Jim Gazzolo column: Gambles pay off for AD

Published 10:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

It’s hard to tell now whether Heath Schroyer is the ultimate gambler or just crazy like a fox.

Or maybe he is a little of both.

Considered by many three months ago as simply crazy for hiring Will Wade to be the new McNeese State basketball coach, Schroyer now looks like a genius.

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Those against the move believed Wade was damaged goods from his time at LSU, where he was fired a year to the day before being introduced to the Cowboy faithful.

Some believed the NCAA would suspend Wade for a full season when the five-year investigation finally finished.

Schroyer, who seems to be on a winning streak, wasn’t bothered by other’s concerns. He figured even waiting a year for Wade was a win for the Cowboys.

Last week he once again proved he was a step ahead of the game.

Wade was given a 10-game suspension and some other recruiting limitations. Hardly a death sentence to a McNeese basketball program that was pretty much dying on its own.

You lose 45 games in two seasons, you are hardly the life of the party.

Maybe Schroyer figured he had nothing to lose. Truth is that desperate times need desperate measures.

And if you had watched McNeese basketball closely, you knew just how desperate change was needed.

Schroyer’s dilemma was not much different than when he was caught between two conferences and gambled to stay in the Southland. He was rewarded that time with a bevy of gifts from the league that included hosting several conference championship events.

That time the gamble paid off.

Not much was different this time either so Schroyer convinced Wade that Lake Charles was the perfect place for his extreme coaching makeover.

McNeese even tried to set a good example by suspending Wade for five games before the contract was signed. Nothing wrong with hedging one’s bets.

Now we know the price Schroyer will pay putting all his chips in on Wade. Strange, when you consider all the money and time spent by the NCAA over these issues, it only amounts to four hours of missing game time per year.

Most importantly, Wade will still be able to fully coach his basketball team except for those games. He will be at practices and meetings, preparing the Cowboys for the season.

And he will be there for the entire Southland Conference schedule and three games prior to its start. That means, if the schedule holds, Wade will be on the home bench for games against Southern Mississippi and Louisiana-Lafayette.

The game against the Ragin’ Cajuns is much more interesting to Cowboys fans with Wade around.

He will also coach at Michigan on Dec. 29 to close out the calendar year.

As if that were not enough, Wade has already made Schroyer a winner with record ticket sales and newfound hype in the basketball program.

Some guys have all the luck, and some guys seem to make their own. Through his willingness to gamble and think out of the box, Schroyer appears to do both.

Truth, however, is that Schroyer has made up his mind that he will take whatever chance he needs to give McNeese its best chance to succeed.

In the process he has built himself a nice winning streak to go with it.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com