McNeese hires Will Wade as new men’s basketball coach
LAKE CHARLES – McNeese has named former LSU head coach Will Wade as its next men’s basketball coach, Director of Athletics Heath Schroyer announced Sunday.
A formal introduction will be held Monday at noon in the Legacy Center. The public is encouraged to attend and the first 200 McNeese students will receive free box combos from Raising Canes. Doors will open at 11 a.m.
Wade replaces John Aiken who was let go last Wednesday after two seasons as head coach with the Cowboys and compiling a 22-45 overall record.
Said Schroyer: “I’m so excited to welcome Coach Wade, his wife Lauren and daughter Caroline to Southwest Louisiana and McNeese!
“This is a completely different job than it was three years ago. McNeese Basketball is one of the best jobs in the nation in regards to one-bid leagues. We are funded at the top of the league, have the best facility, a passionate fan base and many other built-in advantages. I will not make excuses for why we can’t win and win big. Quite frankly, there is no excuse.
“The days of us celebrating making conference tournaments or accepting mediocrity in all of our sports, let alone in basketball, are over.”
At LSU, Wade’s five-year tenure is noted for consistent winning and a return to interest in the basketball program.
During his time in Baton Rouge, the Tigers won a Southeastern Conference regular season championship in 2019, advanced to four post-season tournaments (including consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2019, 2021 and 2022) and advanced to an SEC Tournament championship game for the first time since 1993.
LSU in his last four seasons (2019-22) won 48 regular season SEC games, tied for the second most of any team over that period.
LSU won 20 games or more in three-of-his-five seasons and finished his time at LSU with a record of 105-51 with 196 career wins for his nine years as a head coach. He finished 55-33 in the SEC over that time. His 105 wins made him the fourth winningest coach in LSU Basketball history.
He worked hard to put together a program with good players that produced consistent winning, regular post-season tournament appearances and playing an exciting brand of basketball that would see the Tigers contend for a top spot yearly in the Southeastern Conference.
Coach Wade was able to check many of those boxes of program building and program stability that he set out to accomplish when he was named the 22nd head coach of the LSU program prior to the 2017-18 season.
The Tigers advanced to the round of 16 in the NIT in 2018, to the Sweet 16 in the 2019 NCAA Championship, to the second round of the NCAAs in 2021 and a tournament appearance in 2022.
In 2019, 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.
Wade has also brought analytics and trends to his coaching practices at LSU and his ability to quickly know situations and tendencies proved beneficial to the Tigers in his five seasons.
The highlight of Wade’s five years came in 2019 when the Tigers won their first SEC title in 10 years and won two games in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
“The interest in this job was overwhelming,” said Schroyer. “People know we are a sleeping giant, but trust me on this, today the giant has awoken! I wanted someone who not only understands my expectations for our basketball program on and off the court, but actually embraces them. After multiple extensive conversations, Coach Wade fully understands my expectations and embraces them. There isn’t a better fit for this basketball program, university or community at this moment than Will Wade.
“Poke Nation, saddle up…. Our time has now arrived!”
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.
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 Tournaments 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.
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.
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.
What They’re Saying About Coach Will Wade:
Joe Dumars – McNeese and NBA Great and Hall of Famer
“I would like to congratulate Heath Schroyer and McNeese on hiring Will Wade. Heath continues to show his focus and commitment to elevating the McNeese Athletic programs. Coach Wade is going to do GREAT things at McNeese.”
Dr. Jim Henderson – University of Louisiana System President
“McNeese has thoughtfully considered this decision and has incorporated appropriate contract provisions that clearly establish expectations. We have seen countless examples of excitement around athletics benefitting institutions and communities. McNeese and Southwest Louisiana have been through a lot these past three years. A story of redemption can uplift a region.”
John Condos – University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, Chairman Athletic Committee
“Hiring Will Wade as the McNeese Basketball Head Coach is exciting news and I fully support Heath Schroyer and the administration at McNeese. As our area continues to rebuild from two devastating hurricanes, I believe Coach Wade will help reinvigorate our basketball program, university, and community. I look forward to a winning season and exceptional experiences for the students, alums, and Cowboy fans. Geaux Pokes!”
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