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

AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET

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HOUSTON, Tex. – You know it’s going to be a good press conference when the first question directed at VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart is, “Are you out of your mind?”

Moments earlier, Smart was throwing his body all over the basketball court at Reliant Stadium, much to the delight of a crowd of thousands, assembled to watch Friday’s Final Four open practices. They roared as Smart and his coaching staff participated in something they call, “The Iron Man Drill”, which asks that the participant take a charge under the basket, get up, dive on the floor for a loose ball, then gather themselves to save a ball careening out of bounds to a teammate. When Smart completed the drill, he was mobbed by his players and coaches.

CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz, who will call the Final Four, commented during a post-practice interview – broadcast throughout the stadium – that he’d never seen a team display such exuberance during the open practice. Kentucky, which followed the Rams onto the practice court, only affirmed Nantz’s observation by spending a chunk of its practice session quitely shooting free throws.

During VCU’s Final Four run, Smart has maintained that he stresses that the Rams remain aggressive, confident and loose (ACL) and Friday’s open practice did nothing to make anyone believe otherwise.

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