When LSU basketball won its final regular season Southeastern Conference game of the 2020-21 season, it marked 39 league regular season wins over a three-year period.
It was the most SEC wins by any team in the league over that same period.
It was part of a successfully negotiated pandemic year in which the team and its staff had to stop the program for almost two weeks in December, won 19 games, finished third in the league, made the SEC Tournament championship game for the first time since 1993 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
In a strange new world, the 2020-21 season again showed the consistency of the LSU program to be successful, and that consistency has been a buzzword for Coach Will Wade since he took the job at LSU.
When he arrived in Baton Rouge, Wade wanted to make LSU basketball, a program which has had ultimate highs followed by periods of lows, be a consistent player on the college basketball scene.
He has worked hard to put together a program with good players that produces consistent winning, regular post-season tournament appearances and playing an exciting brand of basketball that would see the Tigers contend for a top spot yearly in the Southeastern Conference.
His players would represent the University in a positive way both on and off the court.
Now entering his fifth season as the head coach of the LSU Fighting Tigers basketball program, Coach Will Wade has been able to check all the boxes of program building and program stability that he set out to accomplish when he was named the 22nd head coach of the LSU program prior to the 2017-18 season.
In four years, the Tigers have won 86 games with three post-season appearances (and what would have been a fourth in 2020 before post-season was canceled) with an SEC Championship in 2019, a tie for second in 2020 and a third place finish in 2021. The Tigers advanced to the round of 16 in the NIT in 2018, to the Sweet 16 in the 2019 NCAA Championships and to the second round of the NCAAs in 2021.
In 2019, Coach Wade, his staff and players put together a team that posted a 16-2 record in the Southeastern Conference, winning the 11th regular season title in school history. Overall in four years, the Tigers win count in league play is at 47 games.
It was all part of the vision the coach has for the program. It’s a vision 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 hard-working team that represents this great university that represents this great state.”
Frank William “Will” Wade said those words on March 20, 2017 when he was named the head coach at LSU. He came to LSU after a stellar two-year stint as the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and two years at UT-Chattanooga.
He was the first Tiger mentor to get the Tigers to post-season play in both of the first two seasons on the job. Technically, the Tigers have made post-season in each of the three years post-season has been available in his tenure. He is one of just five LSU coaches to lead his team to an SEC Championship and one of just four to take a team to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Wade has also brought analytics and trends to his coaching practices at LSU and his ability to quickly know situations and tendencies has proven beneficial to the Tigers in his first four seasons.
Coach Wade has shown LSU followers that he looks to prepare his team for league play by producing a non-conference schedule that is competitive and among the best in the country. His schedule ranked fifth in the country in 2019 and eighth in the country in 2020.
In 2021, LSU had to make several changes to the schedule because of the pandemic, losing and rescheduling several games in December and having the league change the schedule at one point on less than 48 hours notice with a road trip to Missouri becoming a road game at Ole Miss.
LSU would finish with one home loss for the second straight year, despite playing one less home game than other league schools, finishing at 7-1. The Tigers were third in the league, earning the double bye in the tournament for the third straight year. But this time LSU made the run that fans had been looking for, defeating Ole Miss and Arkansas to get to the SEC Championship game for the first time since the 1993 season.
The Tigers would proceed to the NCAA bubble in Indianapolis where they advanced to the second round.
The team featured a perfect blend of players led by freshman All-SEC scorer, Cameron Thomas, who led the league and was the nation’s top freshman in scoring at 23.0 points per game. He led the nation in free throws made with 194. Joining him were All-SEC sophomore Trendon Watford, junior Darius Days and a player who made dramatic improvement from his freshman to junior year to become one of the SEC’s top and most underrated point guards, Javonte Smart.
The team would average 81.8 points, marking the third straight year the Tigers averaged over 80 points a game. It was the highest scoring average since LSU averaged 87.5 points a game during the 1991-92 season. The three consecutive years marks the most since LSU had four straight seasons over 80 points from the 1988-89 season through the 1991-92 campaigns.
In 2020, LSU opened with eight straight conference wins as LSU tied for second place in the league one season after winning the league championship.
LSU was 8-1 in league play at the Maravich Center with a two-point win over Arkansas, a one-point win over Mississippi State (on a Skylar Mays buzzer beating jump shot) and a two-point win over Florida. LSU also won by four points at Texas A&M in overtime after rallying from six down in the final two minutes of regulation.
It was a season in which offense again dominated the nights when LSU had success, averaging 80.5 points a game.
Skylar Mays wrapped up his four-year career by having his best overall season, averaging 16.7 points a game with 5.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals a game. Mays, who played three years with Coach Wade and his staff, finished his career with 1,600 points, 450 rebounds, 350 assists and 200 steals.
The first-team All-SEC selection also showed his ability off the court earning his third College Sports Information Director Association of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America honor in 2020. He was a second-team Academic A-A in 2018 and a first-team Academic A-A in both 2019 and 2020. The Baton Rouge native was named the CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year for D1 men’s basketball.
The highlight of Wade’s four years came in 2019 when the Tigers won their first SEC title in 10 years and won two games in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. But it was also a year in which a coach and a team had to handle the worst possible tragedy, the death of a teammate.
Junior Wayde Sims was killed in the early morning of Sept. 28, 2018 just hours before what was to be the first team workout in preparation for the 2018-19 season.
The team dedicated the season to Wayde and his parents, which included former Tiger player Wayne Sims. It was a season in which time after time, the Tigers appeared to need a spark to stay alive for a win and things would turn around. LSU would go a perfect 9-0 in the league on the road, winning four overtime games and another at the buzzer. The Tigers would win 16 league games, one of their best overall 18-game league records.
As good as the players were in November when the season started, the team showed improvement from start to finish and that was all due to Coach Wade and his staff and the work that was put in on the court, in the video room, in scouting reports and so much more.
So far in four seasons, LSU under Wade has posted 24 wins in the Quadrant I rankings in the NCAA RPI/NET rankings.
Between 2019 and 2020, the Tigers ran off 12 straight SEC road wins, the third longest streak in school history.
In the first four years, the Tigers have drawn five crowds that are in the top 12 single game attendances in the present seating configuration of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Fans are caring about LSU basketball, not just because of wins, but because of what they have seen on the court.
The fans have seen the things that Coach Wade promised when he took the job – an energized staff that was integrated in the game making coaching decisions and alterations as needed; player that were working hard to enact a game plan and making big plays.
More than anything, LSU fans saw the advancement of returning players under Coach Wade and his staff and the way that the new players blended with the improved veterans.
Three members of the 2019 championship team – Tremont Waters, Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams – played in the NBA and G-League in 2020. Waters was picked in the second round of the 2019 draft by Boston, while Reid, after an impressive summer league, signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bigby-Williams signed with the New Orleans’ G-League franchise in Erie and posted good numbers. Bigby-Williams played in 2021 overseas in Belgium.
Waters was a first-team All-SEC selection and the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year while Reid made the league all-freshman team.
Wade, one of the younger coaches in Division I at 39, has also proven to be one of the most energetic both in practices and games, and his players have responded in kind.
PRIOR TO LSU
The native of Nashville, Tennessee, directed VCU to a 51-20 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. The 2016 Rams advanced to the second round of the tournament, defeating seventh-seed Oregon State before losing to Oklahoma. Wade was the youngest head coach in the NCAA Tournament in 2016. In 2017, VCU lost to St. Mary’s in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
The Rams were 28-8 over his two years in the Atlantic 10 Conference, posting 14-4 records both years. The team was 25-11 in 2016 and earned a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season crown. The 2017 team won 26 games and finished second in the league.
Under his tutelage, guard Melvin Johnson earned First Team All-Atlantic 10 honors in 2015-16 while Je Quan Lewis represented VCU on the 2016-17 first team. Mo Alie-Cox was named to the A-10 Defensive Team in both 2016 and 2017.
Wade previously served at VCU as an assistant with the Rams under Shaka Smart from 2009-13. VCU was 113-37 during that time, reached three NCAA Tournaments and won the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Championship. He was part of the staff in 2011 when VCU advanced from the NCAA “First Four” all the way to the Final Four in Houston.
Wade is credited with being a key figure in four top non-power five recruiting classes in his four seasons at VCU.
Prior to becoming the head coach at VCU, Wade served as the head coach at Chattanooga for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
His first Mocs squad went 18-15 in 2014, finishing 12-6 and second in regular season Southern Conference play. The 18 wins overall were the most by the program since 2008-09 and the 12 wins in league games was the highest total since 2010-11. The team made the school’s first postseason appearance since 2009 in the CIT.
Wade was honored with the Anton Foy Southern Conference Coach of the Year award for his efforts in 2014.
The Mocs won 22 games in 2015 and finished 15-3 in the league as Wade guided Chattanooga to its first 20-win season since 2004-05. He finished his two seasons there at 40-25 and 27-7 in league play. In the two seasons prior to his arrival, Chattanooga was 24-40 overall and 13-23 in SoCon play.
In his eight years as a head coach, he has a combined record at Chattanooga, VCU and LSU of 174-85 and 101-40 in conference play with six post-season appearances.
Wade’s reputation, where ever he has coached, is a person who is a tireless worker and relentless recruiter. Wade was VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart’s first hire upon being named the head VCU coach in 2009.
That reputation was cemented prior to his arrival on the VCU campus. He served as an assistant to Tommy Amaker at Harvard in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Much like at VCU, he was Amaker’s first hire.
Wade’s coaching start came at Clemson where he served as Director of Basketball Operations (2006-07) and Graduate Assistant (2005-06) after four seasons as a student manager (2002-05). There he worked for coaches Larry Shyatt (2002-03) and Oliver Purnell (2004-07).
In eight years on coaching staffs at Clemson, Harvard and VCU, the teams had a record of 177-97 with six postseason appearances (2005-13).
Wade is married to the former Lauren Deason, and the couple has one daughter, Caroline Elizabeth (4).
The Will Wade File
Seasons Completed at LSU: Four
Birthdate: Nov. 26, 1982
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
High School: Franklin Road Academy
College: Clemson, 2005
Wife: Lauren Deason
Child: Caroline Elizabeth
Wade’s College Coaching Experience
2005-06 – Clemson, Graduate Assistant
2006-07 – Clemson, Director of Operations
2007-09 – Harvard, Assistant Coach
2009-13 – VCU, Assistant Coach
2013-15 – UT-Chattanooga, Head Coach
2015-17 – VCU, Head Coach
March 22, 2017 – Present – LSU, Head Coach
Will Wade’s Head Coaching Record
|2013-14||Chattanooga||18-15||12-4||2nd||CIT 1st Round|
|2015-16||VCU||25-11||14-4||t-1st||A-10 Co-Champs; NCAA Round of 32|
|2016-17||VCU||26-9||14-4||2nd||NCAA Round of 64|
|2017-18||LSU||18-15||8-10||t-9th||NIT Round of 16|
|2018-19||LSU||25-5 *||15-2||1st||SEC Champs; NCAA Sweet 16; * did not coach final 5 games of season|
|2019-20||LSU||21-10||12-6||t-2nd||Postseason canceled by pandemic|
|2020-21||LSU||19-10||11-6||3rd||NCAA Round of 32|
|LSU||4 Seasons||83-40 (.675)||46-24 (.657)|
|Total||8 Seasons||174-85 (.672)||101-39 (.721)|