A day after VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin introduced Mike Rhoades as the 12th Men’s Basketball Head Coach at VCU, there’s plenty of emotions to take in. From quick confusion and anger that evolved into the purest form of joy and optimism. The introductory conference was exactly what Ram fans needed to see and hear during a time of sudden change.
The News That Rocked A Ram
Looking back to that Monday night, there wasn’t truly anything out of the norm about that evening. For myself, I wrapped up shooting the newest episode of scRAMbled with the VCUSports.com crew and played a match of recreational soccer after that.
The chill in the wind suddenly rocked my core when I received a text from my boss saying I should check Twitter. Instead, I dialed him up and he gave me the news that literally no one in the Commonwealth expected.
Head Coach Will Wade accepted the position at LSU.
Once I arrived home, I instantly dropped my soccer bags inside and opened Twitter. The amount of sheer anger, confusion, disgust, sadness and whatever other emotions displayed in 140 characters or less was compelling. Of course, I was just as confused and in a glass case of emotion myself trying to figure out just exactly what the hell just happened.
Not Your Typical Louisiana Purchase
So Coach Wade not only accepted the head coaching job in the Bayou but literally kept it under wraps. Wade treated this whole scenario rather oddly when I listened to Michael Litos during his interview with Wes McElroy on Fox Sports 910 Richmond the following Tuesday morning.
Litos explained to McElroy that he left his phone in the house as he took his beloved dog outside for a bathroom trip. When he returned, Litos’ phone lit up with notifications about Wade’s departure; this was how he learned about the breaking news.
Current players, VCU staff, Ram fans and even Ed himself as the athletic director was notified like this. On Social Media; not a meeting, not a conference or even a hangout. Ironically, this feeling may have been similar to how the Baltimore Colts exited to Indianapolis in the middle of the night a time ago.
To be flat out honest, Wade made a heel turn as if he was a WWE superstar in one swift move. Rams made time to display their displeasure, however, McLaughlin knew that it was time to get down to work.
First 48: Speedy Edition
VCU got down to business rather quickly. McLaughlin met with the VCU players Tuesday morning and explained that Coach Wade left and Ed would be back with a new head coach soon. The national search was on and instantly struck pay dirt with Mike Rhoades.
Rhoades and VCU had discussions and came to an agreement. The former VCU assistant turned head coach for Rice University had about 10 minutes to pack before flying out of Houston. Later that night, Rhoades along with McLaughlin met with the VCU players in their practice facility.
While most of social media speculated about the possible return of Rhoades on Broad Street, McLaughlin kept VCU’s mouth shut for a long period of time before officially releasing the big news.
The reason? “Put the student-athletes first.”
All the details were looked at again and again and again. McLaughlin and VCU wanted to make absolutely sure that Coach Rhoades and his family was accommodated with the move, the VCU players were formally introduced to their new head coach and that everyone was satisfied.
Once all the check marks were checked off, the green light was given. Then there was a pep rally inside the Siegel Center on a Wednesday afternoon.
A Rowdy Celebration
“Have you ever been in a situation in your life that just feels right? I think we’re here right now.” General Manager of VCU Sports Properties Robby Robinson cited these words to start the introductory press conference and they could not be more truthful.
Everyone in the Siegel Center on that day appeared to be on Cloud 9. From the numerous Ram fans in attendance to VCU President Dr. Michael Rao, McLaughlin, Coach Rhoades and his wife Jodie Rhoades. For a moment in time, VCU was in harmony after feeling swift heartbreak.
Tears of joy streamed down Jodie Rhoades face as she stood proudly by her husband’s side as Ram fans were officially introduced to the 12th Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“This is a dream come true to me and my family to be the head coach at VCU. To be standing here representing the Rams, I’m truly humbled and very appreciative.” –Coach Rhoades
For those Ram fans that may not have known Coach Rhoades, they quickly understood why the majority of seasoned Ram fan veterans supported this move by VCU. Rhoades is a typical blue collar guy kind of worker with a gifted basketball IQ.
Rhoades was an assistant under Coach Shaka Smart last time at VCU. He was promoted to Associate Head Coach under Smart during the Rams memorable First Four to Final Four run. Many former players loved Rhoades’ effort, energy, and enthusiasm that he brought out of them during practices and games.
He’s also a humbling man that found his way home. After thanking Rice University for giving him a head coaching opportunity, Rhoades expressed his excitement that he and his family finally made his way back home at VCU.
Family is important with Coach Rhoades. He acknowledged his kids’ Chase, Logan, and Porter along with his mother, sister and his father who was watching from upstairs in Heaven.
“We’ve been on a ride for a long time. And this ride stops here Mom at VCU.” –Coach Rhoades
Rhoades extended his family with the Ramily known as VCU. Stating that VCU was the home of the best Pep Band, the best home court advantage inside the Animal and the best fans in the nation. And of course, the players that wear the VCU uniform and represent all of us on the basketball court.
“This program is not about the coach in front of you. It’s about those players right there. It’s about all the great players that have come before us that put forth the sweat, the effort, and the passion. And that’s the type of players we’re always gonna have at VCU.” –Coach Rhoades
Every word was solidified later during his speech as Coach Rhoades looked up from the podium and said this with an open heart while looking at his players in the audience.
“This is about the players. To you fellas up there, I’m here to serve you. I’m here to build a relationship that we’ll have for the rest of our lives. To move you forward as young people so you can be unbelievable husbands, fathers, students, professionals and great basketball players. That’s why I’m here.” –Coach Rhoades
Bad Dream Turned Into Promising Reality
When Wade pulled the wool over VCU so to speak with his move to LSU, a Black & Gold nightmare commenced. Historically with the program’s run of head coaches, this could have been seen coming however it did not seem real.
From the outsiders looking in, they may come to the conclusion that VCU fan base as a whole is irate at their previous head coach. Personally what grinds my gears is the way the move went down that had me slightly judging Wade in a new perspective.
Fans thought that the way Coach Smart left for Texas was emotional enough; what Wade has done in his departure to LSU has well surpassed that. Never thought this feat would be achievable.
Now at a time of uncertainty, Coach Rhoades is a symbol of promise. Anyone can call a place their home but with Rhoades VCU is his home. A world of negative emotions quickly was shined down upon with the power of positivity and humbleness.
Chapter 12: The Rhoades Era
As the smiles, cheers, and celebration overall started to settle down, VCU once again started handling business in this new era of VCU Hoops. Coach Rhoades knew that VCU had quite the plate to salvage before November arrived.
VCU landed a talented recruiting class for the upcoming season. After losing 5 seniors and now Coach Wade, Rhoades quickly stated that keeping them on board with VCU was a priority. The class of Lavar Batts Jr, Mayan Kiir, Sean Mobley and Marcus Santos-Silva is loaded with incredible promise for the Rams.
Legends from VCU such as Eric Maynor, Brandon Rozzell, Jamal Shuler and Briante Weber expressed their excitement for Coach Rhoades being named VCU’s next head coach. Rhoades is the kind of head coach you want to play for according to just about every Ram that has come in contact with him.
Besides that challenging task, Rhoades also has to get this current roster of Rams on board. From eye glance, most appear satisfied with this coaching change. Upcoming seniors Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams are going through a 2nd coach change in less than 4 years.
A headache could quickly get worse for Rhoades if the recruiting class does exit stage left. Meaning that not only Rhoades would have to balance finding a freshman class in just a short span, he would juggle that while building relationships with the current squad. This can be done however, it’s way easier said than done.
The good news was brought to light as Ahmed Hamdy was granted another year of NCAA eligibility. Now everyone awaits to see if Hamdy will indeed return to VCU for his “official” senior year. With all these concerns and objectives, Dr. Rao is fairly confident in Mike Rhoades handling these.
“We have a coach who knows how to win himself. And he knows how to coach student athletes. on the court, personally and in the classroom academically. This is a guy who wins in every way.” –Dr. Michael Rao
Change Happens, Champions Succeed
Moves have been made, work is in progress. VCU is going to have a memorable offseason. Besides players coming or going, Coach Rhoades is going to have his team playing fast in his system.
HAVOC was around back in Rhoades’ assistant days; high-pressure defenses, energetic players, fast tempo, excitement. That’s what Rhoades loves and that’s what he plans on delivering to Ram fans along with wins. He also promises that he’s going to be having a lot of fun coaching and that his players will have the most fun playing VCU Basketball.
The jackpot was just hit on Broad Street with Rhoades. He takes over a program that is near and dear to his heart with historical success. 7 straight NCAA Tournament Bids, 99 consecutive sellouts inside the Siegel Center and a new practice facility right next door.
In a matter of 48 hours, VCU suffered a feeling of betrayal and turned it into Ram love. A love that connects to everyone that loves VCU Men’s Basketball. Mike Rhoades was the hire that a lot of people wanted and clearly what VCU needed.
This is not a Hallmark ending. There is still a growing list of objectives that must be completed before success is claimed. Rhoades is aware of that and ready to work.
“Change occurs; it’s life. We’ll deal with it. Champion success is never easy. It’s not always clearly defined but I know it’s built on great commitment, work and always putting others before you.” –Coach Rhoades
VCU found their champion. A champion is always working on improvements and that what VCU is currently doing. This wasn’t a state-of-emergency hire to save face, this hire was meant to bring VCU to the next level of greatness their trying to grasp.
Everything is going to be alright on Broad Street.