LSU Coach Will Wade Talks End to 2019 Season, Lessons Program Can Use Moving Forward

Glen West

It's only been four days since life that many Americans consider normal was put on pause. Whether it's travel, bare shelves at supermarkets or, of course, the sports world, the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is being fully recognized across the country.

For LSU basketball coach Will Wade, the last four days have been hard to process. This time last week, Wade was holding a press conference previewing the team's potential upcoming SEC tournament opponents.

Now, in the blink of an eye, most of his players are all moved out and back home. After 5 p.m. Monday, there will be no more meetings for the foreseeable future.

"Yeah, it's just been crazy. You still don't seem like it's real but that's just, it is what it is at this point," Wade told LSU Country Monday morning. "It's been a little bit of a roller coaster and up and down, but at the end of the day, public health and everything else that is going on in the world is a lot more important than March Madness and basketball right now."

It was just four days ago that LSU was told to pack up and leave Nashville after the SEC tournament was officially cancelled. Wade said the team was able to have a few meetings on the trip home and upon returning to Baton Rouge.

The meetings were heartfelt, as it would be the final times the 2019-20 team would all be together.

"I told them I was proud of them, we battled up and we won some big games down the stretch to put ourselves in a position where we would have gone to the NCAA tournament," Wade said. "I told them this is life and tough things happen and if this is the toughest thing that happens to you, you're gonna have a heck of a life. This is the way life is sometimes so we've got to make the best of it and find a way to come out on the other side in a better spot."

For many seniors across the country, it's a heartbreaking way for their careers to end and those sentiments particularly ring true for LSU guard Skylar Mays. Mays leaves the LSU program as the only player to score 1,600 points, dish 300 assists, grab 400 rebounds and swipe 200 steals.

Wade said he did have some time to have a one-on-one meeting with Mays before everything was shut down and that he's taking the end to his senior year remarkably well. Mays will be presented with a ton of opportunities in his life after LSU on the court and off it as well, which is the point Wade wanted to relay to him in those discussions.

"I talked to Skylar a bunch yesterday, certainly nobody envisions their career ending like this or their season ending like this," Wade said. "Luckily for Skylar, he's got a lot going on, he's got a lot of opportunities professionally, he's gonna have a lot of opportunities based on his academics and who he is. It's really just transitioning into that next phase and moving into that next phase and putting himself in the right positions to to be successful. So that's what we've discussed and I think he's obviously going to be very, very successful moving on from here."

While the season may have been cut short, there are still plenty of positives Wade said the program can take away. After all, that's been his plan since arriving in 2017, backing up great seasons with good seasons.

With some of the limitations the 2019-20 team had from a depth perspective, Wade said the team towards the end got a little worn down but was still able to pull out some big victories to set themselves up for an NCAA tournament berth.

"Like I said, anytime you finish in the top-four in the SEC and earn the double bye and are going to be in the NCAA tournament, I think that's a good year at LSU," Wade said. "Now, we want to chase great years but that's a very, very good season and a very good year and we certainly did that."

Wade pointed to the road win over South Carolina as well as home wins over Texas A&M and Georgia to close the season as positive signs of growth for the program.

"Last year we kind of were in the NCAA tournament from basically February on," Wade said. "I thought this year, to be on the bubble a little bit and to have to play some meaningful games, hopefully that'll serve us well as we move on in future years."