Last Spring, Final Four assistant coach Mike Rhoades returned to Richmond with a manifesto in tow.
“We’re gonna play fast, we’re gonna play exciting, we’re gonna get after people,” Rhoades said at his introductory press conference. “And we’re gonna win.”
This sentiment was music to the ears of RamNation. VCU led the country in steals and turnover margin in 2012 and has failed to repeat this impressive feat since. Most of us, myself included, thought HAVOC walked out the door to the University of Texas at Austin with Shaka Smart in 2014. We were wrong.
The truth is that it was, in fact, hiding in the lone star state, just not in Austin with Smart and the Longhorns.
After HAVOC took a figurative hiatus during Will Wade’s tenure on Broad Street, the up-tempo, hectic, full-court style of play long associated with VCU basketball will once again be synonymous with the Broad Street Bullies under Rhoades, the former head coach at Rice University in Houston.
While Wade preferred to run a slower, controlled style of offense and pick up opponents defensively at half court, Rhoades’ 2016-17 Rice team ranked 18th nationally in tempo and 21st in scoring offense at 81.5 points per game.
Junior point guard Marcus Evans — who accompanied Rhoades from Houston to Richmond — scored 1,350 points on 938 field goal attempts over two seasons in the lone star state. Evans led Conference USA in scoring last year.
In comparison, former VCU point guard JeQuan Lewis scored 939 points on 678 attempts over the same two-year span. Granted, Evans and Lewis are unique floor generals who excel in different facets of the game, but both were the undisputed engines of their respective scoring machines. Their numbers are indicative of the stylistic contrast between their coaches.
Coaching aside, Wade and Rhoades’ personalities further embody the differences between their regimes. Wade emitted an admittedly energetic yet contradictorily buttoned-up persona congruent with his Tennessee roots that always felt removed from the VCU community.
Meanwhile, Rhoades is all Richmond. Seriously, search his name on Google Images — the first thing that comes up is a grinning Rhoades with a bloody mouth and missing tooth next to a VCU Final Four banner hanging in Franklin Street Gym. It’s freaking perfect people.
This attitude could, and should, return VCU to the ‘glory days.’ In January 2013, the Black and Gold sat at 16-3, owners of the nation’s second longest active win streak at 13 games and ranked 19th in the country, the first time since 1985 VCU had cracked the AP top 25.
“Our plan is, over the course of a 40-minute game, to wear the other team down,” Smart said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that January, with his team on the brink of becoming the most successful regular-season team VCU has ever touted. “Depth is extremely critical. We love to play 10, 11 guys and some teams play only six or seven. Again, over the course of a 40-minute game, that’s got to work to your advantage, if you get the game going fast.”
Then, our world came crashing down around us. A heartbreaking tournament loss to Ohio State followed by Smart’s shocking announcement that he would be departing for Texas left RamNation numb. VCU may have trademarked the word HAVOC, but at the time, what felt like rock bottom had many wondering if we had seen the last of the infamous chaotic style that had propelled us to heights never before imagined in the River City.
Yet, it is 2017, and the ship remains afloat. For all the criticism he has received since leaving, Will Wade worked wonders in extending VCU’s streak of tournament appearances and 24-win-seasons while at the helm on Broad Street. He may not have played or carried himself exactly how RamNation wanted him to, but Wade did his part to bridge the gap.
The Broad Street magic that made national headlines in 2011 felt dormant, but not lost, under the Will Wade regime.
Now Rhoades returns to release HAVOC and awaken the Broad Street Bullies. Turns out, they were hiding in Franklin Street Gym the whole time. We just didn’t notice because we were spending too much time in the shiny new development facility.
“Chance favors the aggressor,” reads the wall of said facility.
Too long have we lost sight of that powerful mantra. No more.
Mike Rhoades is back in town RamNation — and he brought HAVOC with him.