Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview with Coach Wade

I got the great opportunity to talk to the Mocs new head basketball coach, Will Wade, on Thursday night.

Before I get to the full transcript, let me start by saying the things that won't come across in the written word. Wade was very energetic and very articulate. He was fired up about coaching at Chattanooga. I hung up from the phone call very excited about the future of Chattanooga basketball. Even more than I had been- which is saying something. I hope that comes off in the transcript.

Below is the transcript from the phone call I had with Coach Wade on Thursday night.

Q. You said that you told Shaka Smart three years ago that Chattanooga was your top choice for job you’d be interested in. What attracted you to the job?

Wade: When I was growing up in Nashville it was Chattanooga’s heyday in the nineties. I knew there was great potential here for growth. My cousin played football here, so I knew a lot about the school and had a familiarity with it. The more I learned about the city and area, it became obvious it would be a good spot. I knew that it had been really good in the past and that my cousin loved it there and coached football there when I said that to Shaka. Now the more I found out about it through the interview process and the city- it was even better than I thought. So I just kind of had a gut feeling initially because I had more information on it than any of the other schools because of my family. The longer I’ve been here, and I’ve only been here three weeks, the stronger I feel about it.

Q. You’ve brought a renewed energy to the program. Fans are excited about Chattanooga basketball. How do you plan on keeping that energy going as you go forward?

Wade: I am an energetic guy. There are five core values in the program and enthusiasm is number two. It’s something I believe in. I want to be the most enthusiastic team every night. I want our players to be enthusiastic every day about being here and playing. I run the whole thing off of enthusiasm. I think our fans and the people of Chattanooga are going to see a blue collar team that plays really hard and is really enthusiastic about being there and playing every night. You only get 35 or 40 chances to play a year. You need to be fired up those days. You need to be fired up every day that leads to those days. I think people and fans and the town will respect a blue collar, enthusiastic, hard working team and really get behind them.

I think you keep the energy going by your style of play, and keeping enthusiasm. I’m not going to stop.  This is who I am. This is what I believe in. I haven’t turned down a speaking engagement since I’ve been here, and I don’t plan to as long as it fits into my schedule. We’re just going to keep spreading the word. Once we get them into the arena we’re going to show them a highly enthusiastic team, a highly enthusiastic coaching staff, a highly enthusiastic program that plays incredibly hard. There will be a level of respect there. That’s what you use to keep it going until it reaches a crescendo.

Q. You said the number two value was enthusiasm. What are all five of the core values?

Wade: Appreciation is number one. Enthusiasm is number two. Competitiveness is number three. Unselfishness is number four. Accountability is number five. Appreciation is the top one, but the other ones are not really in an order.

Q. You’ve been on some staffs with some great coaches- Shaka Smart, Tommy Amaker, and Oliver Purnell. What did you take from them as you’ve moved into a head coaching position yourself?

Wade: We’re not going to be all VCU or all Harvard. As an assistant, you take things you like from each guy. One thing I think Coach Purnell is one of the top guys in the country at building programs and the structure of your program. So a lot of the structure of the program and how we do things will be exactly like what Coach Purnell did at Clemson while I was there and now at DePaul. A lot of it is what we did at VCU because we both learned it from Coach Purnell. A lot of the nuts and bolts of how I structure the program will come from him.

A lot of the recruiting philosophy comes from Coach Amaker. I think he’s absolutely one of the elite level recruiters in the entire country. I learned so much just being around him, going to home visits with him, listening to him on the phone, and just the way he had a vision for that Harvard basketball program and was able to articulate that to recruits and the team. I think that’s critical, because when Coach Amaker got to Harvard, there wasn’t a whole lot to sale. They had never won the Ivy League and had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1946. It was tough sledding. He had an unbelievable vision and was able to articulate that and getting people enthusiastic and excited about the program. That’s similar to what we have to do here. Chattanooga had a lot more success more recently. But we’ve got to be able to sell our vision for this program and to be passionate about our vision for this program and get people to buy into it. I learned a lot of that from Coach Amaker.

Obviously, with Coach Smart, he’s been a phenomenal mentor for me and resource. Actually, I got off the phone with him about twenty minutes ago for some things. A lot of what we do offensively and defensively will be similar. We’ll add our own kick and twist based on certain experiences we have. A lot of the culture of our program and the building blocks of our program, from the core values, to the way we train, to the way we practice and all that sort of stuff will have a heavy influence from Coach Smart.

Q. You just mentioned that you will be similar and different philosophically from what VCU did. You have mentioned the Chattanooga Chaos defense in the past. How will that look different and how will it look the same to the VCU Havoc?

Wade:  First of all, the Chaos system will feature both offense and defense. The defense gets a lot of attention and a lot of the bite. At VCU last year, we were Top Ten in the country in scoring offense. The system is offensively and defensively oriented. A lot of times the defense leads to offense. It will be very similar. I handled all of our pressing and defensive adjustments and things like that at VCU. So it’s something that I’m very comfortable with going back to when I was at Clemson. We’ll do some different things. We’ll probably press a little more after misses than we did at VCU. That was something that I’ve studied very hard and really want to implement. We’ll probably add a different press that we didn’t use at VCU that I have a little bit of a background in. So we’ll change up what we’re doing, but the base of what we’re doing is two presses- a man-to-man press and a zone press. It will be almost the exact same as what we did at VCU.

Offensively, I think Coach Smart is one of the smartest offensive minds in all of college basketball so it would be crazy not to borrow from him. We’re going to take a lot of what we learned at VCU and get our guys going downhill and towards the rim. We’re going to shoot a lot of threes and crash the offensive glass. That’s a pretty good formula. With our style of play if we can make threes, limit the other teams threes and get a lot of steals, we’ve got a good chance to win. We don’t necessarily have to do all three. If we can get two of those three to hit our numbers, we’re going to be in really good shape to win the game. We have a formula already to figure out if we did it or not.

Q.  How do you think the current roster fits into that philosophy?

Wade: I think there’s some really good pieces for it and guys that we’ll have to adjust roles for and find roles for and tweak what we do. I’m not going to try to fit a square peg in a round hole. We might have to pre-rotate some stuff. We might have to change the way we do some things. I’m comfortable with that. There definitely are some very good pieces on the roster for pressing, and we’re going to get the most out of those guys. We’re going to find the guys who may be not the best pressers in the world or the best for the system and we’re going to find a role for them to. We’re going to find a way for them to play and find a niche that they can have on our team that contributes to winning and can help us succeed.

Q.  You kept Casey Long on the staff. How important was keeping someone with a connection to the current roster?

Wade:  It was really important. I did not know Casey very well, but I got to know him really well really quickly. I did a lot of calls on him and a lot of background on him. He came up absolutely top notch. I call him “The Mayor” because everywhere I go in town, everyone knows him. He’s got a great smile and a great personality. I thought he would be a great fit and do a great job. He’s surpassed everything I thought he would be. He’s phenomenal. He just did a tremendous job in the interim of keeping the team together, keeping the guys working out, keeping the guys on track for the most part academically. He did a really good job in really tough circumstances. I recognized that right away. He just has a way about him with people. He’s unbelievable- a caring person, has a great heart, loves the players, loves the town, loves the university, loves the basketball program. He’s been a phenomenal resource to have around. We’d be in real trouble without him. He knows his way around this city and around this university like nobody else. We’re very fortunate that he wanted to stay and that he is here. He’s worked out great.

Q. Obviously, you’re a very young guy. When you hired Wes Long, did hiring someone with head coaching experience play a part in that?

Wade: I was looking for someone with head coaching experience, but I was also looking for somebody who believed in our core values and exuded enthusiasm. He certainly fits the bill with that. I thought it was important for me to have someone with head coaching experience who, when I’m out of the office or handling other things, he can step in. I know and trust Wes. He’s been awesome since he’s been here as well- everything I thought he’d be and more. I knew when I got the job that I was going to hire someone with head coaching experience, but I also didn’t want to lose sight of what’s going to make us good. I really believe in those core values with every bit of my fiber, and he believes in them as well. I didn’t want to lose some of that by hiring someone who had been a head coach. He fits the mold perfectly. He left a really good head coaching job where he was. Queens has explored going Division 1 and has a brand new arena opening. They’ve got all sorts of stuff going on that’s really enticing. I’m happy that he wanted to come here, join us and be a part of it. He’s someone I can bounce ideas off of. He’s in a Chief of Staff type role within our staff. He’s been a head coach for five years and turned a program around. They were 7-21 his first year and 21-7 his last year. They won a couple of conference championships, played and advanced in the NCAA Tournament and got a lot of experience even at a relatively young age.

Q. Turner Battle came from Buffalo. Reading through his profile, there’s not an obvious connection to you. What brought your attention to him?

Wade: First of all, he’s the best guard in our program right now. He was the MAC Player of the Year in 2005. He was a really good player. He coached nine All MAC guards in six years at Buffalo. So that was very attractive. I knew him because when he was playing at Buffalo, Coach Smart was coaching at Akron. Coach Smart took a liking to him and was in touch with him. I got in touch with him through Coach Smart a couple of years ago and we spent a lot of time together at the Final Four multiple times. He’s from North Carolina. That’s an area I recruited very hard at Harvard and VCU. We’d see each other recruiting in North Carolina all the time and grab a meal. We just stayed in touch. I love what he is about, and love his work ethic. He’s great at developing guards. He was what we were looking for in the staff. His track record and character speak for themselves.

Q. News today was that you hired Brooks Savage. Tell me a little about him.

Wade: He’s a jack of all trades guy. We’re fortunate to get him. He left an assistant coaching position in the Big South to come here and be the operations guy. So he can’t go on the road and recruit for us here. There are a lot of things he can’t do. He felt strongly enough to come here and be our ops guy, which is phenomenal. He can do a lot of things. We need a versatile guy in that position. We do not have all the support staff in the world so he’s got to multi-task and do lots of different things. I’ve known him for a long time since he interviewed for a position with us at VCU. Usually when a person interviews for a position and they don’t get it, they stop talking to you. He did not. He stayed in touch and we developed a really close friendship. We stayed in close contact. He did video at Tulane and has done all sorts of statistical stuff. He’s been an assistant at a junior college national runner up and worked with Steve Forbes, a tremendous coach. He’s worked at Presbyterian. He did administrative stuff at Tennessee. He’s got a wide array of experience. He can wear a lot of different hats which is very important in that position.

Q.  You mentioned that you wanted to play more in-state teams in your scheduling. What is your overall philosophy involving money games and scheduling?

Wade: I want to play the best teams that we can that will build our program, drum up the most interest in our program, build our brand within the region and get those guys to come to McKenzie as well. We’re working hard on that. To be brutally honest, we inherited some stuff on the schedule that was tough for us to work around this season. We’ve got a scheduling four year gameplan on exactly what we’re going to do. I think by our second year we’ll be well up and running within that gameplan and have an attractive home schedule. We’ll also have a road schedule that our fans can make it to a lot of the road games. We can drum up interest in areas that we have a lot of alumni. I think it’s really important that we play Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, and Tennessee-Martin. I think it’s really important that we play those guys as much as we can. One- they’re close. Two- they’re programs that we have rivalries with. Our fans work with alumni from the other school. It’s good rivalry. We’re an hour fifteen minutes from Cookeville. I was talking to Steve Payne, their coach. We weren’t able to work anything out for this year, but in the future we were talking about working something out on an equitable date every year in November or early December to try to create a rivalry with them. We’re going to explore all those options and get as many of those guys on the schedule as we can. It just makes sense to play local teams for support purposes. I think it’s good for the fans.

Q. You want to play teams that will come to McKenzie. Should we be making plans for VCU to come anytime soon?

Wade: That’s what everyone asks. Not anytime soon. I’d have a tough time playing Coach Smart. They’re a great program. They’ll have a Top Fifteen team next year, probably even better than that. Now I’m putting pressure on him. He has a hard time playing guys he’s close with. I would too. In fact, it would be really tough on both of us. We’ll attract the best teams we can to McKenzie but I don’t know that VCU will be one anytime soon.

Q. How is the schedule shaping up for next year?

Wade: It’s shaping. We’re working on it. We spend a lot of time on it every day. We’re filling out the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. We’re in the process of adding a quality home game. We’re really just setting it up for future schedules. We’re clearing some things off the books so that we can get things wide open for the next couple of years to really aggressively pursue our scheduling philosophy and how we want to do things. We’re finishing it off. I’d be lying to you if I said it was going to be the best schedule you’ve ever seen. I do think there will be some exciting games. We’ve added some pop to it, which I’m excited about. In future years, it will be much, much better.

Q. When will the schedule be released?

Wade: I’m hoping by the end of the month. Lots of administrators on vacation right now, so it may not quite be that soon. We have a pretty good framework in place.

Q. You’ve signed two guys since you were hired. Justin Tuoyo played for you at VCU, so you obviously know him pretty well.  What will he bring to the table when he’s eligible in the 2014-15 season?

Wade: He’ll bring a lot of athleticism, and great shot blocking. He’s got a lot of room for growth offensively that he can develop into a great offensive player. He’s a very good shooter. He can become an excellent shooter. He’s got great size and great athleticism. He’s very long. Obviously, he won’t be able to help us on the court until 2014-15. But he will invaluable this year as well for a lot of our guys because he knows the system. He knows me as well as anybody. I recruited him for two years at VCU. I know his family. He’ll be a great resource for our guys- what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, what we’re about. I think his value on the court will be great. Down the line, he could be a tremendous player. Coach Smart had a difficult time letting him go because he knew the same thing about his potential. This year will be good for him to help him put on some weight in the weight room and continue to hone his shot, while working on his inside game as well. He can make an impact in 2014-15, but I think 2013-14, he’ll have a big impact on our team off the court.

Q. When Anthanee Doyle signed, you said you liked his shot making ability and a shooter. What else are you hoping to get out of him this year?

Wade: I think he brings three things that we need. He can handle the ball a little bit. He can shoot. He can really guard the ball. He’s long and quick. He’ll be able to hound the ball, engulf the ball, and turn the ball handlers multiple times which will give us trapping opportunities in the backcourt. He’s a great kid, a great student and has been raised the right way by his mother and father. He’ll be a really nice piece for us.

Q. Every coach has sorts of kids they look for to recruit. What are you looking for when you go out?

Wade: We’ve got a very specific recruiting profile that has twelve to fifteen attributes that we’re looking for and that we rate kids on. We put them in a formula and we can spit out some data on exactly what we’re getting. Mainly, we’re looking for guys with great stamina who have a great appreciation for being able to play at Chattanooga. We want guys who are long who have a high motor who can shoot the ball. There’s a bunch of other things in there, but that’s kind of the basis. One thing we’re never going to sacrifice on is character for talent. So we’ll take a guy who may be too skinny or too short for the height requirements for their position (which I don’t really understand), but we’re never going to sacrifice on character or get a guy who academically is not prepared to graduate from Chattanooga.

Q. Rico White played a lot of point last year, but is not a true point guard in most people’s opinion. What do you think of where he will be playing next year?

Wade: Rico can play point guard. But I also think he is really good at the shooting guard position or as a combo guard. He shot 45% as a freshman and 28% as a sophomore when he was playing more point. A lot of that was late shot clock stuff. I’ve talked to Rico in depth about that in the short time I’ve been here. He will certainly factor at point some, and so will Anthanee (Doyle). I feel confident we will be fine at that position.

Q. What are your thoughts on some of the shifting membership in the Southern Conference?

Wade: That’s just the world we live in right now. I know the Mercer coaching staff pretty well. They won the Atlantic Sun last year and will be really good again this year. ETSU is great for us. We talked about playing in-state teams and teams that our fans are familiar with. Certainly ETSU is at the top of that list in terms of having another rival. VMI is a team we have played a lot in the past. They are all three teams we have a familiarity with. I think the additions are good for the league.

One thing I will say. I really don’t care about who else is in our league, or conference alignment, or how it makes everything look. I think our job is to make Chattanooga basketball to be the best Chattanooga basketball can be. If we put all of our focus on making Chattanooga great, and put all our energy and time into being great at Chattanooga, we’re going to win no matter who is in our league. That’s just the way I feel. It’s got a lot of potential, and has a lot of great things to it. If we put all that time into our players, and focus on Chattanooga, everything else will take care of itself, regardless of who is in the league or out of the league. My sole focus is on Chattanooga and whoever is in the Southern Conference we will look forward to playing them and competing with them and developing good rivalries with them.

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