Jan 23, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Will Wade reacts to a play against Georgia Bulldogs in the first half at Maravich Assembly Center.

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Will Wade returns to LSU and must rebuild again

Wade was reinstated as head coach yesterday

Seth Dunlap
April 15, 2019 - 11:48 am
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Will Wade was reinstated as head basketball coach yesterday at LSU, ending a more than five week standoff with the LSU administration.  His reinstatement suggests LSU is willing to take any public relations hits, or NCAA sanctions, that come their way in the wake of Wade being caught on federal wiretaps seemingly offering compensation and "strong ass offers" to recruits.  More will be written about that story, but today Wade is once again head coach at LSU.

Even if Wade had been fired here, he almost assuredly would have gotten another major head coaching job in the near future.  Illicit recruiting tactics aren't usually a career ender and, as I've argued over the last month, they shouldn't have been for Wade.  He's young enough, talented enough, that a few apologies and a recognition of wrongdoing would seem like sufficient steps to repair his image with the public.

It didn't seem like he'd have the chance to do that at LSU, not when he was shockingly suspended by the school heading into the NCAA tournament.  Not when he refused to even speak with administration officials.  Thankfully for all involved that has now happened, and the university is ready to stand by their coach -- for better or worse.

What that means in the short term is Wade will begin the un-enviable task of salvaging the talent currently on this roster.  LSU has had five underclassmen declare for the NBA draft.  While some of those players will likely return -- Javonte Smart seems like a lock to return now that Wade is back -- others will be gone.  Compounding the talent-loss wounds is a 2019 recruiting class that is currently ranked #13 in the SEC and #91 nationally.  There is no wave of incoming freshmen set to resurrect the Tigers again.  They'll have to navigate the 2019-20 season with, for the most part, the players they have returning from this year's Sweet 16 team.  

Wade has already shown the ability to keep LSU competitive even without premier talent on the roster.  He guided LSU to an 18-win campaign and NIT appearance in his first year on campus, sans Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams, Darius Days, Kavell Bigby-Willaims, and Javonte Smart.  There's no reason to think the Tigers will suddenly collapse to irrelevance, even with the current set of graduations and defections.

The roster isn't the only thing Wade will need to begin to rebuild.  While a large portion of the LSU fan base have been unabashedly pro-Wade throughout this process, many others aren't.  No matter what those in Baton Rouge believe, the basketball program, and Wade, have taken serious hits to their reputation and credibility throughout this mess.  Perception across the country as soured on the program over the past few months, and there are undoubtedly recruits now who now won't consider playing at LSU because of it. 

That damage will eventually fade, perhaps even as early as the next recruiting cycle, but Wade must being to repair his reputation while at the same time being still-surrounded by the cloud of NCAA and federal investigations.  That may be his hardest task, but the most critical one if he plans on keeping his promise of making LSU a consistent conference and NCAA tournament contender.

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