A Day to Celebrate For Virginia Tech

A Day to Celebrate For Virginia Tech
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics/ACC Media
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Mar 12, 2022

Turn back the clock to the spring of 2014 for just a moment. Virginia Tech Basketball was in very bad shape with underfunded programs and staffing relative to their ACC competition and poor results following.

The Virginia Tech men's basketball program had become the dumpster fire of the ACC with three-straight seasons finishing at least tied for last place in the ACC with losing overall records in all three seasons. James Johnson became the second VT head coach to be fired in three seasons after Seth Greenberg was fired following the 2011-12 season.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech women's basketball was in a deeper hole with Tech having not had a winning overall record to finish a season since 2007 and a winning conference record since the final season of Bonnie Henrickson in 2003-04.

Tech basketball across the board was in a bad shape. The days of Dell Curry and Ace Custis and Charlie Moir and Bonnie Henrickson seemed lightyears away while interest in VT basketball was faint to say the last with half empty Cassell Coliseums for ACC men's games the following season even with a new coach.

The coaching on both sides with James Johnson and Dennis Wolff left much to be desired and while both were good guys, neither seemed near the level of ACC winning coaches.

While the 2014-15 season would be tough with both programs suffering losing seasons again, the seeds of basketball revival were just starting to bloom to launch the golden era of Virginia Tech basketball led by three man: Buzz Williams, Kenny Brooks, and Mike Young.

Since the 2014-15 season, Virginia Tech hasn't had a single losing season in either men's or women's basketball building up to the peak that Tech fans can celebrate today.

On one side, Virginia Tech men's basketball has made history with an NIT followed by five NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons capped off this season with the program's first ACC Tournament title and first conference tournament title since winning the Metro Conference Tournament title in 1979. That run has included Tech's second ever run to the Sweet 16 or later while also seeing Buzz Williams and Mike Young join Charlie Moir as the only VT coaches with multiple NCAA Tournament appearances.

On the other side, Virginia Tech women's basketball has done enough to be in every postseason whether contested or not starting with a WNIT in Dennis Wolff's final season. Then, Kenny Brooks built a machine that saw the Hokies three-straight WNIT before having a team that would have earned a bid to the 2020 NCAA Tournament if it would have happened followed by Tech's first official bid since 2006. Lastly, Tech will be in the 2022 NCAA Tournament with a realistic chance at earning a top 4 seed for only the second time in program history (1999) which would also bring NCAA games to Blacksburg.

Tonight represents a celebration of one of the greatest basketball turnarounds across the board that has been seen in college hoops ever with two teams that have achieved heights that stand out from most of the teams that came before them in this golden era.

The Virginia Tech Women's team may not have landed the big early season wins, but they found their stride in ACC play on their way to a top 5 finish in conference play with multiple big wins and a top 10 NET ranking plus a top 20 ranking in the polls. This was a team that reached the ACC Tournament semifinals and could have won the whole thing if Elizabeth Kitley didn't get hurt.

Tech may have been fairly healthy overall, but Kenny Brooks' team dealt with plenty of injuries at less than ideal times including ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley plus starter Cayla King in the ACC Tournament with Tech rising up to beat a ranked UNC team on their way to the semis without those two.

This was a team that had lots of expectations and met all of them led by Kitley who may be the greatest player in Virginia Tech women's basketball history. Aisha Sheppard has left her spot in Hokie lore as the all-time scoring leader and the ACC's three-point shot leader while Georgia Amoore's legacy continues to grow. Players like Cayla King, Kayana Traylor, Azana Baines, Emily Lytle, and D'Asia Gregg have come from all sorts of places prior to Tech but have proven to be great role pieces.

And Kenny Brooks has built a program that Tech fans have plenty to be proud of, a program that plays with the highest character and toughness. A program that has continued to get better and better over the years with this being the most complete team to date in a Tech team that is getting hot at the right time and has a great chance to make a deep, deep run this March Madness.

The Virginia Tech Men's team didn't have the same path as the women with a 10-10 start that left them 2-7 in ACC play in last place seeming to be left for dead in the middle of January after a home buzzer beater loss to Miami. It was a moment where most teams would have likely folded especially given the weight of expectations that the Hokies were the sleepers to win the ACC who should have been ranked preseason and jumped into the top 25 briefly early in the season.

At the time, Mike Young kept saying that "this thing is going to turn" and it most certainly did.

Instead of folding, the Hokies became the team that they always had the potential to be winning 13 of 15 games starting with a stunning win at Florida State to end the long drought in Tallahassee. From there, Tech got on a roll largely built at home in front of Cassell Coliseum but also with thrilling road victories including their first Q1 win at Miami thanks to a late Darius Maddox three.

That all led up to the greatest conference tournament run of all-time for Virginia Tech winning four games in four days which all started with a Darius Maddox overtime buzzer beater to beat Clemson that had to go or else Tech would be NIT bound. After that, Tech beat three likely or guaranteed NCAA Tournament who were the top 3 seeds in the ACC Tournament by larger margins each day including top 25 UNC followed by a top 10 team in Duke, both by double-digits.

This team showed that they had the veteran presence to overcome playing with what Keve Aluma described plenty as desperation and rising to the moment from there led by their star veteran bigs in Aluma and Mutts with Aluma earning All-ACC honors and Mutts becoming a passing master mind as a power forward. David N'Guessan

Meanwhile, Storm Murphy found his footing in ACC play with Sean Pedulla emerging as a future star PG and playing a bigger and bigger role. Darius Maddox became a clutch shooter for Tech while Nahiem Alleyne found his rhythm and though Hunter Cattoor slumped during the stretch offensively, his defense before putting up an incredible 31-point game to win the ACC title over Duke that will be remembered for a long time.

Mike Young, like Kenny Brooks, has built a program on the foundation of the Buzz Williams, Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Kerry Blackshear (and more) era of winning and character that has more high character winners who have proven they can handle even the greatest imaginable adversity.

On both fronts, Virginia Tech has seen a basketball revival that has brought a level of success on all fronts that has never overlapped before with coaches who are reaching heights at the level or beyond what the greatest coaches and players did which never really overlapped between the men's and women's sides previous before now.

All of this has come eight years after Virginia Tech basketball was the worst across the board in the ACC by far with a crumbing base of interest and programs that were an after thought in many ways. Now, Virginia Tech is in a golden era that is showing signs of not even being at its peak yet but rather redefining what is possible at Virginia Tech on the basketball court.

So enjoy this day Hokies. Sit back in your chairs tonight tuning in to CBS at 6pm and ESPN at 8pm to see two of the great Virginia Tech basketball teams rewarded for their success and get their chance at growing their legacies even more.

Grab a cold drink and celebrate the players, coaches, and staffers who have done things the right way at Virginia Tech and continued to lead the Hokies to greater heights in the greatest era of Virginia Tech basketball.

And get ready for a second-straight season of both Tech teams entering the greatest tournament in the world with a 1 in 68 chance at winning a national championship, something that appeared almost impossible just eight years.