published Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Will Wade's way: Basketball Mocs' new coach ultra-organized

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    UTC men's basketball coach Will Wade directs players from the sideline during the Mocs' win Saturday night against NAIA member Montreat College.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Editor's note: UTC men's basketball coach Will Wade granted Times Free Press beat writer David Uchiyama all access on Thursday and Friday afternoons leading up to the Mocs' game against Montreat. Uchiyama spent hours in Wade's office, witnessed team meetings, watched two practices plus a walk-through. The only off-the-record subjects were specific to academics, detailed X's and O's that could assist opponents and anything that could violate NCAA regulations.

With his lunch to his right, papers in front of him, a laptop on the far edge of his desk and a desktop computer to his left, in a very organized office, Will Wade begins discussing the offensive plays that his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball Mocs should run against Montreat in a game about 53 hours in the future.

Assistant coach Turner Battle and Wade -- both in UTC T-shirts and UTC warm-ups pants -- rattle off plays as if they're speaking a different language. In a way it is a hybrid form of English. Call it, "Chattanooga Code."

Just by saying "Hook One," they can see in their mind how every player will move on that play and the shot that they desire.

There is strategy in their discussion. Not only to beat Montreat -- which the Mocs did 108-51 on Saturday -- but to win future games.

"Let's run [that play] just to show it on film to Kennesaw," Wade said. "Give 'em something to think about."

The offensive meeting for the afternoon concluded, Battle exited the room with a full belly of Champy's chicken and a play sheet stuffed with "Chattanooga Code."

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The UTC men's basketball coaching staff dedicates every waking moment to improving the current team -- individually and collectively, in basketball and in life -- with the goal of winning championships as soon as possible.

Wade is in charge of it all.

"Will is the OCD of organization," said student assistant Johnny Taylor, who has played in the NBA and overseas since leading UTC to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997. "He has in his mind what he wants. He has passion, love."

Wade is the conductor of an orchestra that consists of 15 players, eight managers, seven coaches with various titles, one athletic trainer and one administrative assistant.

The staff of managers doubled in size from last year, in part because they're needed for drills that may require as many as five passes, and because there is more to be done. Wade uses strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin in various roles from warm-ups to punishment, and Taylor challenges the Mocs in some drills and coaches at other moments.

Casey Long, the lone holdover from John Shulman's staff, is the quiet one of the bunch during practice. It's by design, Wade said. Long's job during practice is to provide one-on-one instruction and individual encouragement. His other priority is recruiting, and that helped Wade land 6-foot-3 shooting guard Shaquille Preston, who also considered Auburn, Cincinnati and Clemson.

Wade announced Preston as part of his signing class on Friday. One day previous, after Battle retreated to his office -- within shouting distance of Wade's on the fourth floor of McKenzie Arena -- assistant coach Wes Long entered to go over the defensive game plan. He discussed playing some 2-3 zone defense.

Long diagrammed moves with red and blue magnets on a white magnetic clipboard.

"Gee can't be over here guarding nobody. He's got to be over here," Wes Long said of Mocs sophomore Gee McGee, while shifting a magnet on the board closer to the other side.

Long put the board down on Wade's desk, then sat down in a black custom comfort chair with the "Power C" logo embossed on the back. The topic of their meeting shifted to academics even though the coaches have an in-depth academic meeting every Tuesday.

Wade pulled out a cheat sheet. He has every player's class schedule and upcoming exams and papers ready at any time, and they discussed how to get two players into study hall so they could earn extra credit for a class. They also figured out the best way for another player to get a research paper turned in to a professor while they're out West for four games later this month. Like so many decisions in this office that range from study halls to pregame meals to specific plays, there was discussion and a decision: They'll send the paper FedEx.

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John Runyan, the graduate manager, had been popping in and out of Wade's office carrying a laptop all afternoon.

He's in charge of all video related to UTC hoops, from building scouting reports that Battle will present to snagging snippets from NBA and other college games across the country.

Runyan clipped plays from the Tuesday games between Kansas and Duke and between VCU and Virginia. He showed them to Wade, who instructed Runyan to make a slide show of the great plays in those games with a "Play Hard" introductory slide so he could show it to the Mocs in their Thursday pre-practice meeting.

Runyan unplugged a laptop from the flat-screen in Wade's office and edited the video as instructed with a new slide for "Orange," which is a defensive concept.

Wade spun around to his desktop computer and checked his email. A recruiting video for a 6-foot high school point guard popped up. He watched about 20 seconds.

"Moving on," he said, noting that the Mocs are set at point guard. "I want my in box to be clear at the end of the day.

"I'm type-A about that."

He then quickly replied to a few text messages with the finger dexterity of a high school girl pecking at her iPhone 4.

Wade exited his office to change for practice, to a fresh T-shirt and shorts. He hooked a black Sharpie and a yellow highlighter to the neck of his shirt. Wade carries the practice plan, sometimes highlighted before the session, and a play sheet during most of practice. Quick access to ink allows him to jot down notes or highlight things as a reminder for later.

"I don't like clutter," he later said. "My desk is organized. The notebooks on the shelf are organized in a way that I understand. It might not make sense to everybody else, but it makes sense in my mind."

Thursday's practice began, as it always does, with the energetic Goldin barking orders and the players barking them back in unison. They yell back to Goldin what they're going to do: "Jog down! Sprint back!"

Warm-ups were over and UTC went to work.

The Mocs had to score 84 points in a four-minute fast-break drill to open the session. They came up one point short on the first time around with one layup coming before the buzzer and one right after.

"Do it again," Wade proclaimed. "Do it again. It should take you 4 1/2 seconds to get up and down the court. Casey [Jones] is in the 3-point-nine range. Some of y'all are in the six-second range.

"Unacceptable."

They repeated the drill. In the past, the Mocs have needed as many as seven attempts to reach the standard set by Wade.

"I can't stop the game and restart the game with Radford up 10," Wade expressed with some salty language.

He has two favorite curse words, the most common, and he'll use them as adjectives and adverbs like most college coaches. A typical Wade outburst generally lasts all of five seconds. He's no Bob Knight. It starts with the sound of a whistle, the whistle getting tossed aside and Wade moving on the court to show what the player should have done.

More common than cussing is a shout of "Good job!" from Wade while clapping a couple times. He appreciates multiple efforts on a play, taking charges, sprinting to spots and execution from both offense and defense.

Constant communication is key to Wade's system. When players don't talk on defense, they're sent out of a drill and over to Goldin's "Talking School." Players never want to visit Goldin for an impromptu education.

A player is sent to "Talking School" when he fails to communicate on defense. Goldin instructs a player -- such as the normally chatty sophomore Gee McGhee on Friday -- to run the stairs from the court to the concourse while stating, "I will talk." Then when McGee -- and other players, too -- reach the concourse, they're instructed to shout those three words at the top of their lungs.

"Talking School" is a sister school of "Fouling School." A players exits a drill after fouling and is sent to Goldin, who orders him to sprint to a baseline and back, then guard either a manager or Ronrico White, who is recovering from injury, one-on-one.

After more than two hours of sweating, sometimes forcing two managers at a time to wipe the floor with towels, the Mocs ended their Thursday practice with a chant of "Appreciation."

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Wade played golf in high school. The sport taught him a valuable lesson that's carried over to coaching, which is control what you can and be open to options.

"It's not that we do it my way, necessarily," Wade said. "You have got to be flexible. What works with one team may not work with another. What works with this team won't work next year because we're going to have an influx of [six] new players."

Junior forward Martynas Bareika chatted with Wade on Friday morning about help-side defense -- the "Orange" slide Runyan made the day before -- and how the players could find an easier way to determine one specific responsibility. On Thursday, the role belonged to the guard closest to the baseline.

That changed on Friday. It became whichever player was closest to the baseline.

"We have to free our guys' minds to where they'll play loose and play hard," Wade said. "The main point is that we all know, we're on the same page and get it right. As long as we take away the No. 1 thing, if they beat us on secondary and tertiary stuff, I can deal with that."

Wade opened Friday's pre-practice team meeting by diagramming the small alteration. He asked Brooks Savage, the director of basketball operations, for a pen so he could draw up the definition on the dry-erase board inside the locker room where the team now meets before practicing in McKenzie Arena.

Savage provided the black pen, then retreated to the adjacent player's lounge. He exchanged a look with strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin.

"I hope that has ink in it," Goldin said.

It did. Yet Savage left the room to grab a fresh blue pen, just to be safe.

He returned with the lights off in the locker room, Battle beginning the scouting report on Montreat.

Battle went through the roster, beginning with the starters, and provided the scouting report for each player. He noted trends of what they like to do and what the Mocs should do Saturday night to slow them down. Each video-slide showed the player's head shot, a few lines on how UTC should slow that player and a few video clips.

"He's their best player," Battle said when he advanced the video to No. 10, La'Bris Adams. "A lot of what he gets is off the [dribble]." Adams led the Cavaliers with 17 points Saturday.

Battle later told his team how freshman post players get more than 90 percent of their points from offensive rebounds or in transition. On Saturday, Montreat freshman forward Melvin Irvin scored an easy two points five minutes into the game after the Cavs beat UTC's press.

The lights flipped back on, the players gathered in a circle with their hands up, and after Wade counted "One, two, three," the players shouted, "Enthusiasm!"

Enthusiasm is one of Wade's five core values that will lead to satisfaction in everyday life. The others are appreciation, competitiveness, unselfishness and accountability.

Those are also five values that often lead to victory.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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