McNeese AD Heath Schroyer discusses MBB head coach opening, and Will Wade rumors

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 10:13 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - It’s been a busy week in Lake Charles, especially on the campus of McNeese State University. For starters, there are the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments taking place at the Legacy Center, where the Cowboys were able to win two games, advancing to the semi-finals for the first time since 2012, while the Cowgirls were able to win one before falling in overtime of the quarterfinals, and then there was the news that broke at 9:15 on Wednesday morning that McNeese had let go of men’s basketball head coach John Aiken.

The news, which was expected by many, came after a disappointing regular season where McNeese tied the program record for losses in a season with 22 as they finished with a 9-22 regular season record, including a nine-game losing streak in January and February, all to Southland Conference opponents.

Aiken served as the head men’s basketball coach in Lake Charles for two seasons, after being a part of the Cowboys’ coaching staff as an assistant coach, for three seasons. In two seasons under Aiken, McNeese held an overall record of 22-45 with a 10-22 record against conference opponents, and following what turned out to be his final game as head coach of the Cowboys, there was a sense that Aiken knew that he had put on the royal blue and sunflower gold for the final time.

“I shared that with our guys before the tournament, I said guys, I don’t want you to be blindsided by anything, so rumors are rumors, and we’re going to enjoy every moment that we have together,” said coach Aiken. “I would love to continue to coach here, I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve had, it’s been two of the best years, two of the hardest years of my life, but two of the best years, I hope I got more days in me, but I understand what the measurement is here, I understand what they want, and so that’s way above my head, and not something I’m going to stress out about too much.”

After the announcement was made on the McNeese Athletics Twitter account at 9:15 Wednesday morning, McNeese Director of Athletics Heath Schroyer met with a small group of media members inside the Legacy Center to discuss the decision, his expectations for the next McNeese head coach, and where the Cowboys go next.

“Today was a really really hard day for me personally, you know coach Aiken is a dear friend of mine and he’s a damn good basketball coach, but it just didn’t work out here,” said Schroyer. “As a university, we’ve made the decision to part ways and those decisions are never easy, especially with a guy that has the character of John, and he’s a dear friend, but it just didn’t work.”

Schroyer, who served as the McNeese men’s basketball head coach from 2018-2021, before stepping down as head coach to serve solely as the Athletic Director, brought Aiken to McNeese ahead of the 2018-19 season where Aiken would serve as an assistant coach until he was promoted to head coach ahead of the 2021-22 season. The decision clearly wasn’t an easy one for Schroyer who spoke only highly of John Aiken who he considers a close friend, but it was a decision he felt necessary in order to accomplish the expectations he has for the Cowboys.

“I’m not afraid to say it, at the end of the day, I want to be elite, I want to compete for conference, and tournament championships, period. That is the expectation of this program moving forward, it really is for all of our sports, but in men’s basketball right now, our window to become relevant regionally, and nationally, is right now,” said Schroyer on Wednesday morning.

Schroyer also discussed what he is looking for in the next head coach of the Cowboys saying “I’m going to find a coach that not only understands my expectations, but also embraces those expectations, and again, my expectation is to be competing for conference championships, and conference tournament championships, right away. My goal is simply one thing, to turn McNeese into an elite basketball job in the Southland, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be... we’re sitting on 45 losses in two years at, in my opinion, the best job in the league... we’re at the top of the league in funding, I think we have the best facility, I think we have the best community, we led the league in attendance, there are a lot of things that are in place for this thing to become what it should be, and to reach it’s potential.”

One name that has been linked to McNeese, and thrown around for quite some time is former LSU head coach Will Wade who was fired in March of 2022 after LSU received a notice of allegations that detailed significant misconduct that included seven Level I violation allegations, and a Level II violation allegation as well.

In five seasons with LSU, Wade held an overall record of 108-54, leading the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament three times in five seasons, and also helped LSU win their first SEC Regular Season Title in a decade in 2019, and led them to the Sweet Sixteen in 2019 as well, which was their furthest run in the NCAA Tournament since 2006.

Schroyer addressed the Wade rumors on Wednesday morning saying “I’ve talked to a lot of different coaches and coach Wade has a lot of options, at the end of the day, all of the coaches that I’m talking to have a lot of options, but we’re going to get the right guy that wants to be here, we’re going to get the right guy that chooses to be here, and chooses to embrace the expectations that I have for this program.”

Schroyer also discussed what this means for the current players on the men’s basketball team saying “You know the portal doesn’t open until (Monday, March) 13th, but I told them all I said hey, I’ve been in this business a long time, there’s not a search firm, a college coaching staff, or an agent that I don’t know, this thing is going to move pretty quick, and I want it to move quickly because we need to get on the track of being elite, and I told them they’re all going to meet the coach and whoever that is going to be, they’re going to be able to express their vision for the program, and we’ll go from there.”

As for the timetable for a decision to be made Schroyer said “I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, we obviously started vetting, (Deputy AD) Bridget (Martin) and (Senior Associate AD for External Affairs) Todd (Butler) and I... the timing for it, I’d like it to be done sooner rather than later because I want to get on the track of being elite, but we’ll get the right guy here whenever that is.”

For the most up-to-date updates on the head coach opening, McNeese Athletics, and more follow KPLC 7 Sports on Facebook and Twitter, plus 7 Sports Director Matthew Travis.