Will Wade's departure for LSU on Monday night sent some shock-waves throughout Ram Nation. Watching other college basketball teams court VCU's head coaches has become a March tradition as sure as the NCAA Tournament, but one look at social media will tell you this one seems to sting the fan base a little bit more than normal, whether it was Wade's brief two year stay, or the manner in which he left, as many expressed outrage at indications he may not have met with his players before news of his decision became public, if at all.
In any case, now, as we've seen several times during the course of the past decade, VCU moves forward. It sounds like it won't take long to name Wade's successor, and once that person arrives, he'll have quite a task on his hands, looking to calm some rough waters.
Doable? Certainly. Shaka Smart's departure saw an entire three-man recruiting class leave, as well as a perceived significant piece to the puzzle in Terry Larrier. Wade came in, retained most of his roster, added a grad transfer, got great leadership from Melvin Johnson, and the Rams didn't seem to miss much of a beat, earning a piece of the Atlantic 10 regular season championship and winning VCU's first NCAA Tournament game since 2013.
This job may be a little more difficult. VCU will lose at least five seniors, six if Ahmed Hamdy isn't granted an extra year of eligibility. That's the biggest senior class in awhile. In addition, some attrition is to be expected from the returning players. I'm not saying it will definitely happen, but it's considered likely. Getting a key portion of the roster to remain will be big in maintaining some success. The third part of the ripple effect caused by Wade's departure is probably losing at least a portion of a recruiting class ranked 21st nationally by ESPN. VCU is a great school with a great basketball tradition and great facilities, one that will draw some solid recruits. At times, however, players are tied to the coach that recruited them, their philosophies, styles, etc. The next lead Ram will be tasked with making a push to these recruits, and likely trying to bring in some new ones, possibly a graduate transfer as well.
The good news is that, in addition to a coach and his pitch, VCU can sell itself. We mentioned the facilities, anchored by a $25 million basketball development center and one of the best home court atmospheres in the country. If I'm a recruit, that's already peaking my interest.
VCU basketball has had some talented coaches pass through, ones that have built the program into a national name and kept the Rams in the national discussion. It's not a team with an appearance in the big dance here and there, it's a program with expectations and recent results that rise above mid-major status. All it needs now is a coach who will decide to stick around. The Rams are missing their Mark Few, their Gregg Marshall. Will the hire announced in the coming days prove to be that missing piece that values the job as equal to its power five counterparts? Time will tell.