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Melvin Johnson addresses the audience at his VCU Criminal Justice TED Talk earlier this year.

Melvin Johnson addresses the audience at his VCU Criminal Justice TED Talk earlier this year.

We have two videos to share today, both educational, but with very different lessons. The first, the most important is Melvin Johnson’s criminal justice TED Talk from earlier this year. It’s important to remind everybody sometimes there’s more to the guys on the basketball court than just basketball. I love seeing student-athletes take part in things like this, and applaud the VCU Criminal Justice Program – which is terrific, as far as I can tell – for challenging these men and women.


Today’s second video is a little more straightforward. Mike Litos sits down with Will Wade to discuss next season’s rule changes. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Wade talk about basketball.


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Ed McLaughlin (left) introduces VCU Head Coach April 8 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Ed McLaughlin (left) introduces VCU Head Coach Will Wade April 8 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Thursday, April 2
The call from Richmond reached Ed McLaughlin’s cell phone at Mo’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis at 10:28 p.m. McLaughlin, in Indianapolis for the Final Four, was expecting the call, but the message was still a mystery. He was either going to enjoy a nice evening with colleagues or a long night of planning for the biggest decision of his professional career.

He was out the door within five minutes.

On the other end of line was VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Shaka Smart, who informed McLaughlin that he’d decided to accept the same position at Texas. Smart had just told his team of his plans and would be in Austin by the following day.

Despite the emotional demonstrations in Richmond, where fans gathered outside the Siegel Center in an attempt to convince Smart to stay, McLaughlin’s conversation with his now-former coach was businesslike.

“I congratulated him and said, ‘good for you’, and we talked about some logistical things,” McLaughlin said.

It was a quiet end to a week of rampant speculation in the media, a week where guesswork outpaced actual work. McLaughlin knew better. The real action lay ahead, not behind.

McLaughlin began organizing for what promised to be one of the busiest weekends of his life. Back in Richmond, Executive Associate Athletic Director Glenn Hofmann started calling VCU donors to inform them personally of the news. Meanwhile, Deputy A.D. Jon Palumbo, essentially in standby mode as Smart weighed his options, prepared to fly to Indianapolis to help McLaughlin conduct interviews.

The search to replace Smart, the most successful coach in VCU history, would begin the next morning in earnest.

While there was little certainty about Smart’s decision until late Thursday, McLaughlin and his staff had been preparing for this contingency for days, and in some ways, years.

‘The plan was in place,” McLaughlin said.



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New VCU Men's Basketball Coach made the rounds in a whirlwind 24 hours.

New VCU Men’s Basketball Coach made the rounds in a whirlwind 24 hours.

It was a whirlwind first day for new VCU Head Men’s Basketball Coach Will Wade. He completed the media car wash that included a throng at his press conference, then his own coaches show, plus in-studio appearances at other locations. He was truly a man about town. What did we learn on day one? Well, I listened to a bunch of his interviews in case you didn’t have the time. Some nuggets.

  • He’s obviously happy to be back. “One thing that happens when you leave here, you appreciate it more. You take for granted when you’re here sometimes the sellouts, how fanatical the fan base is. All those people at the press conference yesterday, half our road games in the Southern Conference didn’t have that many people at them.”
  • Wade originally hoped to become a world geography teacher and was once a substitute teacher.
  • One of his favorite memories from his first VCU stint was beating Drexel in the 2012 CAA Championship, one year after the Rams reached the Final Four with a senior-laden team. “I thought that really jump started the program in terms of consistency. That season we started out….we were on the bus on the way back from Charleston. I told one of the assistants on the bus, we’re going to be lucky to win 20 games with this crew.”
  • On keeping Havoc: “I think it gives us a national brand. When people think of VCU Basketball, they think of Havoc.”
  • He had plans to meet with incoming recruit Kenny Williams on Thursday.
  • His coaching staff will take shape quickly. If Wes Long, one of his assistants at Chattanooga, doesn’t get that school’s head job, he’ll join Wade in Richmond. Long, like Wade, is a Clemson grad. He served five seasons as head coach at Queens University in Charlotte.
  • In addition, Wade on plans on bringing a math student from Chattanooga that handled much of the team’s analytic data, likely as a graduate assistant.
  • He loves the food in Richmond. It sounds like Comfort is his favorite restaurant. Good choice.




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Will Wade was 40-25 in two seasons as head coach at Chattanooga.

Will Wade was 40-25 in two seasons as head coach at Chattanooga.

RICHMOND, Va. – Amid one of the most tumultuous weeks in VCU Basketball in some time, Will Wade restored order with a declaration of Havoc.

“Havoc still lives here!” Wade – the newly minted coach of the VCU Men’s Basketball program announced before 1,200 fans at the Stuart C. Siegel Center at an introductory press conference.

Change is afoot at VCU, but fans can still find comfort in some of their favorite, familiar things.

Wade was referring to the moniker for VCU’s aggressive style of play, coined by Shaka Smart, that helped steer the Rams to national prestige and five NCAA Tournaments in six years. Over the years, the terms VCU Basketball and Havoc have become synonymous. When Wade, who served as an assistant for the Rams under Smart from 2009-13, took over as head coach at Chattanooga in 2013, he brought with him many of the same concepts, as well the same marketing savvy. He called it “Chaos”.

Wade says the Rams will still play with the same aggressive flair for which they’ve become known, and they’ll still get out in transition. You don’t have to say goodbye to the full-court press. It’ll still be there.

Like Smart, Wade is cerebral with a heavy focus on analytics. Both men are big believers in the data of Ken Pomeroy, with Wade noting that he subscribes to additional Ken Pomeroy scouting reports on opponents and that he “had an analytics guy” at Chattanooga who will join him in Richmond in some capacity.

“I’m a spreadsheet guy,” Wade said with a smile.



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Will Wade was introduced as the 11th coach in VCU Basketball history Wednesday.

Will Wade was introduced as the 11th coach in VCU Basketball history Wednesday.

Say hello to the 11th coach in VCU Men’s Basketball history, Will Wade. Great turnout at the Siegel Center today for Wade’s introductory press conference. There were somewhere around 1,200 in attendance, and it was more of a celebratory atmosphere than anything else. But that’s what we’ve come to expect out of this fan base. A great day for VCU Basketball.

Check out some highlights from today’s presser, plus thoughts from Melvin Johnson and Jarred Guest.


Edit: The full press conference is now available as well.


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Will Wade, a VCU assistant from 2009-2013, will be introduced as the 11th head coach in Rams history Wednesday.

Will Wade, a VCU assistant from 2009-2013, will be introduced as the 11th head coach in Rams history Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: This feature on Will Wade originally ran in April of 2009. Wade was named VCU head coach Tuesday. 

Distance from Boston to Richmond: 555 miles.

Approximate cost of one-way flight on Jet Blue: $200.

Time to pack: Five hours.

Chance to work with Shaka Smart at VCU: Priceless.

On April 1, the day before his introductory press conference, Shaka Smart gave Will Wade, an assistant coach at Harvard, the opportunity to join his staff at VCU. Wade didn’t need long to think it over.

“He called me around noon and said, ‘It’s done’, and I was on an 8:40 flight that evening,” Wade said. “I think I landed about 11 p.m., and then we met until 3 a.m.”

It wasn’t completely a blind leap of faith. The 26-year-old Wade and Smart had known each other for years. Although they had met previously, Smart and Wade forged a close friendship during the 2006-07 season at Clemson. That year, Smart was serving as an assistant coach, while Wade was the director of operations on Oliver Purnell’s staff.

“We hit it off,” Wade said. “We were both very involved with our players, so our paths just crossed a lot. We have a lot of the same core beliefs and many of the same ways of doing things.”

For Smart, the decision to make Wade his first hire at VCU was a no-brainer.

“There’s that saying, ‘don’t work harder, work smarter.’ Well, Will works harder and smarter,” Smart said. “He struck me as the hardest working guy I knew. His attention to detail is second to none, and he’s really good at developing relationships. I knew that Will was someone we had to have on staff here.”

During their days at Clemson and in the years since, Wade and Smart would occasionally kick around the idea of working together again if one of them secured a head coaching job.

“We’d joke about stuff like that, but I don’t think we’d ever take it seriously,” said Wade. “This is a crazy business. You never know what’s going to happen down the line. But we had a mutual respect for what each other did.”




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.




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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