Wiedmer: Weary Mocs still adjusting to Wade's world

Wiedmer: Weary Mocs still adjusting to Wade's world

July 12th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Will Wade is the new UTC men's head basketball coach.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

It was arguably the highlight of Will Wade's introductory news conference as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach.

Less than hour after accepting UTC's offer, Wade told of phoning rising sophomore guard Gee McGhee at his Louisiana home and having a little fun at the player's expense.

"Coach, I'm so excited to play fast," McGhee reportedly blurted out as soon as Wade introduced himself.

Replied the coach, his tongue drilling a hole in his cheek: "Well, that's the thing, Gee. We're going to play slow."

Said a stunned McGhee, mindful of how fast and furious the Virginia Commonwealth teams played where Wade was an assistant: "Slow? I don't like to play slow."

No longer able to contain a giggle, Wade came clean, telling McGhee that the Mocs would make even NASCAR proud this upcoming season.

Now fast-forward to this week, McGhee and the rest of the Mocs enduring the daily conditioning drills of new strength coach Greg Goldin, as well as the two hours a week that the NCAA allows them to spend with Wade during the summer.

Asked the number of jokes and pranks orchestrated by Wade this summer, McGhee said, "None at all. Coach is all about his business. Sometimes I could catch my breath last summer. We're going 100 percent every second this year. There's a whole lot more running."

Added UTC's lone senior, Z. Mason: "It's constant running and jogging. I'm always drenched with sweat and worn out when we're done."

Welcome to Wade's World, where much discipline and determination is required to produce the coach's Chaos playing style.

"He runs a tight ship," Mason said. "During the first semester of summer school, Coach Wade would meet me at class every morning. Coach [John] Shulman's staff was like that, too. But it's clear that Coach Wade wants to make sure we understand that academics are a very big deal with him."

It is such a big deal that every assistant is in charge of three or four players. Assistant Wes Long watches over Mason. Director of basketball operations Brooks Savage oversees McGhee's academic progress.

"[Wade's] constantly telling us it's not all about basketball," McGhee said. "When the ball stops bouncing, will you be ready? He's always showing us what the real world is like."

The real college basketball world should be a difficult one for UTC. There are only three juniors to help Mason lead a roster that should include five sophomores and five freshmen, all of them unfamiliar with Wade's plan to create chaos for the opposition by applying continuous defensive pressure from all points on the court.

Not that McGhee seems worried.

"We haven't learned the whole concept yet," he said. "Not even close. But it's going to have a lot of people shook."

And once they're shook, Wade's goal is to bury them beneath a barrage of 3-pointers.

"I'm shooting at least 300 3-pointers every day," McGhee said.

Added Mason, the team's best post presence: "I'm shooting about 200 or so 3s a day. I might take three or four in a real game this year. But it's not just about shooting them. Coach wants to make sure we're mechanically right when we shoot. He wants each one practiced the right way."

Exactly 60 days have come and gone since UTC athletic director David Blackburn tabbed Wade to will the Mocs back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 and deliver the first 20-win season since 2005.

To that end, McGhee said of Wade's World where he and his teammates now reside: "There's nothing slow about it."

Well, nothing except waiting for it to begin for real this fall and winter inside McKenzie Arena.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com