Will Wade is leaving VCU after just two seasons. The 34-year-old wunderkind was officially named Johnny Jones’ replacement at Louisiana State on Monday. Wade experienced great success during his brief stint in Richmond, compiling an overall record of 51-20 and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in both of his seasons in charge.
VCU AD Ed McLaughlin is no stranger to this situation, as this is the second time in three off-seasons that the school has seen its coach poached by a power conference school. The Wade hire was by all accounts a slam dunk, and the program didn’t miss a beat following Shaka Smart’s departure for Texas in 2015.
So who’s next?
VCU has cemented itself as one of the top mid-major programs in the country over the past decade. The Rams’ seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances were highlighted by their Cinderella Final Four run in 2011. This success means there will almost certainly be a number of high-profile candidates vying for the vacancy. With the coaching search officially underway, let’s take a look at who’s on the shortlist to replace Wade.
The Rice head coach has emerged as the early front-runner to be Wade’s replacement. Rhoades served as an assistant at VCU under Shaka Smart from 2009-2014 where he earned a reputation as a skilled recruiter. In just three seasons at Rice, he’s taken the Owls from 12 wins in 2014 to 23 wins and a CBI appearance this past season. He was rumored to be a candidate to replace Smart in 2015 before the job was given to Wade, and Rhoades seems to be the consensus favorite among VCU fans this time around.
Christian is another former Smart assistant who has had success as a head coach at the mid-major level. He’s taken Mount St. Mary’s to the NCAA Tournament twice in his five seasons in Emmitsburg, and this past season he led the Mountaineers to just their second regular season conference title in school history. Christian is 34 years old, which could play to his advantage given VCU’s propensity to hire younger coaches.
Ballard has been a bit of a journeyman during his 13-year career as an assistant coach. Besides coaching at VCU from 2013-15, he has spent time at Colgate, Mercer, Tulsa, Illinois State and is currently on Kevin Stallings’ staff at Pittsburgh. While Ballard’s accomplishments as an assistant are impressive, it would be hard to imagine him getting the nod over others on this list who have head coaching experience.
After struggling to find his footing in his first four years as a head coach, Rice has led Monmouth to back-to-back MAAC regular season championships. The Hawks have posted a stellar 55-15 record over the past two seasons, and Rice has a pair of MAAC Coach of the Year Awards to show for it. He doesn’t have the VCU connections that Rhoades or Christian have, but he is certainly a name that will be tossed around for a number of head coaching vacancies this off-season.
Moton was rumored to be a top contender to replace Grand McCasland at Arkansas State before the job was ultimately given to Louisville assistant Mike Balado. Moton’s 152-103 record in eight seasons at North Carolina Central speaks for itself. Under Moton, the Eagles have won three of the last four MEAC regular season championships, and have been to two NCAA Tournaments during that span. While VCU may be a bit of a long shot, don’t be surprised if another program nabs Moton sometime over the next few weeks.