Just about every coach in every sport in America preaches family, but Kenny Brooks has been one who has truly lived that out with that family emphasis certainly helping the Hokies reach their first Final Four.
Brooks learned the importance of not only building a family culture but prioritizing his only family first from the great Lefty Driesell and his wife early in his career.
"My family is everything to me. I played for Lefty Driesell. Lefty not only taught us basketball, but he taught us family. Everywhere we went, family, his family was there. Ms. Driesell, even if I was mad at Coach Driesell, Ms. Driesell would come up and give me a hug and tell me she loved me. That's something that meant a lot to me," Brooks said.
That's easier said than done though as Brooks admits he had some struggles with achieving that balance during some of his coaching tenure at JMU.
"When I was at James Madison, I felt like I was so busy making a life, that I wasn't living a life. It was a blur. I watched my kids grow up, and I missed a lot. I missed a whole lot," Brooks said.
As his success grew at JMU, so did the higher level opportunities including Virginia Tech with that proving to be the one that appealed to him the most. However, he had some hesitations given that his kids hadn't had to move to date and given that he was a different program inside the Commonwealth of Virginia, he also had raised his kids to not be the biggest Hokie fans.
"So when the Virginia Tech opportunity came along, my wife was on board because she understood that the challenges that I wanted to accomplish, I wanted to test my wits against the best, and she knew that. But my children had never moved. Unprecedented, they had never moved before in their lives. They lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Their grandparents lived there. Their cousins lived there, their aunts. They had a normal life. They didn't have a coach's family life," Brooks said.
"I taught them to hate Virginia Tech because we were James Madison, and we were always battling. My oldest child was on board. My baby girl, she didn't know what was going on. She was just going where daddy and mommy went. My middle child was reluctant. She said, I'm not going. She said, I'm staying here."
That one initial holdout was middle daughter Chloe Brooks who would eventually play for Virginia Tech and has played a role on this roster.
While Chloe was steadfast early on, she also didn't want get in the way of her dad's dreams making it clear to Kenny Brooks that family was going to be a priority at Virginia Tech.
"Ultimately, one day I was sitting, as I was contemplating, I was sitting on my bed actually, and my middle child Chloe, the one who came to the tournament with me in 2017, she laid on the bed with me, and she said 'I don't want to be the reason that you don't go out and get what you deserve.' So she said, 'I'll go.' When she said that, I just lost it. Right then and there, I knew that they were going to be incorporated in everything that we did at Virginia Tech," Brooks said.
As proof of Kenny Brooks living out the family first mentality that he learned from Lefty Driesell, Kenny would take one of his daughters to the Final Four with Chloe being the one who went to the one in 2017, right after his first season at VT and the last time the Final Four was in Dallas prior to this one.
That experience was a special one that Kenny Brooks remembers quite fondly with it being proof of how he lived out the family-first emphasis he brought with him to Blacksburg.
"I was, and it was a special, special Final Four for me because I have a middle daughter, Chloe, and she was probably going through some tough challenges mentally. She had an injury with her basketball career, and it was a daddy-daughter date. We came here. We spent time together with each other, took her around, kind of got a chance to show her how cool daddy was in the lobbies of the WBCA meetings," Brooks said.
We sat up there, and we watched the game, UConn and Mississippi State, and we had the best time. I wish I could give you a story, a Disney story ending and saying, hey, baby, one day we're going to be here too, but we didn't. But it was a memorable moment, and to come full circle to know that 2023 I'm going to bring my team -- like Taylor (Soule) says, we're not at the Final Four, we're in the Final Four."
Since then, Kenny Brooks has built Virginia Tech into a burgeoning women's college basketball that went from 3 WNITs to what would have been four-straight NCAA Tournaments if the 2020 Tournament hadn't been cancelled with the fourth producing the deepest run to the Final Four.
In the process, Brooks has made sure that he gets his time with his family and build his culture out from that which he credits for helping the Hokies reach heights that they have never reached before.
"As a result, it's helped us -- family atmosphere. They're around. The kids know them. Georgia and Liz come to my house all the time, whether I'm there or not, to see my wife or to cook, to bake, or do whatever," Brooks said.
"So it's just really helped our culture, incorporating my family into everything, and it's helped me become a better father. I've had more dinners at the dinner table with my kids since I've been at Virginia Tech than I ever imagined having at James Madison."
Now, Kenny Brooks gets to have the ultimate coaching and family experience overlap of being in the Final Four, but he also knows that his family-driven program also gets to bring a lot of other families along for this Final Four as one big Virginia Tech family.
"That's a surreal moment and something that now I get to bring my whole family, not just one kid. That's something that not only we're experiencing, but all of our families are experiencing, and it's just a wonderful, wonderful moment."