In the image of confirmation LSU sent out late Monday night about Will Wade becoming its new basketball coach, behind the Photoshopped portrait of him wearing a purple and gold tie and holding an LSU embossed basketball, another more telling image emerges.
It’s one of a smiling Wade behind an NCAA microphone at a March Madness-related news conference from his days at VCU.
It’s a picture LSU hopes Wade can make real in his new home as soon as possible.
This is a hire that will satisfy some and disappoint more than a few, though often those few are the ones who don’t know what they want in the first place.
Wade won’t be 35 until late November, after the Tigers — his Tigers — have tipped off the coming season. LSU is bringing in a coach whose initial warranty is still valid, one who will get carded if he orders a glass of wine at dinner.
In someone as young as Wade, with just four years of head coaching experience on his résumé, clearly LSU is betting on the come. Betting that he has greatness stored up in him, not that he will recapture some former glory, like a Tom Crean who took Marquette to the Final Four in prior decade, or what Tennessee hoped to get when it hired Rick Barnes on the rebound from Texas.
It’s not unlike the bet that LSU made when it hired Nick Saban away from Michigan State in 1999. And it bears similarities to the hire LSU made way back in 1972, when it selected a then-unknown Washington State assistant named Dale Brown and asked him to make the Tigers a winner.
Brown had — still has — his supporters and his detractors. A man with such strong passions and opinions will win friends and make enemies. But he also made LSU something it had never been: a consistent winner, venturing to 15 straight NCAA and NIT appearances from 1979-93.
That’s something LSU hasn’t been since.
Don’t know much about Wade’s politics yet or his off-the-court causes, but his charge isn’t dissimilar to that of Brown when he was hired a decade before Wade was born in 1982:
Make LSU a consistent winner.
Bring back some pride in a program that has seen it erode over much of the past three decades.
Cut down a net from time to time.
Will Wade, who's reportedly leaving VCU to be the next LSU basketball coach, hasn't been a c…
There are those who will make the argument that it’s too soon for Wade to land a job like LSU. Perhaps that will be true. But a similar argument could have been made about former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley hiring Mike White away from Louisiana Tech two years ago.
Right now, White’s Gators are preparing for their return to the Sweet 16. That hire seems like an excellent one. Of course, in hindsight all things are possible, and the once-dangerous odds melt to insignificance.
There’s no telling what will be. There’s only knowing what is. And LSU needed a coach like Will Wade. A sportswriter friend who knew Wade from his previous stop at Chattanooga called him a “monster analytics guy,” and he has been tabbed as a rising star who knows how to diagram a play and run a program.
But more than that, LSU needed someone with a youthful spark, someone who will have to have virtually boundless energy within him to pull off what will be a massive rebuilding job. Someone who will drive across the state to speak to a dozen boosters who want to believe again. Someone who will enter a charity lip sync contest. Maybe even someone who will paint his face purple and gold and join the student section at a women’s basketball game or gymnastics meet.
This is the hire athletic director Joe Alleva needed to make for his own sake as well, after two now-questionable men’s basketball hires in Trent Johnson and Johnny Jones. (Hindsight, remember?) Yes, arguably, the pool of suitable candidates is bigger in basketball than it was in football when he was convinced to stay in-house and hire Ed Orgeron. But Alleva still had to lure Wade, labeled as a young up-and-comer, to Baton Rouge and away from other schools that would have come seeking him out eventually.
At first glance, it looks like Alleva checked the right boxes for the position LSU is in as a basketball program. This isn’t an easy job or an elite job — but it can be, with the right visionary at the controls.
LSU is betting that Wade is that visionary, that he will be the man in the picture smiling at NCAA tournament news conferences to come.
Under the circumstances, it’s as good of a bet as any.
Photos: Will Wade is the guy for you if you like energetic coaches
Will Wade has officially been named LSU basketball's next head coach. Wade has commonly been described as an energetic and passionate coach.