VCU didn’t have to wait long to find out who their 12th head coach in program history would be. Shortly after Will Wade suddenly announced that he would be taking the LSU job after just two years, the school welcomed back Mike Rhoades, a former VCU assistant and fan favorite from 2009-2014.
Coach Rhoades had previously served under former VCU head coach Shaka Smart, who orchestrated the Rams’ magical 2011 run. The 2011 VCU team finished the season as the 6th ranked team in the nation, the highest ranking ever achieved at VCU. That team was also the first in NCAA history to ever make it from the First Four play-in game to the Final Four.
Rhoades will have his work cut out for him in the upcoming 2017-18 season, as he will face high expectations and a lot of roster holes to fill. The team graduates multiple contributing seniors, including leading scorer and distributor JeQuan Lewis. Rhoades will also be without previously committed 3-star recruit, Lavar Batts, who flipped his commitment to NC State and its new coach, Kevin Keatts. Mayan Kiir, another previously committed 3-star, has decommitted and remains undecided. Coach Wade’s exit was the main factor in prompting these stars’ decommitments. However, even without these two recruits, VCU would have the second-ranked 2017 recruiting class in the A-10 (via 247).
Coach Rhoades’ 2017-18 Rams will be led by senior Justin Tillman (12.2ppg 8.7rpg), the only returning starter. Former rotation players Samir Doughty (10.4ppg) and Jonathan Williams (6.4ppg) will join Tillman in an attempt to continue the school’s historic streak of seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
Rhoades had a very strong D1 head coaching debut, righting the ship quickly at Rice University, where he spent the past three seasons. The Owls were 12-20 in his first season, but improved to 23-12 in Rhoades’ final 2016-17 season.
In terms of play style, Rhoades wants to stay aggressive on both ends, much how the Rams played under Smart. “The pace, how we’re going to attack on offense, the excitement we’re going to try to create on defense, yeah, there will be a lot of similarities, without a doubt. I want to see that,” (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
Coach Rhoades has referred to VCU was his “dream job”. “This is home. I love it here. My family loves it here,” (Richmond Times-Dispatch). Since Coach Will Wade left after just two years with the program, VCU fans are certainly hoping Mike Rhoades can continue the school’s recent NCAA tournament successes and make their dreams come true as well.