Bob Wade

The Wade Experiment Fades

Bob Wade’s legacy at Maryland as its basketball coach for three years, following the death of Bias, is mixed. His NCAA violations will be remembered for setting back the basketball program for years. Wade called the group of men’s basketball coaches in the conference an “old boy’s network” in a Charlotte Observer report and added that his time in the ACC was difficult. But as the first black head coach of a men’s basketball team in the conference he can be considered a cultural pioneer, despite appearing uncomfortable in that role.

Even Robert Slaughter, who hired Wade, ultimately questioned the wisdom of the move. “In retrospect, it might have been an impossible situation for Bob,” he told the Washington Post in January 1990. “Bob followed a coaching legend. He was black. He was appointed by a black chancellor. He’s from a high school. He’s hired one day before practice begins. And the players had gone through hell after Leonard’s death. Throwing Bob in the middle of that was like throwing a piece of raw meat to a pack of lions. You’re going to get chewed up if you don’t do things perfectly. I don’t think Bob got the support he needed from many people. There were people within the athletic department as well as outside the department who did not want him to succeed.”

Bob Wade’s legacy as a beloved high-school basketball coach, however, continues to grow. In 2008 some of Wade’s former players at Dunbar honored the coach at a roast in Greenbelt, Maryland, a town about five miles from College Park. Those attending included former NBA player Muggsy Bogues and former Maryland star Graham. As of the fall of 2011 Wade worked as the athletic director with Baltimore City Public Schools. “He loved all of us,” Graham said in a Baltimore Sun report promoting the event. “He cared about us. He made a difference in the lives of a lot of young men in more ways than just coaching basketball.”

Bias_cover_pngExcerpted from the book, Born Ready: the Mixed Legacy of Len Bias

Learn about the Born Ready Project that teaches life skills, using Len’s legacy as a teaching tool.

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