The 2015 off season saw a lot of changes for VCU fans. Shaka Smart left for Texas and some recruits changed their minds. Terry Larrier traveled up north to UCONN and we said goodbye to arguably two of the best to put on the black and gold in Treveon Graham and Briante Weber.
If you have been a Ram fan long enough, you know that VCU has a good track record when it comes to replacing the men’s head coaching position.
In 2004, after Jeff Capel took us down to Raleigh, for a tight first round NCAA match up against a then Chris Paul led Wake Forest team, he left for Oklahoma and we found a young disciplinarian in Anthony Grant, who was currently an assistant to Billy Donovon at Florida.
Coach Grant continued to build the VCU brand. He led VCU to two NCAA appearances in his 3 years including VCU’s biggest NCAA Tournament win to date as Eric Maynor hit the game winning bucket to defeat Duke in Buffalo in 2007.
We were sad to see Coach Grant get off the plane in Tuscaloosa and weren’t entirely sure what to think of VCU’s hiring of one of the youngest Division I head coaches in Shaka Smart.
Of course, we all know about the success that VCU saw under Smart, including VCU’s first ever Final Four appearance, in 2011. Once Coach Smart left RVA for Austin, VCU Athletic Director, Ed McLaughlin, didn’t take long to find the next coach for the Rams.
Coach Wade may have had a young, clean, baby face but it was a familiar face. At this point he already had some head coaching experience under his belt.
After 4 years as an assistant at VCU, Coach Wade received the offer to take the head coaching position at UT-Chattanooga. In his two years on the job, he took the Mocs from a 13 win team to a 22 win team and received Southern Conference’s 2014 Coach of the Year honors.
Despite the changes that VCU experienced in the off season, the next head coach would have some lofty expectations from a fan base that had grown accustomed to winning.
Of course, there was a lot of national talk about the drop off others were expecting. But now that all the facts are in, let’s see just how everything shook out.
A10 CONF TOURNY CHAMPS
NCAA 1ST RND LOSS (OHIO STATE)
PPG – 72.5
RPG – 35.5
REG SEASON CO-CHAMP
NCAA 1ST RND WIN (OREGON ST)
NCAA 2ND RND LOSS (OKLAHOMA)
PPG – 77.3
RPG – 37.4
After a relatively slow start, Coach Wade did what he does best, make adjustments. On Tuesday, December 22, the Rams beat Buffalo at home. The team with just two seniors, wouldn’t see another loss until February. Coach Wade led the Rams on a 12 game win streak.
In his first season as head coach, Wade coached his team to a regular season Atlantic 10 (co-)championship for the first time since joining the A10. He also led them to their first NCAA tournament win since 2013 after knocking off Oregon State and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Gary Payton II.
After dispatching the Beavers, VCU played #2 seed Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. VCU erased a 14 point deficit and would lead in the 2nd half but soon-to-be National Player of the Year, Buddy Hield, proved to be too much, scoring 27 of the Sooners final 32 points to eventually advance to the Final Four.
When considering that he lost the 2nd leading scorer in VCU’s history in Graham and one of the best defensive players in NCAA history in Weber, coach Wade came in and brought the numbers up, pretty much, across the board.