade guided Chattanooga to its first 20-win season since 2004-05. He finished his two seasons there at 40-25 and 27-7 in league play. In the two seasons prior to his arrival, Chattanooga was 24-40 overall and 13-23 in SoCon play.
In his six years as a head coach, he has a combined record at Chattanooga, VCU and LSU of 134-65 and 78-27 in conference play with five post-season appearances.
Wade’s reputation, where ever he has coached, is a person who is a tireless worker and relentless recruiter. Wade was VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart’s first hire upon being named the head VCU coach in 2009.
That reputation was cemented prior to his arrival on the VCU campus. He served as an assistant to Tommy Amaker at Harvard in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Much like at VCU, he was Amaker’s first hire. In their second year, the Crimson went 14-14, the first season of .500 or better in the program since 2001-02.
Wade’s coaching start came at Clemson where he served as Director of Basketball Operations (2006-07) and Graduate Assistant (2005-06) after four seasons as a student manager (2002-05). There he worked for coaches Larry Shyatt (2002-03) and Oliver Purnell (2004-07).
In eight years on coaching staffs at Clemson, Harvard and VCU, the teams had a record of 177-97 with six postseason appearances (2005-13).
Wade is married to the former Lauren Deason, and the couple has one daughter, Caroline Elizabeth (2).
The Will Wade File
Years at LSU: Third
Birthdate: Nov. 26, 1982
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
High School: Franklin Road Academy
College: Clemson, 2005
Wife: Lauren Deason
Child: Caroline Elizabeth
Wade’s College Coaching Experience
2005-06 - Clemson, Graduate Assistant
2006-07 - Clemson, Director of Operations
2007-09 - Harvard, Assistant Coach
2009-13 - VCU, Assistant Coach
2013-15 - UT-Chattanooga, Head Coach
2015-17 - VCU, Head Coach
March 22, 2017 - Present - LSU, Head Coach
Will Wade's Head Coaching Record
|2013-14||Chattanooga||18-15||12-4||2nd||CIT 1st Round|
|2015-16||VCU||25-11||14-4||t-1st||A-10 Co-Champs; NCAA Round of 32|
|2016-17||VCU||26-9||14-4||2nd||NCAA Round of 64|
|2017-18||LSU||18-15||8-10||t-9th||NIT Round of 16|
|2018-19||LSU||25-5||15-2||1st||SEC Champs; NCAA Sweet 16|
|Total||6 Seasons||134-65 (.673)||78-27 (.743)|
|LSU||2 Seasons||43-20 (.683)||23-12 (.657)|