Former Ole Miss Rebel Emmanuel Wade aiming to sustain ‘winning pedigree’ at Magnolia

MAGNOLIA, Ark. – Emmanuel Wade has been accustomed to rebuilding basketball programs, while also continuing to keep momentum going at others. This time around he is looking to add more layers to an already established dynasty.

The Magnolia School District announced Wade as the next boys basketball coach for the Panthers via a press release Thursday evening. A proven developer both on and off the court, Wade already appears to have a shared mindset with his new players as someone who knows the feeling of winning trophies. In six seasons as a head coach, Wade is 138-35 with 15 combined championships.

“This team has been accustomed to winning and I am excited to get around a bunch of kids that have a winning pedigree and a mindset to be champions,” Wade said in an exclusive interview with Natural State Sports. “Hopefully academically they feel the same way. We want them to win in the classroom as well so I am just excited about the entire opportunity and can not wait to get started.”

Wade takes over for Ben Lindsey, who left for the same position at Conway earlier this month. Lindsey compiled a very impressive 127-6 overall record that included two state titles and a 54-game win streak, along with two undefeated seasons.

A native of Marianna, Wade is not only a proven winner, but also a developer as evidenced by the job he did at Lee High School when the Trojans went from only 11 combined wins the previous two seasons before he took over to state champions.

Additionally, Wade has showed that he can adjust on the fly after suddenly being thrust into the head coaching role at Marion on an interim basis in November.

Wade was not retained by Marion and a reference he received regarding the open position sparked Wade’s interest in Magnolia.

“I got a call that said the Magnolia job is open and you might want to reach out and see what’s what, so I applied and it is history from there,” Wade said.

“I am just grateful for an opportunity to lead a really good program, God is good,” he continued. “Apparently Magnolia found out that Marion went in a different direction and wanted to give me an opportunity to join the Panther family. All praises to God!”

Now Wade is up for a new challenge, this time in south Arkansas where he is taking over a juggernaut.

Be Ready When Your Number Is Called

Like athletes, coaches too have to be ready for sudden changes and Wade, 43, experienced a big one last fall.

Literally as the 2023-24 basketball season was tipping off, Marion head coach David Clark abruptly resigned “to pursue other opportunities.” Clark won 108 games and a Class 5A state championship in five seasons with the Patriots, so to say the news came as a statewide shocker would be a gross understatement. As the lead assistant, Wade moved a chair over into the head coach’s seat.

“I really felt for David to have to go after one game into the season,” Wade said. “It was very shocking and I had no clue that it was happening. I just got called into the office and they said they needed me to step into the interim role. I was under the impression that I was going to be ‘The Guy’ but, however, I just wanted to do the best I could do.

“There were some challenges because I had to coach a team that I basically had not had any offseason preparation with. Everything was pretty much on the fly, which makes your job harder, but I thought I proved something to myself that you can still get it done with limited time.”

Marion excelled under Wade’s direction, going 19-5 and finished second in the 5A-East regular season standings before falling to Parkview in the first round of the state tournament.

“I knew there would be ups and downs throughout the process but I thought we got those guys to play a hard and fast pace of basketball,” Wade said. “Of course I wanted to go a lot further but I was proud of what we did.”

It Takes A Village

Growing up in the Arkansas Delta on the banks on the Mississippi River in Marianna, Wade excelled for the Lee High in the late nineties and earned a scholarship to play at the University of Mississippi, where he was a four-year letterman and shot 44% from the field in his career with the Rebels.

Despite having less than a decade of head coaching experience, Wade has compiled quite an impressive resume in such a short time. He led Lee High to three regular season conference championships, plus as many district and regional tournament titles from 2020-2022 while being tabbed Outstanding Coach of the Year in that span. The Trojans also won the 2021 2A state championship under Wade’s direction.

The success Wade had at Marianna did not come easy. He inherited a squad that was accustomed to struggling and then reeled off 29 victories during the 2019-20 campaign before the globe was blanketed by the COVID-19 virus.

Taking the Magnolia job is not Wade’s first opportunity at continued success, though. He had a quality stint while leading the eStem Charter School girls team in his first head coaching job, highlighted by a 4A quarterfinal round finish in 2018.

Additionally, youth development is something that Wade takes a lot of pride in. He has been recognized off of the court, earning the KARK Arkansas Community Service Award in 2018 and the Marianna Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year Award in 2021.

“Basketball is just a tool to get the attention, but ultimately we want to do things that build up young men and women,” Wade said. “I want to be an example setter and make an impression that will last a lifetime. I believe in teaching high character, accountability and commitment. I pride myself on building a culture and influencing our youth to pay it forward.

“Bridging gaps and making things happen for the community is a much bigger deal than winning basketball games. It is really important to get the groups that I lead to get out into the community to get things to understand there is another part of life way outside of basketball.”

Sustaining Success

Other than his playing days at Ole Miss, moving to Magnolia will be the first time Wade has not lived in the Arkansas Delta. While it will be an adjustment, it is another challenge he’s ready for.

“It is going to be a change, but I am willing to take it on,” Wade said. “I have to learn the landscape and who my competitors are in the area. I am excited to learn and grow.”

Magnolia was the top 4A program from 2019-22 with three state championships and the 50+-game win streak, plus another semifinal finish in 2021 where the Panthers were led by star guard Derrian Ford and lost to Morrilton and Ford’s future college teammate, Joseph Pinion. Ford and Pinion were a part of Arkansas’ heralded 2022 signing class and are now on the same roster at Arkansas State.

While the past two seasons for the Panthers have been far from disappointing with back-to-back state quarterfinal finishes, Wade is aiming to get another Arkansas prep hoops program to the highest point.

There may be some tweaks here and there, but Wade does not plan on fixing anything that is not broken.

“I will implement some systems of my own, but I want to research some things to figure out what worked for that program since they already have a rich history of winning,” Wade said. “I will reach out to the former coach to see what did and did not work out because I do not want the boys to go through an abrupt change. Switching up things may not be conducive to winning the group.”

For now, Wade’s focus is getting to know his team and building trust. That quickly got off to a positive start as players have already touched base with their new coach.

“I need to win those boys over because I know this is a fresh start and an emotional deal for them losing a coach that they have had for years,” Wade added. “I do know that those guys are excited because some of them have reached out to congratulate me.

“My first couple of weeks I want it to be about building rapport and relationships, just kind of hanging out together to get to know the kids. However, we are definitely going get to work because I do not plan on losing. I have a high standard and I am still going have high expectations to win.”

(Cover photo via Emmanuel Wade’s Facebook page)