Upon taking the position in March of 2017, VCU men’s basketball coach Mike Rhoades described his new post as a “dream job.”
“We’ve been on a ride for a long time, and this ride stops here, Mom, at VCU,” Rhoades said, bringing the crowd in a lively Siegel Center to its feet.
Rhoades delivered three NCAA tournaments in six years, but will now reportedly follow the footsteps of past Rams coaches who have sought greener pastures, and take the head job at Penn State.
The Penn State board of trustees approved a seven-year deal worth $25.9 million for Rhoades, according to the Associated Press. He replaces Micah Shrewsberry, who was hired away by Notre Dame last week.
At Penn State, Rhoades will be close to his Central Pennsylvania roots, as well as have an opportunity to work in the Big Ten.
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When Rhoades was hired, he became the third Rams coach in four seasons, following the departures of Shaka Smart (Texas, now Marquette) and Will Wade (LSU, now McNeese State).
Words like stability and continuity dominated the narrative around the former Randolph-Macon assistant-turned-head coach (1996-2009), as VCU supporters yearned for a long-term commitment from their head coach while the program developed a nationwide reputation as a mid-major stepping stone.
“You look at any program that has a huge amount of success on the college level, whether it’s Gonzaga basketball or Alabama football, continuity is important,” said VCU director of athletics Ed McLaughlin in 2017 following Rhoades’ introduction.
“Continuity to do things at a really high level is critically important. Mike made it clear from the first two or three minutes we talked this is the place he wants to be forever.”
Rhoades was married here, and his kids were born here. Upon arriving in Richmond after spending three seasons revitalizing the program at Rice, he and his family were greeted by a throng of friends. His wife, Jodie, their three children and Rhoades’ mother and sister all attended his introductory press conference.
The realistic VCU fan doesn’t begrudge the carousel that is head coaching in college basketball. Penn State for Rhoades symbolizes a step up the ladder. Though football is the Nittany Lions’ standard-bearing athletic program, increased salary and NIL / recruiting opportunities are sure to come along with life in Happy Valley.
But given Rhoades’ deep connections to the Richmond area, many had hoped his roots would compel him to stay, if not “forever,” at least past the first Power Five offer he garnered publicly.
“This is home,” Rhoades said in 2017. “I love it here. My family loves it here. … Everybody knows my affection for VCU and VCU basketball.
“Our roots are already here. We just came back to connect with them.”
Rhoades, the 12th coach in VCU history, also has roots in Pennsylvania. The Mahoney City., Pa. native played his college ball at Lebanon Valley College, where he helped The Flying Dutchmen win the 1994 NCAA Division III national championship.
In 10 seasons as head coach at R-MC, Rhoades compiled a 197-76 record and led the Yellow Jackets to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the Sweet 16 in 2002 and 2003.
Zach Joachim (804) 649-6555