The LSU Basketball Coaching Search LiveBlog, With Updates – UPDATE: It’s Over, And Will Wade’s The Guy

UPDATE #14: LSU has a coach, and it’s VCU’s Will Wade.

The LSU Reveille has the story

The search is over.

LSU has replaced former men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones with VCU coach Will Wade according to multiple reports.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that LSU and Wade agreed to a six-year deal.

Here was Goodman’s tweet…

We’ll do more in a separate post.

ORIGINAL: What we’ll do is just update this post with various tidbits we pick up about the LSU basketball coaching search today, seeing as though it appears possible athletic director Joe Alleva and assistant AD in charge of basketball Eddie Nunez are moving toward hiring someone to rebuild a program which currently sits in the SEC cellar.

Where we left things last night was with a potential deja-vu situation with VCU head coach Will Wade and Clemson standing in for Tom Herman and Texas – if you’ll remember the LSU football coaching search in November of last year, Alleva thought he had a deal with Herman and yet the deal was leaked to the media – LSU suspected the leak came from Herman’s agent – and therefore Texas’ hand was forced in firing Charlie Strong. When Strong was fired, Herman and his agent (Trace Armstrong, who interestingly enough is the agent for former Indiana coach Tom Crean, who is a candidate for the LSU basketball job) said they wanted to hear an offer from Texas before closing a deal with LSU. Alleva became angry at that and hired Ed Orgeron, who had been the interim football coach, as the permanent head coach.

With Wade, a series of tweets by Richmond sports radio host Cody Stewart last night indicated his agent was pushing for Clemson to buy out its current basketball coach Brad Brownell for $3.5 million and make a move on Wade, paying him $2.5 million or more – and therefore leveraging LSU to get the job he really wanted just like Herman did (at least, that was Alleva’s interpretation of Herman’s actions).

But it could be that things aren’t playing out with Wade and Clemson the way they did with Herman and Texas. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman…

The NBC station in Richmond interviewed Wade after his team lost in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend, and he didn’t give much of anything away…

And perhaps Wade was telling the truth. Here was Stewart, the Richmond radio host who had raised the possibility of Wade pulling a Tom Herman with the Clemson job…

More on developments as we have them. The expectation is that LSU will either move on Wade and sign him today, or you’ll hear another name or two today in connection with the LSU job.

UPDATE: The other candidate whose name is being mentioned with respect to the LSU job is Crean, but there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm for that hire…

As mentioned above, Crean’s agent is Trace Armstrong, the same agent Alleva accused of welching on a deal LSU had to hire Herman. It’s hard to imagine Alleva would put himself in a position to have to do business with Armstrong if he truly holds a grudge from the football search – especially when Crean, who has been the Big Ten Coach Of The Year twice in the last six years and is widely respected as an excellent basketball man, has been met with mixed reviews by the fans on message boards. What anonymous LSU fans on the internet think of the hire shouldn’t govern what Alleva does, but it could be a factor if Crean carries a reputation as a difficult employee and Alleva has already had bad experiences with his agent – negative reaction to his hire is more or less a third strike against moving forward with him should the Wade hire not come off.

UPDATE #2: Clemson is definitely not in the Will Wade sweepstakes…

UPDATE #3: And here’s something funny…

It’s a parody of the “binder” that Orgeron prepared for Alleva presenting his plan for LSU football, which ultimately played a part in winning him the job.

UPDATE #4: Cody Worsham’s latest at Tiger Rag:

In the search for LSU’s next basketball coach, Alleva has taken his time in that marketplace, strolling casually as other Power 5 foes – Missouri, Washington, Illinois, and North Carolina State – quickly gobbled up their intended targets.

But after a week of NCAA Tournament play, it appears Alleva’s scope has narrowed, for now, to two names: Will Wade and Tom Crean.

Wade, 34, is perhaps the hottest young name in college coaching circles. He got his start as a student manager at Clemson before grooming himself as an ace recruiter under the watch of Tommy Amaker at Harvard and Shaka Smart at VCU.

After a two-year stint at Chattanooga, where he won a Southern Conference regular season title and Coach of the Year honors, he returned to succeed Smart at VCU, leading the Rams to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

In four seasons of head coaching experience, he’s 91-45 overall, and a stellar 55-15 in conference play.

Alleva and associate athletic director Eddie Nunez flew to Virginia Sunday to meet with Wade, who, sources tell Tiger Rag, is “highly interested” in the LSU opening. One source even said Wade has called LSU “a dream job.”

His buyout is around $1 million, and hiring him would probably require a multi-year deal near $2 million annually, but an investment in a young, up-and-coming coach can yield rich benefits. Just ask Mike White and Sweet 16-bound Florida.

Crean, meanwhile, remains the wildcard of the search. Alleva spent last week inquiring around college basketball about the recently-fired Indiana head coach, who is owed $4 million buyout after the Hoosiers terminated his contract.

We’re unconvinced that this has come down to Wade and Crean. For one thing, as said above we sincerely doubt Joe Alleva is going to hire Trace Armstrong’s client after what sounded like bad blood from the football coaching search. For another, there are other coaches whose names have been thrown around.

UPDATE #5: Not sure how much credibility to invest this with, but it might be an indication of the buzz floating out there…

UPDATE #6: On ESPN 104.5 FM radio earlier, host Jimmy Ott relayed a number of items of information about the coaching search. Among other sources, Ott apparently has a source in Will Wade’s camp – whether it’s his agent, someone in his family, or another connection Ott hasn’t said. In any event, among the pieces of information Ott discussed…

1. LSU approached Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm about the job, and Prohm declined.

2. Despite the fact virtually every media source covering the search has included their names on candidate lists, Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis and Nevada head coach Eric Musselman have not been approached by the job, per Ott – he said the search committee has made a point of cutting all ties to the program’s past with this hire and will not sign a coach who has been at LSU before.

3. Wade has expressed interest in the job for several weeks, and despite the LSU plane only staying in Richmond for three hours on Sunday there were intensive contract discussions conducted. Those discussions continue. In fact, Wade has begun exploring potential assistant coaches at LSU in the event the deal gets done.

4. LSU told Wade they will contact other coaches. How long that will continue isn’t known – one would have to think that Wade can’t be “on the clock” with LSU for very long before his situation at VCU will become untenable without signing a raise or extension there. That they said this without a firm alternative in place sounds a bit like a bluff – it’s hard to believe Alleva would be serious about Tom Crean when his agent is Trace Armstrong. Crean and Armstrong are demanding a similar salary to what he made at Indiana – meaning $3 million per year. That is more than LSU would need to spend on Wade and it’s more than one would expect the market to bear on Crean given that he was fired last week. If that demand were to drop into the $2.2 million to $2.5 million range, perhaps LSU would be more serious.

It doesn’t quite sound like LSU is on a lightning bolt where it comes to this hire – but if Wade is the top choice, they will need to move within the next day or so to a hiring. Wade can’t leave VCU in the open without knowing whether they have a coach for more than a couple of days without damage being done, and LSU can’t leave Wade, who reportedly wants the job but also wants it on at least arm’s-length-transaction terms so that he’s not taking it without a commitment from LSU to do what’s needed to succeed, hanging for long. If this goes on past, say, Tuesday afternoon, Wade and LSU probably won’t be a thing.

UPDATE #7: It’s clear the locals in Richmond are taking the Wade-to-LSU story seriously. Sports columnist Paul Woody with the Richmond Times-Dispatch just wrote the obligatory “this is a better job than the one you’re leaving for” piece

From the outside looking in, LSU’s potential is impressive. Build it into a national power, and the next stop for a coach could be anywhere.

But from the inside looking out, VCU is a top-quality job, at worst a top-four program in the A-10 and, far more likely, a top one or two program in the A-10 with an NCAA bid in the mail.

The Rams have to play their way out of the NCAA tournament. LSU has to prove it deserves a precious at-large bid.

There’s an excellent job waiting for Wade somewhere, sometime, and in the not too distant future.

It’s difficult to see LSU as that job.

The problem with the reasoning in that piece is that VCU coaches always leave for jobs at bigger programs. Dana Kirk, Sonny Smith, Jeff Capel, Anthony Grant, Shaka Smart…VCU has always been a stepping stone to higher-profile programs.

Whether LSU is the right higher-profile program for Wade to step to is a valid question – but the answer to that can’t be found in the recent past of LSU’s program; it can only be found in what sort of commitment Wade secures from LSU to do the things necessary to fulfill the promises LSU’s resources hold out. If Wade thinks he has such a commitment, whether it might be for assistant coach salaries, recruiting budgets, facilities improvements, marketing, or whatever, then Wade is fairly surely going to believe he’s capable of recruiting sufficient talent and instilling a sufficient culture to make LSU a premier basketball program.

UPDATE #8: Ott just tweeted what he said on the radio earlier…

UPDATE #9: And here was Ott on Matt Moscona’s show on ESPN 104.5 FM in Baton Rouge just now expanding on his previous reporting.

UPDATE #10: Seems like somebody at LSU is pulling back the reins on all of Ott’s reporting…

What to make of that? Well, either it means the negotiations with Wade have hit a snag, or LSU isn’t sure this is the coach they want, or maybe they want to be in control of the buildup to the hire.

Problem is, they can’t stop the media buzz now. The only way to control it is to get a deal done, quickly, or move on to another coach and get a deal done with him, quickly. Now that names have been heating up with respect to this search, the stakes have risen considerably.

UPDATE #11: Moscona also had Tiger Rag’s Cody Worsham on his show, and Worsham said “the wheels are rolling” on Wade and he has a source on Wade’s side of the equation who predicts he’s going to take the job.

Here’s the link to a podcast audio of that segment.

UPDATE #12: Here’s some interesting reading on the man who might be LSU’s next basketball coach, written not long after he took the head coaching job at VCU.

Meanwhile, there are now rumblings among VCU fans saying Wade has turned the LSU job down. There is no reason to believe any of that at this point based on what we at least think we know so far.

That said, Joe Alleva and Eddie Nunez went into Richmond yesterday afternoon on a plane with “LSU” on the tail. You go into the other guy’s territory flying the colors like that and within 48 hours you had better have a deal done with his coach. If not, he’s not going to have much choice but to turn you down, because he starts at some point to put at risk what he currently has. A great example of this was former TCU football coach Pat Sullivan, who in December 1994 was being courted by LSU to replace Curley Hallman. Sullivan was publicly reported as LSU’s choice and a press conference was scheduled, but at the last minute he was told that LSU wouldn’t pay his buyout at TCU and the deal fell apart. TCU fired him as soon as they could after that and he was never a major-college head coach again.

If the Will Wade thing is for real there should be some actual news breaking about it tonight, and there should be a press conference announced tomorrow about the hire. If there isn’t, those VCU fans saying Wade is staying are probably right – and some questions will at that point need to be asked of Alleva and his hiring process.

UPDATE #13: Two sources, two stories which aren’t mutually exclusive.

Source #1 says a deal is either done or imminent and the announcements will come Tuesday.

Source #2 isn’t sure about the deal being done but says that one reason the negotiations have lasted as long as they have is Wade’s requests have been very specific. This is actually a good thing, if true, and an interesting one – there are critics of LSU’s athletic department where basketball is concerned who levy the criticism that LSU wants to be good in basketball, but not great. And if Wade is forcing specific commitments – like for example the use of the university jet or that of its boosters for recruiting purposes rather than to make the coaches depend on commercial travel – on the athletic department, that would mean that he has a vision of how to win and if LSU hires him they’re committing to that vision.

This could be a good thing. We’ll know soon.

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