Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
An old face will make a return appearance to Broad Street this week for the first time in more than two years.
Former VCU coach and current LSU coach Will Wade is set to revisit the Siegel Center for a much-anticipated matchup against the Rams on Nov. 13. Wade’s return to Richmond is one that is sure to unveil a multitude of opinions and emotions among the passionate VCU fans.
The success Wade had with the black and gold is undeniable, but his departure, combined with an FBI wiretap investigation that ensued afterward, has left many fans bitter ahead of the former coach’s homecoming.
After Shaka Smart’s decision to leave VCU for Texas, Wade became the 12th head coach in program history. Wade had worked under Smart as an assistant coach from 2009-13, becoming Smart’s first hire in 2009.
Once he was brought back as a head coach, the Nashville, Tennessee, native didn’t waste any time racking up wins.
The black and gold went 25-11 in Wade’s first season at the helm, including a return to the NCAA tournament for a sixth consecutive season.
Wade’s crew advanced all the way to the A-10 Championship in 2015-16 before losing to a loaded Saint Joseph’s team that included two future NBA players: DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles.
Despite the loss in the conference championship, the Rams’ tournament resume earned them a No. 10 seed in that season’s NCAA Tournament.
VCU defeated No. 7 seed Oregon State in its opening-round matchup 75-67, but the team ran into current Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners in the second round.
Hield’s 36 points capped off a 25-win season for Wade in 2015-16. The focus then turned to Wade’s second season with three talented freshmen guards in Samir Doughty, Malik Crowfield and De’Riante Jenkins, and a lot of hype surrounding the squad.
Wade and his crew increased their win total to 26 in 2016-17. Once again, the Rams earned a bid to the Big Dance, extending their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament bids to seven.
VCU reached its conference championship for a seventh straight season, but Wade and company would fall to Rhode Island in the title game, 70-63.
The Rams were slotted into yet another No. 10 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where the team lost its first contest to No. 7 seed St. Mary’s in what became Wade’s final game as the black and gold’s head coach.
Just four days after VCU was eliminated from the tournament, LSU announced Wade’s hiring on March 20, 2017.
Wade entered his third head-coaching stint with a roster loaded with young talent. The 2017-18 Tigers had four freshmen and three sophomores, including guard Tremont Waters, the No. 44 ranked player in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports.
The team’s youth didn’t yield much success for Wade in 2017-18. LSU went just 18-15 (8-10 in the SEC), and the team missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid for the third consecutive season.
The pressure was already mounting for LSU to succeed, and Wade didn’t disappoint in the 2018-19 campaign. But his second season as the Tigers’ coach didn’t go without a hitch.
As LSU was enjoying a 25-5 record with the season winding down, Wade was suspended after a released FBI wiretap revealed an unspecified offer Wade appeared to make during his 2017 recruiting period.
According to Yahoo Sports, the FBI intercepted a phone conversation between Wade and former Adidas consultant Christian Dawkins in which Wade appeared to allude to a money offer he made to one of his recruits two years ago.
Dawkins was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with three counts of wire fraud, as well as one count of money-laundering conspiracy, in 2017.
Wade denied the allegations, saying, “I cannot comment at this time on various media reports, except to say that they do not begin to tell the full story,” Wade told The Times-Picayune in a text message. “I understand the University had to take action before all the facts are in, but I would ask everyone to withhold their judgment until the record is complete.”
Assistant coach Tony Benford took over LSU’s head coaching role on an interim basis. In Wade’s absence, the Tigers lost their opening game in the SEC Tournament before advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Michigan State.
Revisiting the Siegel Center
Now back as head coach after the school decided to reinstate him in April, Wade will be reunited with rowdy fans who once appreciated his high energy and passion for VCU.
The crowd is sure to be loud for Wednesday’s date with Wade, but chances for any well-wishings to the former VCU coach have all but run their course.
The Rams will be in action at the Siegel Center Wednesday night against Will Wade and LSU at 6 p.m.
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