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Chattanooga hires VCU assistant Wade as hoop coach

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Chattanooga hired VCU assistant Will Wade as the Mocs' new men's basketball coach on Monday, hoping his experience helping the VCU Rams develop into an NCAA tournament team can get that program back on track.

Wade, a Tennessee native born and raised in Nashville, says he remembers when Chattanooga regularly competed for NCAA tournament berths. Chattanooga made four NCAA appearances in a five-year span from 1993-97 and reached a regional semifinal in 1997.

But the Mocs have earned only one NCAA bid - in 2009 - over the past eight seasons. Wade replaces John Shulman, who was fired last month.

``They've been great in the past,'' Wade said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. ``They've had some great teams and a great program. They have all the makings to be great again.''

Wade, 30, had been on Shaka Smart's VCU staff the past four seasons. Wade helped the Rams make four straight postseason appearances, including three consecutive NCAA tournament trips and the 2011 Final Four.

VCU went 27-9 this season and finished with a No. 23 ranking nationally. The Rams are one of only five programs to win 27 or more games each of the past four seasons along with Duke, Kansas, Syracuse and Ohio State.

Wade will be formally introduced Tuesday as Chattanooga's 18th head coach. He has family connections to the school as the cousin of former Chattanooga offensive lineman and current Middle Tennessee offensive line coach Geep Wade.

``Will Wade distanced himself from a strong group of candidates as the clear choice to lead our men's basketball program,'' Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn said in a statement Monday announcing the hiring. ``He has been a major piece of VCU's success over the last four years and we feel he will bring our program back to a championship level.''

Blackburn hired the 30-year-old Wade just four days after announcing the 64-year-old Jim Foster as the new Chattanooga women's basketball coach. Wade, who will rank among the youngest Division I head coaches nationwide, believes his age could be a help rather than a hindrance.

``I think it's an advantage,'' Wade said. ``I think I've got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. I think it helps in terms of being able to relate to the players and having the ability to relate to them and spend time with them and develop really good relationships with them.''

At VCU, Wade worked with the Rams' ``Havoc'' defense, a full-court, pressing style that resulted in a school-record 422 steals in 2012-13 and the 18th-highest single-season total in NCAA history. The Rams led the nation in steals each of the past two years.

Wade expects to bring the same approach to Chattanooga.

``We're going to play a high-octane style very similar to what was done at VCU,'' Wade said.

Smart said in a statement that Chattanooga is hiring an ``absolute star'' in Wade.

``Will is extremely bright, hard-working and diligent,'' Smart said. ``No one will spend more time building relationships with student-athletes than Will. There is no question in my mind that he will be a tremendous success.''

Wade worked at Harvard for two seasons with Tommy Amaker before joining VCU. Wade graduated from Clemson in 2005 and spent six years working with that program between 2001 and 2007 as a student manager for four seasons, a graduate assistant for one and director of operations.

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