Welcome, Will Wade, MSU basketball program opens the door to new leader

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2023

By Jim Gazzolo

Special to the American Press

With all the pomp and circumstance of a coronation, McNeese State officially introduced its new basketball coach to a starving fan base Monday.

All that was missing was a red carpet.

Instead, Will Wade rode into the Legacy Center in front of some 300 fans, the McNeese band, kickers, cheerleaders and even Rowdy the mascot promising at least 23 wins next season.

“We are going to turn this thing around and we are going to turn this thing around quickly,” said Wade during the pep rally portion of the day’s festivities.

McNeese lost 23 games last season, the most in school history which led to the firing of John Aiken.

Wade, the former LSU coach who was fired last year, got three standing ovations from the gathering as he began his new job.

“To say we are excited is an understatement,” McNeese President Daryl Burckel said. “This is a need for our school and community as we continue to rebuild.”

Wade brings both the reputation of a program builder and controversy over an NCAA investigation while at LSU to McNeese.

But worry of any NCAA punishment was put on hold as McNeese celebrated its new coach.

“This is a defining moment not just in our basketball program but for our entire university,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “It is a new day at McNeese.”

Despite leading the Southland Conference in attendance, the Legacy Center remained less than half full for home games. Wade promised to change that as well.

“People are going to want to come here,” Wade said. “I look forward to selling this arena out.”

If Wade does that and wins, maybe next time he gets the red carpet.