Radford coach Mike Jones owes University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Will Wade some payback — big time.
He has a chance to get it tonight.
The two former Virginia Commonwealth assistant coaches will face off tonight at 7 p.m. when the Mocs play the Highlanders in their first road game with Wade as the coach.
The payback goes back to the 2011 NCAA tournament when the Rams -- led by Shaka Smart and assisted by Wade and Jones -- made their run to the Final Four.
It starts with a picture of the VCU bench going crazy and jumping on the sideline during VCU's win over Florida State in Sweet 16. Everybody is jumping off the floor except Jones, which led to jokes about the old guy on the staff not being able to get out of his chair.
"I said, 'I'll celebrate when we win a meaningful game,'" Jones recalled Sunday. "After we beat Kansas [to reach the Final Four] I ran over to join the celebration. As I was going into the pile, Will was coming out of the pile.
"He elbowed me and shattered my front tooth."
"We were all running around the court and jumping around," Wade recalled, on his way to Radford. "He had to get a little dental work. But everybody was so excited. I felt bad for him that day."
Jones continued the story.
"We got back Sunday night, and on Monday morning, everybody was in the office celebrating and getting ready for the Final Four," he said. "I was in the dentist's chair.
"I still owe him. It's more than wins and losses -- need some sort of payback pain."
Those were the good times, the fun times, between friends. Due to their friendship, Wade said, there's no way this game would be played if not for a signed contract by both schools for a home-and-home two-year series.
"There are a lot of teams we could play from the Big South," Wade said. "I worked with [Jones] for two years. That's like family."
The Highlanders will return the favor -- family or not -- next season and play the Mocs in McKenzie Arena.
This is UTC's first road game of the season and its first game against comparable competition. The Highlanders play in a one-bid league as well.
"We are different, but there are similarities," Jones said. "I'm an older guy and a little more conservative. Those guys like Shaka and Will are risk-reward investors."
The Mocs have invested blood and sweat in hopes that the rewards will be victories. They've one so far -- a 119-56 whipping of Division III Covenant.
The competition changes today.
"We'll have more times when we face adversity," sophomore Eric Robertson said. "We'll have to create our own energy and play without a crowd and stay focused."
"I'm excited to get out there for our first road game. Everything since we started this summer has been preparing us for this."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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