Who Is Will Wade?
Will Wade probably didn't think fifteen years ago he'd be in the position he is now.
In 2002 he enrolled at Clemson, where he didn't play basketball. Instead, he began his career as a student manager, doing a variety of odd jobs for then Tiger head coach Larry Shyatt. From 2002-2005 he held that role, and after graduation the plan was to be a high school teacher and basketball coach. But new Tiger head coach Oliver Purnell asked him to stay on as a grad assistant in 2005 before hiring him as Director of Basketball Operations in 2006.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without those two guys,” Wade previously said of Purnell and Shyatt. “All my jobs have basically come from my stint at Clemson.”
It was under Purnell that he met assistant coach Kevin Nickelberry, who referred Wade to Tommy Amaker in 2007 when Amaker was hired by Harvard. Amaker interviewed Wade and gave him his first assistant coaching gig, where Wade quickly went to work as Amaker's first hire. He helped Amaker land a Top 25 recruiting class at Harvard, and Wade spent two seasons at the school before another Clemson friend came calling.
Shaka Smart and Wade met at Clemson when Smart replaced Nickleberry on the staff in 2006 and developed a strong friendship. Both spent a lot of time working together so it was only natural that when Smart was hired by VCU he would bring Wade on board.
At that time, Wade was already developing a reputation for being a strong recruiter. He built strong recruiting ties in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and those connections would prove pivotal as Smart laid the foundation for his program.
Wade spent four seasons at VCU, helping the Rams to three NCAA Tournament appearances including the magical Final Four run in 2011. Wade, who worked closely with VCU’s post players, saw the Milwaukee Bucks select center Larry Sanders with the 15th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He also aided in the development of current NBA players Troy Daniels and Briante Weber, who own VCU records for 3-pointers in a single season and career steals, respectively.
The program's success made Wade a priority for other mid-major schools, and Chattanooga came calling in 2013, looking to see if the talented young coach could get the job done in the head seat.
Instantly he improved the Mocs, leading the team to a second-place finish and 12 league wins in his first season followed by another second-place finish and a 15-3 record his second year. That season he also led the Mocs to 22 wins, the program's first 20+ win season in 10 years. For his efforts, Wade was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2014.
While he was winning in Chattanooga his good friend Smart continued to do the same at VCU, and finally the elite job Smart was waiting for, Texas, opened in 2015. The Longhorns hired Smart away and now VCU was looking to replace their talented young coach... with another.
VCU brought back Wade in 2015, and, as expected, he kept the program rolling. 25 wins and an A-10 regular season title in his first season... 20+ wins already this year with another regular season title in his sights. Wade was the youngest head coach in the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16. Now he has VCU in position to reach another NCAA Tournament, and high-major programs are going to come calling Wade once their season is over.
“Everybody’s route is different,” Wade previously stated. “I kind of worked my way up. From director of basketball operations to graduate assistant at a low to midmajor, assistant at mid-to-high major, then head coach. I went through every rung of the ladder. Some people with a better pedigree than me can skip some of those rungs.”
What Makes Him A Viable Candidate?
Wade is close to an ideal candidate for NC State.
First of all, his teams play with effort on both ends of the floor and really bring it defensively. Wade was at VCU when Smart started "Havoc," the team's relentless full-court pressure defense, but after he was hired back he proved that he wasn't just a full-press coach. Under Wade, the Rams now run "Halfcourt Havoc" or "Chaos," a mix of 2-2-1 contain pressure which often ends with his team dropping into an aggressive 2-3 matchup zone. The Rams will also play man, but defensively they will get after you, regardless of the set.
The Rams are currently 18th nationally in defensive efficiency and are allowing just 65.8 points per game, 42nd-best in the country. Debbie Yow has stated since making the coaching change that the Wolfpack's defensive woes under Mark Gottfried were a concern and that she will be looking at coaches who have proven to produce strong defensive teams. Wade is doing that right now.
Wade, just 34, still has plenty of coaching ahead of him. He has 10 years of coaching experience under his belt, and the youth is certainly a positive for a program hoping to land a long-term hire who could be in place to succeed once other programs within the ACC replace Hall of Fame head coaches.
Also, Wade has played a role in building multiple programs, which is a definite plus. In two years he left Chattanooga in a much better place, and he has spent a total of six seasons at VCU... which included the Final Four run, and four NCAA Tourmnament appearances... and counting. Was VCU successful prior to Smart and Wade? Yes, but they've taken the program to another level in a much better conference, the A-10.
Another reason Wade is a viable candidate is his recruiting ties to the region. He has an outstanding reputation as a recruiter and coach among high school coaches and recruiting analysts. Just look at the success he's had as a recruiter.
Mo Alie-Cox, arguably VCU's top player, was an unranked prospect coming out of high school and former star Briante Weber, another Wade signee, was a two-star pickup out of Fork Union in 2012. As head coach, Wade's recruiting at the school has been even better. Samir Doughty inked with Wade in 2015 after originally committing to St. John's. 2016 signee De'Riante Jenkins was rated No. 43 overall in his class, selecting VCU over Indiana, Arizona State, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Texas, and Tennessee among others. Fellow 2016 signees Marquell Fraser held offers from Iowa, DePaul, and Georgia Tech among others.
Wade's most recent class is filled with familiar names. Four-star signee Mayan Kiir picked VCU over NC State, Illinois, and LSU among others. Talented four-star point guard Lavar Batts, who hails from Concord, North Carolina, spurned Tennessee, Georgia Tech, DePaul, and Clemson. Finally three-star big man Sean Mobley also held offers from NC State, Dayton, TCU, Wake Forest, and West Virginia.
Heck, early 2018 commitment Kevin Easley Jr. already held offers from Indiana and Purdue... a big pickup for VCU given Easley attends Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence North High School.
Wade is already landing high-major talent at VCU... he'd certainly be able to recruit top talent in the ACC.
As you can see, Wade has plenty of traits which would make him appealing to NC State. Will the Wolfpack come calling?
What Makes Him A Longshot?
There's really not a lot that makes Wade a longshot for the NC State coaching job.
The biggest detriment could be his current situation. One of the highest-paid mid-major coaches in the country, Wade is already making nearly $1.5 million. NC State can certainly pay him much more, but does Wade value his current situation and believe he could potentially land what others may perceive as better opportunities should he pass on the NC State job?
Shaka Smart received an offer from NC State in 2011, and that is the decision he made. Four years later he was named head coach at the University of Texas. It's certainly possible that Wade could choose to bypass on the NC State job (if offered), and stay in Richmond until a more desirable opportunity opens up.
Also, NC State could view his age as a negative. While NC State would love to land a young coach, is 34 just too young? Is he ready for the rigors of coaching in the ACC against easily the best collection of coaches in the country? Is he ready for the responsibilities of the job when it comes to dealing with a larger media presence? Is he experienced enough as a head coach to handle this job in the this market?
Those are questions NC State AD Debbie Yow probably has to answer before extending Wade an offer.
Outside of that, there really isn't much downside to Wade or many reasons why he wouldn't be appealing to NC State, and vice versa. Without a doubt, he could end up as the Wolfpack's new head coach.
Pack Pride's Take
The total package.
That's how some in college coaching and recruiting circles describe VCU head coach Will Wade. He's young... last year, at 33, he was the youngest coach to lead his team to a NCAA Tournament bid, but that doesn't define him.
Instead, you hear about his relentless work ethic.
"Every day he was there 5:30, 6 o’clock in the morning," Oliver Purnell said of Wade during his stint as a grad assistant. "He was there late at night. … Whenever I needed something, he seemed to be standing right there."
For more of our take on Will Wade, click here.