ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Will Wade entered the Lioncrest Banquet Facility on the Biltmore Estate clad in a blue-and-gold tie, a Chattanooga lapel pin and custom "W" cufflinks.
Then he shook hands with the other the Southern Conference basketball coaches.
Some he had met before in recruiting circles. Others knew of his reputation from Virginia Commonwealth and Harvard.
"There are a couple guys in here that I've known for a while, but there are new folks and it's good to meet them and I look forward to competing with them," said Wade, the first-year coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "There are certainly some veterans in Coach [Mike] Young, Bob McKillop and [Larry] Hunter. Then there are some young guys, too."
Wade is one three new men's basketball coaches in the SoCon this season. Mark Byington, who assisted Bobby Cremins at the College of Charleston, is now coaching Georgia Southern. Former Furman assistant Niko Medved is now the Paladins' coach after spending the last six years at Colorado State.
"There is a cross section of guys, which is good for the league," Wade said. "Those veteran coaches have established programs, and we're trying to establish our own programs. Our job is to catch those guys."
Lady Mocs coach Jim Foster is the league's only new women's coach. But he's hardly new to the rest of the coaches because of his Hall of Fame credentials.
"I've been in coaches meetings forever, and there's always 'new' in the room," Foster said. "This is my fourth time being new, so it's not something I haven't experienced."
Foster's interaction with other SoCon coaches had been limited until he took the UTC job and began recruiting in some of the same circles this past summer.
"He's a big deal," Wofford women's coach Edgar Farmer said. "You're talking about a Hall of Fame coach who has coached WNBA players and Olympians and has been a standout in our game. I have a ton of respect for what he's done in our game."
But Wade and some of his SoCon peers -- both young and veteran -- have crossed paths in recent years, especially on the summer recruiting circuit.
"I got to know Will primarily because every recruit that I had called about in North Carolina, Will had already called on, so I got to know his name really fast without knowing him," UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller said. "He's a guy that I've been friendly with, and we certainly have a lot of mutual friends."
Western Carolina coach Hunter -- who has won 599 more games than Wade and began coaching before Wade was born -- met the Mocs' coach over the summer in a hotel lobby before an AAU tournament.
"I know Will has a great background and he's a great addition to our conference," Hunter said. "Everybody has to start somewhere.
"I was young at one time -- believe it or not -- and hit the ground running. I'm sure Will will do the same thing."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...