1. Will Wade – McNeese State
The last time McNeese State finished the season above .500 was 2012. The last time the Cowboys reached the NCAA Tournament was a decade earlier in 2002. There wasn’t anything specifically bad about John Aiken, head coach for the last two seasons, but athletic director Heath Schroyer (also a former Cowboys head coach) had an opportunity and the program is better off as a result.
That opportunity came in the form of Wade, who was fired by LSU in 2022 after recruiting allegations. He was an assistant under Shaka Smart during VCU’s run to the Final Four and had varying levels of success as the head coach at Chattanooga, VCU, and LSU the last decade. That decade included a lot of winning, a Sweet Sixteen run at LSU (that he didn’t coach), and plenty of shady dealings, though the past is in the past.
Wade was suspended for the first ten games this season as a result, but built a really competitive roster that has McNeese State in the midst of perhaps their finest season. The Cowboys lost a few games in November but now sit 17-2, winners of twelve straight and owners of a 6-0 mark in Southland conference play. They’ve secured true road wins at VCU, UAB, and Michigan and have added four more in league play; McNeese State is no joke under Wade’s leadership.
Do you agree with the ten coaches we included in today’s rankings? Has someone else done more in their first season to deserve inclusion? We’ll have to wait and see what the coming months bring for these new head coaches and their programs.