CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO CHOOSES WILL WADE

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Will Wade spent four years as an assistant on Shaka Smart's staff. The Rams won 111 games over that stretch.

Will Wade spent four years as an assistant on Shaka Smart’s staff. The Rams won 111 games over that stretch.

I can’t remember who said it, but a basketball coach once told me that he wanted assistant coaches on his staff that wanted to be head coaches someday. It’s a simple point, but an important one. It all goes back to drive and motivation and self-actualization, but in the end, everybody benefits.

You can also usually tell how successful a coach has been by the number of assistants who have become head coaches somewhere; guys who have theoretically developed under his leadership and become great leaders themselves. It also means you’re hiring great coaches to begin with, but you get the idea.

At a press conference in Tennessee Tuesday, Will Wade will be introduced as head coach at Chattanooga, the third Smart assistant to become a Division I head coach. He joins Mike Jones (Radford) and Jamion Christian (Mount St. Mary’s) on Smart’s “coaching tree”.

Jones and Christian each walked into rebuilding situations, as Wade will with the Mocs, and each has earned a measure of success in a short time. Mike Jones, about as good a guy as there is in coaching, took over a one-win debacle and has won six and 13 games, respectively, the during his two seasons. In the two years prior to Christian’s arrival in Emmitsburg, Md., The Mount won 19 games. Last year, his first at the helm, it won 18 and reached the NEC Championship Game.

I have no doubt that Wade will enjoy similar success. He’s about as good a basketball mind as I’ve met. A terrific recruiter, the guy literally lives to coach basketball. He’ll do fine. Wade will be missed, however. Even at 30, he’s probably forgotten more about hoops than I’ll know. I enjoyed the conversations I had with him following VCU’s Final Four run when we were putting together a commemorative Ram Report. He gave me great stuff, especially about the Rams’ unforgettable overtime win over Florida State. From the magazine:

I thought the most improbable of the wins was Florida State. I had the scout going into that game, and Coach Smart looked at me and said, ‘what are we going to do to beat them?’ I said, ‘it’s going to be tough.’

Florida State’s fourth, fifth and sixth post players would start on any team in our league. That’s no exaggeration. Their fifth and sixth post players would’ve started at center for us. I just thought their depth and the bodies, that was the one team that physically [was a problem]. It didn’t do me any better when I went and watched them during shootaround.

I thought Florida State was the toughest matchup. They’re so long, so big. They’re huge at every position, they have a 27-year-old guy in the post against D.J. [Haley]. The way they fly at the 3-point line I thought was going to give us problems. Our guys did a good job of making the extra pass. I thought it was a poor matchup for us.

– Will Wade (April, 2011)

I appreciated his candor. It really helped make the magazine memorable. I wish Will the best of luck. Like Mike Jones and Jamion Christian, he’s a terrific guy, easy to root for.

Moving forward, Smart will undoubtedly fill his staff with men he thinks will make great head coaches one day, and VCU will benefit, at the very least, in the short term. And everybody wins. The beat goes on…

P.S.: We will miss this suit combo most of all. Thanks to thegalen for the screen cap.

hoC9N

RETRO RHOADES KEY TO VCU FUTURE

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Shaka Smart says 39-year-old Associate Head Coach Mike Rhoades, 'would play for us right now.'

The list of accomplishments from VCU Associate Head Coach Mike Rhoades’ playing career is probably as long as his arm. National Champion, National Player of the Year, 2,000 points scored, retired jersey. I could go on.

Most of VCU’s players were in diapers when Rhoades was terrorizing Division III for Lebanon Valley College from 1991-95. Rhoades is 39 years old now. Most of his peers have crammed their athletic memories into a worn shoebox in the attic by now, next to the dusty high school yearbooks. If you want to see them cross somebody over, you’ll need to hang on a minute while they go dig the VHS player out of the garage, or wherever the heck it is.

But if you want to see Rhoades come off screens, bury 3-pointers and talk a little trash, you can drop by Franklin Street Gym when the Rams practice. Rhoades, like a few of VCU’s coaches, regularly participates in drills and plays in scrimmages with the team. Consider him a basketball visual aid.

It’s not an uncommon practice, but when people start making statements like, “Mike Rhoades is our best practice player,” it’s worthy of an investigation. At first, it sounded like some kind of Paul Bunyan-sian myth. Does he play barefoot too? Dropkick 3-pointers? But then VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart lobbed this bombshell.

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THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

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I wrote two features for the The Ram Report the last two days. If your annual donation to the Ram Athletic Fund does not exceed two goats and three sheets of fine silk, then you don’t get the magazine. However, due to space constraints, I can never get all the good quotes and tidbits in there, so you guys get to reap the benefits here on the blog.Think of this stuff as like a Nirvana box set. It’s a collection of stuff that didn’t necessarily make it onto the original album.

The first feature was on new Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Jamion Christian.

Shaka Smart, on keeping short lists of coaches in case of potential openings:

“They’re pretty big lists. You’ve always got to be ready. We’re in a profession where head coaching positions change quite a bit and assistant coaching positions change even more, so you always have to be ready.”

Smart, on Christian emerging as a candidate:

“What happened was, the more his name came up, the more everybody liked him. Good things kept coming out. Mike Jones and Kyle Getter were on their way out of Richmond to Radford, but they spoke very highly of them. Mike Morrell was on his way from Charleston Southern and he’s known Jamion longer than any of us. There was just a lot of common ties there. Mike Rhodes recruited Jamion at Randolph-Macon…”

Smart, when asked if he was concerned about bringing another young coach on staff (Christian is 29):

“No. I’m young. But, I’m at a different place than I was two years ago, going into my first year. The biggest criteria was someone that was going to be good with our guys and develop great relationships. I don’t care if the guy was 22 or a 100 years old, that’s who we were going to hire.”

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SMART WISDOM

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I’m working on number of projects for both the Ram Report and the blog. I did three great interviews today and I’ve got another scheduled for tomorrow, so expect some interesting stuff in the coming days. Had a chance to sit down with Shaka Smart for a profile I’m writing on new Assistant Coach Jamion Christian, who, as it turns out, is a certified whiffleball ringer.

I can’t give you the whole story right now. Those of you who receive the Ram Report will have this on your coffee table or in your bathroom soon enough. However, I love this quote from Smart, which tells you a lot about the way his mind works.

On Christian:
“I think he’s got a great perspective on the game, and it’s different, much different than anyone else on our staff because of his background and who he’s worked for. That’s always something that you invite. You don’t want to bring someone in that has the exact same views as you and knows the same things as you because then they basically become a ‘yes’ man. Jamion’s brought up a bunch of interesting ideas that the rest of us haven’t thought of.”

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