“LSU basketball can be successful and will be successful” | Will Wade introduced as LSU’s 22nd basketball coach

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

Will Wade and his wife made a pro-con list before he accepted the job as LSU’s head coach.

They only came away with one item for the latter category.

“The only negative we could come up with LSU and Baton Rouge was that I was going to put on a lot of weight from all of the good food,” he said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “I definitely think I’m going to have to kick up my running a notch to make sure I don’t put on too much weight.”

Hundreds packed in tightly for Wade’s debut at the LSU student union, an unusual place for a coach with unusual energy. The 34-year-old addressed the gathered media, fans, and LSU dignitaries for nearly 30 minutes, laying out a grand vision for a program in which Wade has long seen great potential.

Long ago, I identified LSU as somewhere that was just an absolute sleeping giant,” said Wade, who joins LSU after two seasons as the head coach at VCU. “LSU has everything it needs to be successful. If we could just get it all going in the right direction, we could make it work.”

Athletic director Joe Alleva and associate athletic director Eddie Nunez, who flew to Richmond over the weekend for a three-hour meeting with Wade, laid out a vision of where things could go for Wade, should he join the program.

Wade immediately bought in, and the deal was done Monday night.

“I left that meeting knowing that LSU basketball can be successful and will be successful,” he said. “I’m not going out on a limb by saying this. I don’t think at any time in LSU’s history has everything been in such alignment as it is now. From the athletic director, the athletic department to the commitment to the resources, to our President Dr. Alexander, everybody is in alignment to get this program turned around. I’m going to be the conduit to make that happen, and it’s going to be a total team effort from everybody—our fans, our students, the administration. Everybody is in line.”

Wade arrived in Baton Rouge on Tuesday evening for a tour of campus and a quick dinner. By Wednesday’s press conference, he’d yet to meet the team officially. The plan, he said, was to meet with them shortly after addressing the media, and his message to them was going to be simple and direct.

“We’re gonna love you up,” Wade said of his message to the team. “We’re gonna be here for you. But we’re going to coach you extremely hard. There’s some things we’ve got to change to be successful.”

Wade inherits a program fresh off a 10-21 season that saw the Tigers set a program record 15-game losing streak and finish just 2-16 in the SEC. In short, he knows he has his work cut out for him, but he doesn’t view LSU as a “rebuilding job.”

“I don’t like the term ‘rebuild,'” he said. “I think we need to retool some things. I’m a builder. I’m a builder by nature.

“I really looked at this as an opportunity to put my stamp on something and put my stamp on a program, try to retool it and build it with a vision of how I would like it built and how we want it build. I think it’s a great opportunity. That’s how I look at it. I thought this was just an opportunity that was too good to pass.”

The ultimate goal, Wade said, was to build something that could win and last. He acknowledged LSU’s rich tradition, including the great Dale Brown teams of the ’80s, the 2006 Final Four squad, and the 2009 SEC champs.

His goal, though, is to make that happen more often.

“We’ve had pockets of great success,” he said. “Now it’s time to build a consistent winner on a sustainable foundation.”

 

WHAT WILL WADE SAID…

 

VICE CHANCELLOR AND DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS JOE ALLEVA
Opening statement …

“Thank you all for being here. I think it’s appropriate before we get started and I would like to ask to take a moment of silence to pay respect to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Deputy Shawn Anderson, who was killed in the line of duty Saturday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and members of law enforcement at this time. Let’s take a moment of silence just to reflect … Thank you all.

“Before I get started, I want to thank (University President) Dr. (F. King) Alexander for all of his support in this process, all of the board members, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Scott Ballard, Stephen Perry and Blake Chatelain. All were instrumental in this process. I’d also like to thank my interim basketball coach Eddie Nunez for all of his support. Eddie, great job in the interim.

“As you all know, I was fortunate enough to spend five years on the NCAA Basketball Committee, which just ended last year. During that process, I got to watch coaches first-hand. I got to watch them practice. I got to watch them interview. I got to see them in stressful situations. I was part of discussions about teams and coaches. Through that process, Will Wade was always in my mind. I got to watch him first hand. We are extremely, extremely honored, and it’s a pleasure to have him join the LSU team. Will is extremely bright, smart and driven, and when you combine smart and driven, you have a real success story. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you our new basketball coach here, Will Wade.”

HEAD COACH WILL WADE
Opening statement …

“Thank you guys. Thank you everybody for coming out today. I guess it beats class for the students. We appreciate you guys coming out.

“It’s a new day for LSU basketball. It’s a new day for LSU basketball. First off, I want to thank, Dr. (F. King) Alexander. I have had some great conversations with him. He absolutely loves basketball. I am very, very thankful to be the leader of his basketball program. I’d like to thank Joe Alleva, Eddie (Nunez). Eddie is the only undefeated coach, by the way, in LSU basketball history in his 10-day stint. I want to thank Eddie and other members of the board for entrusting this program to me. I also want to thank my wife Lauren, who’s here. She’s my best recruit, and my parents came from Nashville today, and I wouldn’t be here without them.

“I am so excited to be here. As Lauren and I were weighing out the options, and weighing things out for LSU—my wife is big at making lists. We make a lot of lists on things. We do positives and negatives and try to figure out what we are going to do. The only negative we could come up with LSU and Baton Rouge was that I was going to put on a lot of weight from all of the good food. I had dinner with some fine folks last night, and I definitely think I’m going to have to kick up my running a notch to make sure I don’t put on too much weight.

“I am so excited about the opportunity to lead this program and LSU Basketball back to the top of the SEC and back to regular, consistent NCAA Tournament appearances. We have been to four Final Fours. We have been to 20 NCAA Tournaments. We have 10 SEC Championships, and we are going to add to all three of those categories over our tenure here. Before I get started about our culture and how we are going to play, I also want to thank all of my former players, all of my former administrators both at Chattanooga and VCU. I wouldn’t be here today without those guys—the players who laid it out on the line for us, sacrificed for us to be able to win and the administration that made that possible. I want to thank all of those folks because they had a huge impact on my life. Hopefully, I’ve been able to give something back to them, and they will be able to take something with them in their life.

“As you go through coaching, you’re always looking for spots. Why haven’t they been able to do things consistently there? Why are things a certain way? Long ago, I identified LSU as somewhere that was just an absolute sleeping giant. LSU has everything it needs to be successful. If we could just get it all going in the right direction, we could make it work. We could make it work. That was kind of my through process going in. When Eddie and Joe flew up to Richmond to see me, I left that meeting knowing that LSU basketball can be successful and will be successful. I’m not going out on a limb by saying this. I don’t think at any time in LSU’s history has everything been in such alignment as it is now. From the athletic director, the athletic department to the commitment to the resources, to our President Dr. Alexander, everybody is in alignment to get this program turned around. I’m going to be the conduit to make that happen, and it’s going to be a total team effort from everybody—our fans, our students, the administration. Everybody is in line. Everybody is in line. We are going to make it happen. We are going to make it happen. Listen to me now; there is no option to fail. There is no option to fail. We are going to get it done. We are going to get it done, but it’s going to take everybody. It’s going to take everybody. We are going to find a way.

“We are going to build a consistent, sustainable winner here. We are going to build something that the whole state of Louisiana can be proud of, the whole LSU family can be proud of. We are going to do that on a culture based on acting the right way. That’s what we talk about. Acting, for us, means that we are going to be aggressive, we are going to be committed and we are going to be thankful every day. Every day. When you get out of the bed in the morning, we are going to attack the day. We are going to attack the day. We are going to be an attacking basketball team on both ends of the court. We are going to attack the weight room. Everything that we do is going to be aggressive. Have you ever heard the saying ‘Good things come to those who wait?’ Not true. Only the scraps from he who hustles. You have to go after it. You have to go after it. That’s Abraham Lincoln, not me. I’m not that smart. If you look at my résumé, I coached at Harvard. I didn’t go to Harvard.

“We are going to be aggressive. We are going to be committed to putting the best product on the floor for the state of Louisiana, the best product on the floor with LSU. We are going to have players, staff members, everyone in our program is going to be committed to doing what it takes to make LSU the best basketball program that it can be. We are going to have unwavering commitment to put the team first, to put the state first, to put our school first to represent all of these folks in a first-class fashion. We are going to be a hardworking team that represents this great university that represents this great state.

“We are going to be thankful. We are going to be appreciative of the opportunity to represent LSU. This is an honor for me to be the basketball coach here. I’m highly appreciative of this opportunity, highly thankful to be the basketball coach here. We are going to make sure our players, make sure everybody feels the same way and understands that this is a privilege to be here. It’s not a right to be here. There are a lot of people who would kill to be at LSU. We are the lucky few. There are a lot of people who would kill to be here.

“On the court, we are going to absolutely empty our tanks every night. When we get done playing that thing is going to be on E. It’s going to be on empty because we are going to empty it out. We are going to be all out all of the time with great discipline about what we do. Offensively, we are going to fly up and down the court. We are going to play fast. We are going to get up and down the court, and we are going to attack the rim. We are going to move that ball from side to side, get it in the paint for some great shots. We are going play inside out for some threes. We are going to get on the offensive glass. We are going to attack the rim. We are going to be an aggressive, aggressive offensive team.

“Defensively, we are going to be even more aggressive. We are going to guard every floorboard. We are going to guard every floorboard for 94 feet. We are going to disrupt other teams’ offenses with our aggression. We are going to disrupt other teams’ offenses with our aggression. We are going to be an aggressive team on both ends of the court. That’s what it’s all about. People are going to be reacting to us. We are not reacting to them. That’s what we do. We are going to change our defenses. We are going to play man, we are going to play zone and do a bunch of different things, but all of them are going to be on the basis of being the aggressive team and being the most aggressive team at all times.

“In our preparation and in everything that we do, we are going to leave no stone unturned. No detail is too small. Absolutely no detail is too small. All lines will be touched in conditioning. All weights will be met each week when we have weigh-ins. All classes will be attended. All of the little things, that’s what adds up to winning. That’s what adds up to winning. Every detail will be accounted for. No stone will be left unturned in our preparation to make sure that we give ourselves the best opportunity to win. Hey, everybody wants to win the SEC. Everybody wants to go to the NCAA Tournament, but there is only a select few who do that. We have to have the separation by doing all of the details, doing all of those little things to make it happen. That’s what we are going to do. We are going to be great, and in special teams 40 percent of basketball comes out of the huddle—free throws, timeouts, all of that stuff. We are going to be well prepared. We are going to be able to execute in those situations.

“I can’t wait to get going. Today is kind of the first official day. I look forward to getting out and meeting people. We are going to be aggressive in recruiting. We are going to be aggressive in recruiting players to LSU. We are going to be aggressive in recruiting students to the stands. One thing, and I’ll address this now. I know one thing about LSU: LSU likes a winner. Everyone will support a winner. We are going to deliver a winner. When you put a winner on the court, there is going to be 14,000 people in the PMAC ready to rock and roll. I know that it’s going to be led by our great students and our great student section. We are going to aggressively recruit everybody. We are going to recruit student-athletes to come play for us. We are going to recruit fans. We are going to recruit the students, and we are going to put a product on the court that’s hard working that everyone will be proud of. You may beat us, but it’s going to be a fight. You are going to know that you are in for a 10-round fight and that it took everything you had to knock us out because we are going to be an extremely, extremely tough out. That’s going to be our identity. That’s going to be who we are. I know our fans will enjoy that. I know our fans will love that, and we are going to have a lot of fun making that happen.

“In closing, I am honored to be your coach. I’m honored to be the coach here at LSU. Lauren and I can’t wait to be a part of the Baton Rouge community. We are expecting here soon, and we are excited to have our daughter here in Baton Rouge. We are going to move here quickly so that we can put roots here and really get going. I couldn’t be more excited. I look forward to meeting everybody. We are ready to rock and roll. Thank you guys for coming today. This is a great crowd, and we expect to see you at the first home game just like this. Thank you guys so much. It’s a great day to be a Tiger.”

On his philosophy on recruiting …
“We are going to recruit the best players that we can recruit, the best players that want to come the LSU and be committed to doing what we need to do to make LSU a winner. We are going to be committed to what we need to do. We are going to be thankful for the opportunity to be here at LSU. We are going to lay it out on the line for LSU. We are going to recruit the best players for those things to happen. We are going to help those guys make it to the NBA. We are going to lay it on the line, develop you, work with you. We will help those guys get where they want to go. At the end of the day, I’m a dream-maker. If it’s their dream to make it to the NBA, I have to help them get there.”

On if he identifies LSU as a “dream job” …
“I don’t know if I ever said dream job, but I identified LSU as somewhere that you can build a consistent winner. There are certain jobs across the country that you look around and go ‘Why?’ I knew that you could build a consistent winner here. I’ve thought that for a long time. After I met with Joe (Alleva) and Eddie (Nunez), I knew that to be the case, but I looked at LSU as a place where they have a ton of untapped potential. They’ve had pockets of great success. There’s no doubt about that with the ‘80s with Coach (Dale) Brown, who had just phenomenal success. Now, it’s time to build a consistent, consistent winner on a solid foundation that is going to be sustainable. Not where we have pockets. It’s going to be sustainable.”

On rebuilding a program …
“I don’t like the term ‘rebuild.’ I think we need to retool some things. When you look at things, I’ve taken over a couple of programs. I took over a program at Chattanooga that needed to be retooled, if you will. Obviously, I took over a tremendous, tremendous program at VCU, which had phenomenal fan support, phenomenal resources. All of those sorts of things. I’m a builder. I’m a builder by nature. If you look at my background, I worked for Oliver Purnell, who is one of my huge mentors. That’s what he has made a living out of just rebuilding and retooling programs. I really looked at this as an opportunity to put my stamp on something and put my stamp on a program, try to retool it and build it with a vision of how I would like it built and how we want it build. I think it’s a great opportunity. That’s how I look at it. I thought this was just an opportunity that was too good to pass up. The whole key is not just me, now. The whole key is all of the people I mentioned. Everybody has to be in alignment. Everybody has to be in alignment. We all have to be running in the same direction, so everybody has to be in alignment. I’m telling you, when everyone is in the same alignment, you can get it done. You can get it done, and now is the time. Now is the time. I really felt that in my heart. I’m a builder by nature. I enjoy it. I’ve done both of them. I’d much rather build one. That’s what I want to do here at LSU, and that’s what we are going to do.”

On the challenges of having not played college basketball before entering coaching …
“I look at it as an advantage. I look at it as an advantage. I come at things from a totally different perspective. I get out there and work with them, sweat with them, move around with them. I look at that as a big advantage because I am able to come at things from a different perspective. I don’t just accept what is a basketball norm. ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’ I don’t accept that. Why do we do it this way? What can we do to do this better? What sort of system can we put in place to make it better? I think it’s an advantage to come at it from a different angle, and I try to use that a whole lot. Now, you do have to work a little harder when you are in that position. I tell people all of the time, a lot of these guys come from these great coaching trees and coaching families, and I don’t have a safety net. Failure is not an option. I don’t have a safety net. There’s nowhere for me to go. We have to be successful. We have to be successful, and that’s what drives me to work extremely, extremely hard every day. That’s going to wear off on our team, our players and everyone involved.”

On meeting with the players and his message during the transition period …
“I’m actually meeting with them shortly after this. I’m looking forward to meeting them. I know a couple of them through recruiting and just a couple of different people that you know. The basketball community is a small and tight community. I know a few of the guys, but I’m looking forward to meeting them. We are going to be here for you. We are going to coach you extremely hard. There are some things that you have to change to be successful. Successful people are successful for a reason. We are not going to do anything flashy. We are not going to do anything over the top. We are going to handle the details, handle all the small things extremely, extremely well. We are going to get to that point, where this is what we are going to do. We are going to get after it, but everybody wants to win championships. Everybody wants to go to the NCAA Tournament. A select few get to do that. What are we doing to separate ourselves to do more, to put ourselves in that position? That’s going to be the message. I look forward to working with them. I look forward to meeting them all individually and getting to know them all one-on-one and … spending time with them. I’m excited about that process. I love building relationships and getting to know people, getting to know players see what makes them tick.”

On the key on buying in to the defense …
“Defense plays a huge role. A lot of defense is effort. You have to empty your tank. You have to play all out. You can make a lot of mistakes defensively, but you can make up for them if you are just going hard and playing all out. I can sit here and scheme all day long, but at the end of the day, you have to have guys who can make plays, want to make plays … pressure that ball and play for 40 minutes. We are going to go all out. That’s going to be our philosophy. We will be a better defensive team. We will give great effort on the defensive end. We are going to be a better defensive team. I can promise you that.”

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