It was a warmish rainy Parent Weekend in October 2014. There were lots of parents who signed up for the athletic facilities tour that included the new practice facilities, Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium. All of the parents and future Hokies were walking, listening intently, and being led up stairs, through back doors, and into places most folks don’t normally see. We got to the practice area for the basketball team. They were chugging away shooting, doing drills, and practicing ball skills.
We were all just a little disappointed because we were told that we’d have to skip the floor visit because the team was not done with practice. So all of the crowd began to file out when the door opened and a man with a big smile, sort of light on hair, and a definite mid-western accent stopped everyone and told us.. “Hey, it’s okay we’re breaking up a bit early before a break, why don’t you come in and visit us.” That man had all of the players circulate around, shaking hands with the parents, and the future students. He was shaking hands himself.. Nice firm grip, BTW. “Hi! I’m Buzz Williams. You might have heard that I’m the new coach of the men’s team.” At least that’s what I remember him saying to me, and several other parents.
Coach Williams called everyone in under the basket around the key, and then all present to listen in and hear what he had to say about winning, and about starting new things. It was a very interesting talk to hear, and a highlight was his promise to make the Virginia Tech Hokies Basketball team one capable of going to the NCAA Tournament. There were cheers all around, and we circulated to meet and talk to the players. It was a gracious gesture that no one had to make, but somehow two and a half years later, I am not at all surprised. It seems that Buzz Williams works that way. He is a coach, yes, but he teaches. He teaches more than just basketball to his players. He teaches fellowship, responsibility, and family.
Well, the mediocre middle-of-the-barrel struggling mess that was Tech Men’s Basketball finally ended this season. The Virginia Tech Hokies managed something that they have rarely done in the last decade.; a bracket in the Big Dance. Yes, it’s a 9th seed in the East Region of March Madness bracket 2017; but we are matched up against the Badgers from Wisconsin who are an 8th seed.
We have a chance, and that’s all most folks invited to the NCAA Tournament can ever ask for. It’s a chance to compete. To stretch those skills and make an impression. The Hokies have a chance to Dance, and that, given the recent past, is an exciting opportunity.
The Show starts March 16th in Buffalo, New York. All eyes of Hokie Nation will be glued to their TV’s. And Chuck Mangione won’t be delaying his second act, this time. (Check the history books for that one, folks.)