For a few months now Hokie fans have lived with a specter of “what if” hanging in the Blacksburg air. What if Texas fires their coach? What is Texas A&M fires their coach? What if Buzz leaves what are we going to do?
Well A&M fires their head man, and dominos started to fall leaving the Hokies without a head basketball coach just a short week after losing a heartbreaker in the Sweet 16. Buzz Williams infused the beleaguered Hokie basketball program with hope and excitement that hadn’t been felt since the days of Seth Greenberg, Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell and Malcolm Delaney. However, much like Infinity War, with the snap of a finger, the excitement dissolved into dust.
Folks, it’s time to face facts, Buzz was not going to be a long-term coach at Tech. His heart was in Texas, where he grew up, where he cut his teeth as an assistant. It was only a matter of time until Whit Babcock would be forced to make another hire.
Enter Mike Young,
Granted some of the fan base is not exactly sure where he coached (the answer is Wofford), or where his former school is located (the answer is Spartanburg, SC). The hire was not what we as a fan base expected following a big national personality such as Buzz Williams, but I’m here to tell you folks that the hire is a solid one and could turn out to be a great one.
First of all, let me say Mike Young was not the top name on my list of potential hires for the Hokies. However, he was not far down on the list.
Young is a proven winner at a not that well-funded program in a higher end mid-major conference. His record shows he is capable of being a good coach. I am of the belief that winning is winning regardless of the competition, a coach has to develop a game plan that will work against an opponent. Obviously, a coach that won 30 games last season and who routinely has 20 win seasons is able to do just that.
Just look at the past year and a half, his Wofford teams beat UNC at UNC in the 2017-18 season before going undefeated in conference play this season and came close to beating a very talented Kentucky team while having the best shooter in NCAA history go stone cold.
Young will more than likely have to weather a season or two of growing pains but after that winning will hopefully become the norm.
Fans won’t want to put up with the down seasons but let’s be serious, this upcoming season could have been a struggle with so many players leaving via graduation or the draft. Let’s be real folks, if you thought NAW was staying if Buzz stayed I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. Alexander-Walker was destined to leave this year and I believe there was very little Buzz could have done about it.
Mike Young will have to retain some of the players Buzz left behind, namely Kerry Blackshear. This is an area where fans are concerned Young could be not the right hire. I have to admit I have my reservations about his ability to get ACC quality players upfront. Once he has built a program, I believe that to will fall into place.
The start to recruiting success will be keeping Blackshear in Blacksburg as well as other important players from this year's team such as Wabissa Bede, Isaiah Wilkins, and Johnathan Kabongo.
Young also needs to keep many of the recruits from this year as well namely getting Anthony Harris back in the fold while keeping Landers Nolley who feels like a recruit after not playing at all this season. However, Nolley might be lost cause as reports emerged that he entered the transfer portal after the timeframe that Young met with the team though it's unknown exactly when Nolley entered and when it became public news.
Also, an important point to remember is Young could also bring some of his Wofford recruits with him. One to keep an eye on is Zac Ervin. Ervin fits the mold as a player to help build a winning team. He shoots the ball well, plays defense and is a team first guy. These are the types of players Young will bring in to fit his playbook.
The final reason fans should be willing to give this man a chance is he is a program builder and sustainer. In the days of one and done players, fans want a bunch of exciting blue chip players to light up the scoreboard and make top ten plays when the truth is having a mix of young and old contributors is the way to that one shining moment. It pains me to say it but UVA has the right model of dependable junior and senior players as well as underclassmen who get the system, and provide a continuation of the culture a coaching staff tries to build.
Young has proven he can build a program, see his Wofford program who have made the NCAA Tournament 5 times in the past decade, won games in the Tourney, and beat big name programs out of conference. They did it not by having a super flashy one-and-done, but a team of players who fit exactly what Mike Young wants to create.
Overall, I know the fan base wanted a bigger name, but the Hokies didn’t necessarily need that, they needed a guy who could build the program and get us to the heights the fanbase deserves on a more consistent and sustainable basis. Mike Young, given time, could be a great fit and create a successful program, which is what we all as fans want.
Give the man a chance and after a couple of years if things aren’t going in the right direction, then be disappointed. In the meantime folks, enjoy the new excitement around the program and Let’s Go Hokies.