What we learned from LSU basketball coach Will Wade's first comments since his controversial suspension
What Wade didn't say may be more telling than what he actually said Tuesday at the SEC spring meetings
DESTIN, Fla. – If the idea was for Will Wade to clear the air, consider the future of both LSU basketball and its coach still wrapped in fog.
Wade spoke publicly Tuesday at the SEC's spring meetings for the first time since he was suspended on March 8 and reinstated 37 days later.
It did not go well.
While admitting to "mistakes being made," Wade partially blamed lawyers for his suspension that resulted from him refusing to meet with school officials after the infamous "strong-ass offer" comment was caught on an FBI wiretap.
"I think I made a poor decision in how I handled that," Wade said. "I think if I had to do it over I would have taken the meeting. Once you get lawyers involved things get more drawn out.
"Looking back on things [we should have] gotten in a room together a lot quicker than we did. That was my mistake. It was something I did in haste."
Wade did not answer a direct question about whether he or his staff paid players or any members of their families, leaving open the question of whether that in fact had occurred at LSU. Instead, Wade made a vague reference to a meeting he had with LSU and the NCAA before being reinstated April 14.
"I understand you have to ask that question," Wade said. "I've addressed the latest situation. All that other stuff I assure you, I can't get into the meeting. I can assure you that everything you can think of was addressed in that meeting with LSU and with the NCAA and ultimately led to my reinstatement."
Wade's name emerged in the spring during the wide-ranging FBI investigation of college basketball. While there had been whispers as to how Wade, in his second season at LSU, had assembled a top recruiting class, no solid evidence had been forthcoming until the wiretap.
"I certainly want to get to a point where I can have full disclosure," Wade said. "We're just not at that place right now."
Tuesday, then, went from strong-ass offer to weak-ass press conference. Wade may have good reason for obfuscating. In his reworked contract with LSU, he can be fired with cause if the NCAA so much as starts a Level I or Level II infractions investigation.
Wade also waived a $250,000 performance bonus after leading the Tigers to the SEC regular-season championship.
An LSU source Tuesday said that for the moment Wade has the school's support. The source said there is no current NCAA investigation.
Sources said Wade sought to meet with an assembled media group – there are several national outlets here – rather than continually address his situation in several separate interviews.
"It's going to take time to build trust with Scott," Wade said.
He was referring to new athletic director Scott Woodward.
Given all that, Wade's reputation might be the most damaged of any currently employed Division I coach.
- Wade was suspended March 8 by his LSU superiors for not agreeing to meet with them after he was caught on that wiretap admitting to that "strong-ass offer" for the services of then-freshman Javonte Smart.
Asked directly Tuesday whether he had said those words, Wade said, "I have not heard the tape so I don't know.
"It's a good question. I can't get into the specifics of everything but I can assure you in my meetings with the LSU and NCAA I have addressed everything."
- Thirty-seven days later on April 14, Wade was reinstated after indeed meeting with LSU officials and NCAA and denying "any wrongdoing" according to then-AD Joe Alleva.
- Slightly more than two weeks later, convicted former Arizona assistant Book Richardson said on an FBI video Wade had a $300,000 "deal" to land five-star recruit Naz Reid.
Wade denied the Richardson allegation.
"It's absolutely false and did not happen," Wade said Tuesday.
Reid averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds as an LSU freshman.
Wade was asked what finally led him to cooperate with LSU and the NCAA.
"It was a complicated situation," he said. "When it first occurred, I made a mistake. I wish it wouldn't have taken 37 days for it to happen … I severely underestimated maybe how long it would take for the lawyers to work through some of those issues."
As far as recruiting, Wade said he has gotten questions about his current situation but also gotten sympathy for getting through the process – to this point.
"I've come off as a little bit brash to be honest," Wade concluded. "I think that's rubbed some folks the wrong way. That's my fault."
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