I’m not the lead basketball writer. I am short and had poor balance, so basketball was an abandoned activity after 7th grade. Everyone else got tall, and I spent time in other pursuits. Though I have to admit that during that year in school at Fort Knox, KY I played a whole lot of basketball. It’s a religion of sorts in the Bluegrass State.
So, basketball is no mystery to me. I also must admit that I really gained a bit ore interest as my daughter played in the CYO league in NOVA through elementary and middle school so Winter entertainment was driving around to different parish activity centers as her team played.
But basically, I am a football and baseball type guy.
The Dreary Bumpy Reality of the Past
Why, then, am I hear writing an opinion piece on the latest Hokie Basketball seasons (remember we have two teams and two dances to attend)? Well, I am a Hokie, and my first exposure to any sort of collegiate sports accomplishment was the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team of 1977-1981. During that period the Hokies (Fighting Gobblers, if you will) joined the Metro conference in 78-79 and then won it in 79/80. The only “par” year was 1980/81’s 15-13/6-6 record. Tech had a good basketball program. I have to admit that the interest had waned a bit after the big basketball recruiting scandal caused a mass mess and my favorite university president to resign. VA. TECH BASKETBALL DISCIPLINED - The Washington Post I guess 1985-1987 were just really low points for lots of fans.
The reality was that after Moir departed, the Hokies struggled on and off to find some sort of footing on the basketball court. The women’s team began to bloom as the late 90’s drew to a close, but the men’s team bumped along in the doldrums.
A Bit of an ACC Rally
There were hints of what could be with Seth Greenberg and the better years of 2003-2008, were soured, again, this time by his unceremonious and some say unjustified firing by AD Jim Weaver. Two ACC Coach of the Year Awards and a winning record say that there was something else going on that caused the tumult. We won’t speculate, we’ve heard the rumors and aren’t going to go there, here.
That might help to explain lots of Hokies sort of cool attitude toward the basketball team before the Buzz Williams era turned the cart around again. The “firing” of Weaver (Okay, he stepped down, but there is a reality behind the departure.) in part due to the interim JJ debacle ended that inscrutable era and brought us Whit Babcock. Who brought us Buzz Williams, who then brought us a return to success on the basketball court?
When Buzz took his build a bear trade to our sister institution Texas A&M there were many who thought that we’d be sinking right back into the doldrums again. Well Whit pulled Buzz out of the hat for the big turn, maybe he could pull it off with someone equally impressive but more likely to stay for a long time.
The Mike Young Era is Now a Real Thing
Where the heck is Wofford and how did Babcock even think to pick up the phone and ask its head coach, Mike Young, to come to Blacksburg to have a confab? I’d like to have been the spy fly on the wall for that one. We all know the story of the local (Radford) small college coaching success, now. Getting that information out to the public and convincing them that he is for real, and a great hire wasn’t an easy chore. Y’all really had some serious gripes with the entire notion. The fact that Young had coached tiny little Wofford into the NCAA five times in ten seasons didn’t seem to make a difference. Well, maybe it didn’t because Young, the head coach there from 2003 until the tournament loss in the 2nd round of 2019, was a completely unknown fan quantity.
Well, just so folks understand, in his two full seasons (remember 2020 was a COVID disaster) at Tech he’s gone to the NCAA Tournament twice, and won the ACC once to do it this year. This season we will see how far this rocket hot Hokies basketball team will go, but it will go with a calm, firm handed, leader munching on a box of popcorn. Mike Young seems like he’s looking to stick in Blacksburg, for a very long time. The doubters have all quieted down, and Hokie Nation is in love with Men’s Basketball, again.
There are lots of Wofford recruits on this squad, and a certain point guard who transferred in this year. It was interesting to see the fences mended and hatchets buried with Seth. Mike Young and Whit Babcock seem to have smoothed that unfortunate mess over and welcomed Greenberg back to Blacksburg with open arms. That’s good. The media is still a huge part of sports and in particular NCAA basketball. Having angels in the analytical chairs, in front of the cameras cannot be bad things.
If you want to know why and how a struggling basketball team in 2021 and early 2022, turns around a season to roar into their conference championship to win four games in a row within a week’s time, look no further than the pleasant visage of the local Radford native son sitting on a folding chair, courtside, munching on his pre-game popcorn treat. If you detect that this piece is a tribute to the founder of this ACC Championship season, well, it is.
Congratulations to the Hokie players, yes! They did some magic things down the stretch and are afraid of nobody on the court. This is because of one individual; Head Coach Mike Young.