| NEWS LSU’s Will Wade dodges questions about suspension, reinstatement - Major Wager


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LSU basketball coach Will Wade repeatedly dodged questions surrounding his March suspension — and later reinstatement — during a Tuesday press conference in Destin, Fla.

Wade was suspended from LSU back in March after he was reportedly caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a “strong-ass” offer to current LSU guard Javonte Smart.

However, Wade was reinstated about a month later. When he was asked directly about the “offer” on Tuesday, he referred to a meeting with LSU and the NCAA that resulted in his reinstatement.

That was status quo for Wade for the duration of this press conference. He was also asked directly if money had ever changed hands between LSU’s staff and a potential recruit.

“Everything you can think of was addressed in the meeting with LSU and the NCAA,” he said.

Wade’s only show of remorse came when referencing that meeting with LSU and the NCAA. He says he wished they could have found a way to get together more quickly, and he took the blame for how things played out.

The process of Wade’s suspension didn’t seem to impact LSU in March. The Tigers earned a 3-seed and took care of business against 14-seeded Yale and 6-seed Maryland. LSU did fall to 2-seeded Michigan State in the Sweet 16, 80-63.

Wade also insisted his staff was continuing to recruit aggressively. LSU currently has the No. 7 class in the SEC according to 247Sports Composite rankings, including a signature from 5-star forward Trendon Watford.

LSU did get good news earlier this week, as Marlon Taylor and Skylar Mays announced they are returning to school after testing the NBA draft waters.

Here’s the full press conference, courtesy of Amie Just:


DESTIN, Fla. — LSU head coach Will Wade met with the media for the first time since his team hoisted an Southeastern Conference championship, played in the 2019 NCAA Tournament and his reinstatement to the program. Below is a full transcript of what Wade told reporters as he now enters his third year coaching the Tigers.

"This has been a difficult couple months for LSU and our basketball program. As the leader of the basketball program here today, start the process of rebuilding trust and building the trust. I think certainly as I’ve had time to reflect since I was out for 40 days or so, there’s some mistakes that I made. Ever since that, when I was able to sit down and talk with LSU and meet with LSU and meet with the NCAA, I was fully cooperative. I disclosed everything and answered any and all questions completely and fully with LSU and the NCAA. That ultimately led to my reinstatement as the head coach at LSU.

"What was said in those meetings is private and confidential. That’s how the meeting was set up. I can’t get into a lot of the details or any of the details, but the meeting was very very thorough and covered any and all topics from various media reports to any and all aspects of our program. It was a wide-ranging meetings that covered everything.

"After my reinstatement, my name came up again in the latest testimony in the latest trial. I’m not going to get into addressing every media report and everything that’s come out, because some of them are so far out there, it doesn’t even warrant me giving credence to it by responding. I will say this on the latest report not covered in the meeting with LSU, it is absolutely false. It did not happen.

"I’m very proud to be the basketball coach at LSU. I’m very confident in how we’ve run the basketball program and I look forward to starting my third season at LSU and trying to lead LSU back to the NCAA tournament and back to back SEC championships."

Q: What’s your definition of mistakes made?
"I think as you look … as a basketball coach, you’ve got to make a lot of decisions and you’ve got to make decisions quickly and process a lot of information quickly. Certainly as I look back, that Friday where we were going to meet with the administration, I think I made a poor decision on how I handled that. If I could go back and do it again, I would have taken the meeting and been a little more forceful in getting that meeting. What happened after that, any time you get lawyers involved, things get drawn out. At that point, it was more face to face interaction. After that, the lawyers got involved and it took it out a very, very long time, so certainly wish looking back on things we could have gotten into a room together a lot quicker than we did. That was my mistake. Certainly I respect LSU’s decision based on that. I think that was a mistake I made and something I did in haste as I was trying to make a quick decision."

Q: Ever been an exchange of money between the current staff and a player or player rep?
A: "I understand you have to ask that. I can’t get into… I’ve address the latest situation. All that other stuff, I can assure you … I can’t get into the meeting because of the confidentiality in there, but I can assure you everything you can think of was addressed in that meeting with LSU and the NCAA, and that ultimately led to my reinstatement."

Q: What prompted you to have that meeting?
A: "It was a complicated situation. Like I said, when it first occurred, I made a mistake. I wish it wouldn’t have taken 38 days for it to happen. Once you get lawyers involved and gets out of your hands or me dealing directly with people, it makes things quite a bit more complicated. I severly underestimated how long it would take the lawyers and those folks to work through some of those issues. That’s what ultimately made things last quite a bit longer than any of us wanted. I wish going back I could have found a way to handle it better on that Friday before the Vanderbilt game."

Q: Can you explain what the strong-ass offer was?
A: "I think … it’s a good question. I can’t get into the specifics of everything. Like I was saying earlier, I can assure you in my meetings with LSU and the NCAA, I addressed all the media reports, everything that’s been reported and that ultimately led to my reinstatement."

Q: Were you quoted accurately?
A: "I've not heard the recordings so I do not know. I don't think any of us have heard the recordings."

Q: There was reporting that in the recording, you were quoted as saying that. Did you say those words?
A: "Look, I sat down with LSU and I have answered any and all questions with regards to all of the media reporting and everything that has been out there and that's what ultimately got us to where we are today."

Q: Does the fan base or public in general deserve an explanation?
A: "I think eventually, certainly, as we move forward from this, I certainly want to get to a point where I can have full disclosure just like I did in that meeting with everybody in the public. We're just not at that place right now."

Q: Has this experience changed the way you recruit?
A: "I have a sign on our practice facility wall that says chance favors the aggressor. We've obviously played very aggressively on the court. We've been very aggressive in recruiting. I think I've come off as a little bit brash, to be honest. I think that's rubbed some folks the wrong way and that's my fault. So, will it change the way we recruit? We're still going to recruit the best players we can to LSU, but I need to make sure that I'm confident about what we're doing and I'm confident about what we're selling, but there's a line that you can't get up to and I think maybe sometimes I've gotten to that point where it's a little bit too brash. We're going to continue to be aggressive, we're going to continue to recruit the best players that we can recruit. We're excited about where we're going."

Q: What was it like watching your team in the NCAA Tournament?
A: "I'm not a very good fan. It was very very tough to watch our guys. I was very proud of our guys. They were resilient all year. We'd had quite a few things, if you followed us, happen all season that were very very tough to deal with. I was just very proud of our guys and pleased with how they responded. I was proud of my coaching staff and how they held everything together, which was not an easy feat and not easy to do, but it was difficult, but like I said with Ron's question, I put myself in that situation. You've got to understand that. I put myself in that situation so you've got to live with it. It was what you would think. I was yelling at the TV. Didn't throw my remote, but it was certainly very very end of the games and into it to try and help our guys and see our guys advance. I was disappointed too because of my situation, it took away from some of the great things our team did, some of the great players we had. The story was more about me sometimes than it was about our players. We have phenomenal players and we have phenomenal student-athletes so that was very difficult."

Q: On the new AD and new contract:
A: "I'm excited to be LSU's coach. I love it at LSU, I love it in Louisiana. I haven't hidden that. I've had good meetings with Scott. Like I said earlier, I don't know Scott so it's a trust-building process. I need to build trust with Scott and that comes through action. Trust is following through on what you're going to say you're going to do it. It's really going to take time with Scott to continue to build trust and build upon the foundation that we've started. I'm looking forward to that opportunity and looking forward to continuing to coach at LSU and working with Scott to continue to deliver championships for LSU. I do think the contract amendment was something that came out of the meeting with LSU and the NCAA. I think the contract amendment showed not only — LSU reinstating me showed a commitment to me. I think the contract amendment showed my commitment to LSU and how we've run the program and how we're going to move forward and continue to run the program."

Q: How have you continued to recruit?
A: "Recruiting is always a difficult and challenging process. This situation has certainly added some layers onto that process. Like we've done with anything, we've been open and transparent. We answer any and all questions that a parent or a recruit may have. I think sometimes in recruiting, the relationships are undervalued. You're building relationships with people, you're building relationships with potential players. So when you build those relationships, those people get to know you and you get to know them so you can have a lot more open dialogue. A lot of these people we're recruiting are checking in on me during this time. People that you've had very very strong relationships with throughout the process and I think that helps as you've got to sit down and certainly answer questions. You're always answering questions in recruiting, they're always asking you questions about different things and I certainly think this has added a different layer of question and another layer of questions that we need to answer. We're going to continue to do that."

Q: Do you wish you had not gotten the attorney's involved?
A: "It was my mistake with being a little bit naive thinking it'd be quicker to have the attorneys involved to get things done. That just makes it longer so I wish that I could go back to that Friday and change things. I can't and I was pleased once the attorneys got together, they were able to figure things out and hammer things out and ultimately set up a meeting. Like Amie said, it was 37 days, 40 some odd days later than we would have wanted it."

Q: On if the money being lost when he was suspended was fair:
A: "Look, I'm happy to be the coach at LSU. When we came out of that meeting, I knew to be the coach at LSU there were certain things that were going to need to happen so I was fine with that. I'm excited about our future, I'm excited about what we've got going on. I certainly understand the university's position on that and I was happy to give that up to be the head coach at LSU."
Stick with Geaux247 for the latest on LSU's time at the spring meetings in Destin.

DESTIN, Fla. — “That’s a good question,” Will Wade said, with an incongruous smile on his face.

Wade then proceeded to not answer said question. And LSU seems perfectly fine with enabling its men’s basketball coach as he performs a weak charade that evades public accountability.

If there were a good answer to that good question, the public certainly would have heard it by now.

Tuesday was the first time Wade has faced reporters since March 7, and this was the question I asked him here at Southeastern Conference spring meetings: “Can you explain the ‘strong-ass offer’ to Javonte Smart?” Yahoo Sports reported the contents of an FBI wiretap from a 2017 conversation between Wade and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins, who has since been convicted of felonies in two separate federal trials. On the wiretap, Wade expressed frustration that a “strong-ass offer” made to Smart’s family had not yet been accepted by a third party involved in the recruitment.

“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit,” Wade said on the wiretap. “It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

Eighty-two days later, Will Wade still isn’t offering an explanation for those comments. A believable answer that doesn’t paint Wade as a brazen NCAA rule violator — should one exist — would help restore any credibility he could hope to have. But Wade isn’t offering it now, or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Wade says he addressed the wiretap allegations in an April meeting with LSU officials and NCAA investigators — a meeting he originally refused to have, leading to a lengthy suspension. After the meeting, the school reinstated Wade — albeit with a modified contract that leaves him with diminished job security.

So this bizarre kabuki dance continues. Wade has his job, and even managed to land a five-star recruit last week. Yet he’s still immersed in evasive maneuvers.

I asked whether the LSU fan base and general public were owed an explanation for the wiretapped call Yahoo Sports reported in March. Wade said he “can’t get into the specifics of everything.”

“Eventually, as we move forward from this, I want to get a point where we have full disclosure,” Wade said. “… We’re not at that point right now.”

This all sounds a bit like Reggie Bush 13 years ago, when Yahoo Sports reported that the running back received a rather handsome array of impermissible benefits while at USC. Bush said at the time, “I know what the truth is, like I said from day one. Once the smoke clears, everybody's going to see we did nothing wrong."

The smoke eventually cleared, and Bush was busted. His Heisman Trophy wound up vacated and USC was hit with major sanctions.

“Full disclosure” sounds good at a podium, but the follow through can be problematic.

Wade did offer one concrete answer related to his multiple appearances on FBI wiretaps that were entered into evidence at the two federal trials of bribery schemes involving college basketball assistant coaches. In the second trial, former Arizona coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson was heard on one wiretap — entered into court on April 29 — saying that Wade had offered him a job in an effort to land New Jersey big man Naz Reid. (LSU did sign Reid and he was a key member of the 2018-19 team before turning pro after one season.)

Richardson said that Wade told him, “Look, there’s a deal in place, I got $300,000 for him.” According to the recording, Richardson said he told Wade in response: "Give me half and I'll make sure the kid goes there."

Tuesday, Wade characterized Richardson’s claim as “absolutely false. It did not happen.”

But when asked multiple times whether the “strong-ass offer” comments he made on March 7 were accurate, Wade ducked and dodged — but never denied.

All told, Wade’s 16 minutes at a podium here only served to make LSU look more foolish, not less. If that’s the best the guy can do in terms of reassuring everyone that he’s done his job cleanly, he isn’t giving the school much to stand behind.

But this stance is nothing new. It doesn’t appear that LSU has ever been very inquisitive about Wade’s extraordinary recruiting prowess after getting the job in the spring of 2017.

A Yahoo Sports Freedom of Information Act request for Wade’s phone records from his first seven months on the job showed that he made just 13 calls in that time on his LSU-issued cell phone — a laughably low number. Clearly, he was conducting business — quite likely including the calls that were wiretapped — on a personal phone.

LSU, despite being charged with compliance oversight of its coaches, said it had “no documents” pertaining to Wade’s use of non-LSU phones. If the school ever had any concern (or even mere curiosity) regarding his extremely sparse use of the phone it issued to him, there is no evidence of it.

While Wade managed to navigate through his press conference here by avoiding direct questions, there is significant curiosity about how he will be greeted when the SEC’s basketball coaches meet behind closed doors. This league is by no means angelic, but Wade’s recruiting tactics would be construed as outrageous even by SEC standards.

In his press conference, Wade may have offered a sneak preview of how he was going to handle that room, saying, “I’ve come off as a little bit brash, to be honest. … That’s my fault.”

As the NCAA continues to move forward with its investigations in the aftermath of the federal trials, Wade’s status could depend directly on how much the Indy enforcement staff can pin on him. There are additional FBI wiretaps with Wade on them that have not been released, but there is no guarantee they will never see the light of day. New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, who was hired only last month, faces the prospect of having a Will Wade anchor strapped to his chest right away.

For now, at least, LSU is standing by its man — no matter how unconvincing he was in his first public comments in 82 days. Will Wade came to Destin with a lot of explaining to do, and did very little.
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