By Charles Cochrum and David Ruth
Mike Rhoades, one of the architects of Virginia Commonwealth’s (VCU) run of NCAA Tournament appearances, has been named the 24th head coach in Rice University men’s basketball history, Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard announced Wednesday.
Rice formally introduced Rhoades at a news conference Thursday in the R Room at Rice Stadium.
“First and foremost, we were looking for a person of high integrity and a proven winner,” Karlgaard said. “We got everything we wanted. From the time I first assembled the pool of candidates, Mike Rhoades topped the list. He was the focus of our search from day one.”
Rhoades spent the last five seasons on staff at VCU, which posted a 137-46 record during his tenure. The Rams played in postseason tournaments each of his five years, the last four in the NCAA Tournament. That run was highlighted by a trip to the Final Four in 2011.
“I want to thank Rice University for this incredible opportunity to be your head basketball coach,” Rhoades said.
After introducing his family, who were seated at the table with him and Karlgaard, Rhoades addressed the men’s basketball team players who were present.
“Fellas, we’re going to have fun. Our energy and enthusiasm are going to be awesome,” Rhoades said. “We’re going to work. It’s not going to be easy but together it’s going to be rewarding, and I promise you it’s going to be worth it.
“We will become a family by building a bond everyday with our effort and our approach. We came here because we’re going to win.”
Rhoades joined VCU head coach Shaka Smart’s staff as an assistant coach in Smart’s first season (2009-10), a year that saw the Rams win 27 games and the College Basketball Invitational tournament championship. The following season, VCU tied the program record with 28 wins and made national headlines during a thrilling run as an 11th seed in the NCAA Tournament. VCU defeated University of Southern California, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas to earn a spot in the Final Four at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
“Rice has made a phenomenal hire in Mike Rhoades,” Smart said. “He’s a tremendous person, a tireless worker and an inspiring leader. Over the past five years, Mike has been instrumental to our success and played a key role in literally every facet of our program. While it is sad to see him go, I am so excited for Mike and his family to be joining the Rice community. Great days are ahead.”
Rhoades was promoted to associate head coach in his second year and helped VCU set a new program record with 29 wins en route to the second of four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The team knocked off fifth-seeded Wichita State to advance to the Round of 32 against Indiana. Following the season, Rhoades was named one of the top 10 assistant coaches under the age of 40 by ESPN.com.
In 2012-13 Rhoades and the Rams advanced to the Atlantic 10 championship game and again earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as a five seed. The Rams knocked off Akron in their first game to mark their seventh NCAA Tournament win in just four seasons. VCU then fell to national runner-up Michigan in the following round.
This past season, VCU repeated its success as an at-large fifth seed to the NCAA Tournament with a 26-9 record. The Rams toppled No. 3 Virginia in an early season road contest and finished second in the league, one game behind fellow top-25 foe Saint Louis.
Before making the move to the Division I ranks at VCU, Rhoades gained 10 years of head coaching experience at NCAA Division III Randolph-Macon College in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), which is located 20 miles north of the VCU’s Richmond, Va., campus.
Rhoades compiled a 72.2 winning percentage (197-76 record) at Randolph-Macon, leading the Yellow Jackets to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the Sweet 16 in 2002 and ’03.
Rhoades’ teams won six ODAC championships and earned national No. 1 rankings in two seasons. He was named ODAC Coach of the Year in three-straight seasons from 2001 to 2003, coached three ODAC Players of the Year, five ODAC Freshmen of the Year as well as 17 first- and second-team all-ODAC selections. In 2003 he was named NABC South District Coach of the Year and State Coach of the Year by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
He began his coaching career at age 23 as an assistant at Randolph-Macon in 1996 under longtime head coach Hal Nunnally. The Yellow Jackets posted winning records in all three seasons with Rhoades on staff before he was elevated to head coach in 1999 at age 25.
Rhoades played college basketball at Lebanon Valley College in his home state of Pennsylvania and led the squad to the 1994 NCAA Division III national championship under coach Pat Flannery in a 66-59 overtime win against New York University.
He was named USA Today DIII National Player of the Year in 1995 and twice earned all-America honors. He graduated with a degree in history in 1995. He left as the school’s all-time scoring leader and still holds Lebanon Valley records in free-throw percentage (84.5 percent.), assists (668) and steals (212).
Following his collegiate playing career, Rhoades spent one year playing professionally. He earned an invite to the Phoenix Suns’ summer camp and then pursued his career in France before his season was cut short by an injury.
The Mahanoy City, Pa., native and his wife, Jodie, have two sons, Logan (10) and Chase (5), and a daughter, Porter (8).