LSU basketball future "bright," with new coach Wade

Glenn Guilbeau
Virginia Commonwealth head coach Will Wade only wears gold ties, which will work at LSU as its colors are purple and gold.

BATON ROUGE - For the first time in 30 years, LSU has hired a coach in his 30s to take over one of its major athletic programs.

Will Wade, who is 34, has agreed to leave his head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth to become the LSU head men's basketball coach, a contact close to his camp confirmed Monday night after ESPN originally broke the story. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva later confirmed the hire. A press conference at LSU introducing Wade is expected to be called for Wednesday.

"Will Wade is a smart, energetic, and skilled individual," Alleva said in a LSU athletic department release. "He will provide great leadership for our student-athletes. The future of the program is bright."

Wade, who was born on Nov. 26, 1982, in Nashville, Tennessee, took VCU to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his first year there in the 2015-16 season, finishing 25-11 and tied for first in the Atlantic 10 Conference at 14-4. He also took VCU to the current NCAA Tournament at 26-8 and 14-4 before an 85-77 loss to St. Mary's in the first round last week. Wade was an assistant at VCU from 2009-13 under Coach Shaka Smart, who took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011.

"My many years at VCU were some of the best years of my life and I will never forget the opportunities that university afforded me," Wade said in a statement through LSU. "But the chance to build on the tradition and talent at a place like LSU was an opportunity I have been working for my entire career."

The last coach LSU hired as young to direct a major sport was 33-year-old Mike Archer as football coach in 1987.

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Virginia Commonwealth head coach Will Wade will be the new coach of the LSU Tigers.

Wade went to VCU as head coach from Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he coached in 2013-14 and 2014-15, compiling records of 18-15 and 12-4 and 22-10 and 15-3 in the Southern Conference, respectively. He was named the Southern Conference coach of the year in 2014.

He replaces Johnny Jones, 55, who was fired after five seasons at LSU. Jones' 2016-17 team was one of the worst in LSU history, finishing 10-21 and 2-16 in the Southeastern Conference.

LSU is expected to pay Wade $2 million a year in a six-year contract. He was making $1.4 million a year at VCU this season and would have made $1.5 million in the 2017-18 season. He signed an eight-year deal after the NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016 through the 2023-24 season when Vanderbilt - in his native Nashville - was interested in hiring him. Despite the long term contract, Wade's buyout is only $1 million, which is expected to be paid by LSU.

A clause in Wade's contract also stipulates that whatever school hires him must begin a home-and-home series with VCU within three years of the hire or pay that off at a cost of $250,000. VCU began adding that clause to the contracts of its men's basketball coaching hires more than a decade ago as the school has frequently been a launching pad for coaches. After coaching VCU from 2002-06, Jeff Capel left to become the coach at Oklahoma. Then his replacement, Anthony Grant, coached from 2006-09 before leaving to become Alabama's coach. He was followed by Shaka Smart from 2009-15 before Smart became the coach at Texas. Wade followed Smart.

VCU defeated LSU, 85-74, this past season on Nov. 25 in a tournament in the Bahamas. Wade has told friends he thinks LSU has the potential of a Florida.

Wade is expected to retain LSU assistant coach Randy Livingston, a star guard at LSU from 1994-96 who was initially let go two weeks ago with the rest of the staff when Jones was fired.

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Wade, a rabid Clemson football fan, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Clemson in 2005. He was then director of basketball operations at Clemson through 2007. He was an assistant coach at Harvard from 2007-09 under Tommy Amaker and then at VCU from 2009-13 under Smart.

Wade was thought to be a favorite for the Clemson job if it opened, but Clemson announced on Monday it would retain struggling head coach Brad Brownell.

Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet. Coverage of LSU and commentary by Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at