VCU hires former Smart assistant Will Wade as coach

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) VCU has hired former Rams assistant Will Wade to replace Shaka Smart as its basketball coach.

The 32-year-old Wade was the first assistant Smart hired six years ago. He spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Chattanooga, going 40-25.

VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said last week, after Smart left for Texas, that he wanted a coach who would continue the fast-paced, pressuring style the Rams used with great success under Smart. He got that in Wade, who oversaw the press when he was with the Rams.

At Chattanooga, Wade's teams played the same style, but with the moniker ''chaos'' instead of VCU's ''havoc.''

Wade's ''chaos'' sets statistical goals for his teams at both ends, including leading the conference in scoring and ranking in the top 20 nationally in turnover margin and in the top 40 in offensive rebounding percentage. On defense, the goals were having his team in the top three in the conference in scoring defense and the top 20 nationally in both steals and turnovers forced.

Wade leaves behind a program in much better shape than the one he took over, Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn said.

''As it relates to us, our program looks extremely bright,'' he said. ''We're poised to have a really good season immediately next year as well as subsequent years. It gives us a chance now, a little bit better situation to hire a coach to come in and to further advance the program.''

Wade's departure created no hard feelings, Blackburn said.

''I look at it as a great hire, certainly not to brag on anything other than he was young, passionate, energetic and was all the things everyone throughout the country had shared and that I was familiar with in terms of his knowledge and how he handled and managed the program,'' the athletic director said.

''I think it was a good thing to have him here and the staff and certainly the players and the buy-in.''

At VCU, Wade's task will be to keep the momentum going for a program that quickly became one of the flagships of the Atlantic 10.

VCU and Duke are the only teams to have won at least 26 games in each of the past six seasons. The Rams led the country in steals three years running before finishing fourth this season. The Rams also finished third in turnover margin.

Wade was the Southern Conference coach of the year in 2014 after the Moccasins finished 18-15, including 12-6 in the conference. They were 22-10 this season, including 15-3 in league play, but each time they were knocked out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

When Wade left VCU, Smart said the Moccasins were hiring ''an absolute star.''

''Will is extremely bright, hard-working and diligent,'' Smart said then. ''No one will spend more time building relationships with student-athletes than Will. There is no question in my mind he will be a tremendous success.''

Wade is one of four assistants under Smart who moved on to head coaching positions. Mike Rhoades just completed his first year at Rice, Mike Jones finished his fourth season at Radford and Jamion Christian completed his third season at Mount St. Mary's.

Wade will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday morning.

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AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report.

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