LSU fired on Saturday less than 24 hours after his NCAA Tournament-bound Tigers were bounced from the SEC Tournament, opening up what could be simultaneously one of the best and most complicated jobs on the current coaching market.
The Tigers program has huge resources, a recent track record of success and an athletic director in Scott Woodward who has been unafraid -- and often successful -- in chasing big names to fill vacancies in other sports. (See: Brian Kelly in football, Kim Mulkey in women's basketball.) But convincing a candidate to lead the program likely won't be easy. Wade's ouster comes not because of on-court failures but because of allegations of wrongdoing off the court. Just last week, the school reportedly received its long-expected Notice of Allegations related to recruiting violations and other misdeeds stemming from the FBI scandal committed under Wade. So whoever gets the gig will almost assuredly take over facing stiff punishment from the NCAA.
How good a job is LSU under normal circumstances vs. how good a job it is under current circumstances are two vastly different questions, and the answers will determine what type of coach it will target vs. what type of coach it could eventually get. Maybe a big-name candidate could still be in play. However, with the NCAA cloud hanging over the program, a new coach may want heavy protections in a contract littered with clauses in the event it faces harsh punishments, a potential postseason ban or other sanctions.
The complicated nature of the job as it is currently presented combined with the audacious history of Woodward makes the candidate pool a true guessing game here. So to acknowledge the challenges ahead for the program and Woodward's willingness to go after anyone, as well as LSU's boundless resources, we've separated our candidates pool below into two different categories.
Brad Underwood, Illinois coach: Underwood has seemingly found a great fit at Illinois, where he's on the brink of taking the Illini to its second NCAA Tournament a year after his team earned a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. However, Underwood was a great fit at Oklahoma State as well, and he quickly left the Cowboys after one season for a bigger salary and a promise of a larger commitment to the basketball program. LSU could likely offer both. The 58-year-old could really cash in if he wanted as one of the top tacticians in the sport, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him stay put now that he's got the program -- including recruiting -- really rolling.
Scott Drew, Baylor coach: The Baylor program was marred in controversy when Scott Drew took over in 2003. The previous coach, Dave Bliss, resigned amid scandal after a player murdered a former teammate. What Drew's done is nothing short of miraculous; the Bears are now a consistent force in the Big 12. He's a builder, and also a rebuilder. If he wants another project with a nice paycheck, LSU could be enticing. But Baylor is coming off a national championship-winning season and he seems to have it pretty good at Baylor. It'd likely take top-five money to pry him away from the Bears, and even that may not be enough.
Bill Self, Kansas coach: Kansas is in the middle of its own ongoing case with the NCAA and Self may be facing punishment as well after being leveled with a responsibility charge. Changing scenery to land with another troubled program probably isn't the answer for the highest-paid coach in college hoops. Still, two complicated situations with a lot of moving pieces. If you're Woodward you make the call even if Self abruptly hangs up.
Buzz Williams, Texas A&M coach: Woodward hired Williams at Texas A&M just a few weeks before he was hired at LSU, so there's an obvious connection here. Additionally, Williams' stock is once again on the rise, as he's got the Aggies into the SEC Tournament title game. The past connection with Williams combined with his turnaround at Texas A&M makes him a plenty viable candidate.
Mike White, Florida coach: Since taking over the Florida job in 2015, White has led the Gators to a 142-88 record, appeared in four NCAA Tournaments and advanced to an Elite Eight. Objectively speaking, he's been successful. But he's not been Billy Donovan-successful, and the Gators fanbase has seemingly grown impatient of him. LSU could potentially offer a soft landing spot if he were to decide to find another gig, and his past success in the state as the Louisiana Tech coach -- where he was 101-40 from 2011-2015 -- offers hope he could once again do it again in The Boot with far bigger resources than La. Tech.
Other potential options
Dennis Gates, Cleveland State coach: Gates is one of the hottest mid-major coaching candidates in the sport right. He's already accumulated a wealth of experience with stops as an assistant at Florida State, Cal, Northern Illinois and Nevada, and at 42, he's been solid as the head coach at Cleveland State. In three seasons with the program, he's amassed a 50-39 record and twice won Horizon League Coach of the Year honors.
Jerome Tang, Baylor coach: If LSU can't get Scott Drew, then perhaps it could turn to Drew's coaching tree for long-time assistant Jerome Tang, who is deserving of a head coaching opportunity if he so chooses. Tang has been Drew's assistant for 19 seasons and he played a huge role in recruiting and rebuilding the Bears program from the doldrums of the Big 12.
Andy Kennedy, UAB coach: A former mainstay of the SEC as the Ole Miss coach from 2006-2018, Kennedy could find a nice title bump with LSU after a career revival leading UAB the last two seasons. Kennedy is 48-14 with the Blazers and he left the Rebels with a winning record (245-156). He can coach, and combined with LSU's resources he'd likely find a lot of success.
Mike Rhoades, VCU coach: Rhoades could be in the mix at Georgia after its job opened this week with Tom Crean's firing. However, the LSU job is a clear step up, even if it's facing sanctions from the NCAA. Whether LSU would hire another VCU coach after the way Wade's tenure unfolded is unclear, but Rhoades has no NCAA troubles hanging over his head like his predecessor and he has accrued a 101-51 record with the Rams since replacing Wade in 2017.