Tech Talk Live Notes: Greg Donlon Joins the Show, Buzz Williams Credits Justin Fuente

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Tech Talk Live

Virginia Tech men’s basketball was well represented on Monday night, as forward Greg Donlon and Head Coach Buzz Williams both joined the show. Here are the highlights.

Greg Donlon

General takeaways from 10-day road trip

“The trip went incredibly well. I thought we played well throughout the duration of that trip, which obviously is a testament to our toughness as a team. We stuck it out, we went 3-1, only had one loss. I think the fact that we bounced back from that loss and stayed on the road for two more games and won both of those, especially including on the road at Michigan, which is a tough place to play and a very good team, I think there was a lot of growth on this trip. It’s the longest road trip I’ve ever been a part of and I think it’s the same for everyone on the team and we did it incredibly well. I’m proud of us.”

Level of maturity of team compared to last season

“I think it’s improved an incredible amount. I think a big thing with slow starts like that has to do with maturity, obviously also on the road and being the last trip on that road trip, it’s kind of hard. Everybody is a little bit tired, but it does speak to your maturity to start off the way you need to, because in games like this, especially in the ACC, we can’t afford to have droughts like that in the beginning. A lot of times in our league, you can’t come back from that. The fact that we did says a lot about us and who we can be if we put it together for 40 minutes. The way we responded also says how mature we are. We weren’t able to start the way we wanted to, but we responded.”

Impacting the program and team despite not playing many minutes

“I think playing for Coach Williams is one of the most physically demanding programs you can probably play for at this level in college basketball. It’s year-round and it’s every day and guys coming out of high school and from other programs, that’s not something that you’re used to. I’m not nearly as talented as those guys, but I can take it upon myself to treat my body the way I need to and the way it should be treated for guys who are playing, so they know they can come to me and ask me what they should be eating and what they should be doing, or if they’re getting confused, having a hard time adjusting. I’ve been around for a while so the least I could do is give some of my wisdom I guess you could say I have.”

Plans after basketball

“I’ll be a (graduate assistant) for Coach (Williams), starting after this season. That’s a 2-year gig. I want to get into coaching. I want to be a, not that I don’t like strength and conditioning, but I would love to become a basketball coach. I think seeing the way you can still compete at a high level and it feeds your competitive spirit, but having the opportunity to change the lives of people around you, including young men our age. I think that if you can become successful at it and work at, you’re still around sports and around competition, but at the same time you have the ability to change people’s lives, which is one thing I think Coach does that I really look up to the most.”

Buzz Williams

Increase in maturity from last season

“I don’t think we won at Michigan specifically because of what we did against Michigan. I think it was all of the things since our tenure began that led up to that game. I hope that we’re more mature in year three than we were in year two. I don’t know if at any point in our tenure that we would’ve overcame all the different things we had to overcome in order to win. Those types of moments in the locker room, in some ways, those are the things that you long for and that you want to work to get to. Those are the things that scar your heart, in a good way, because you’ll never forget it, particularly when those kids know that they’ve earned it and those kids, for the most part, none of those kids had ever felt anything particularly at that level. It was really cool.”

Virginia Tech basketball
Buzz Williams (center) believes his team is much more mature than they were last season.

Next steps needed after long road trip

“This is what I talked to our team about Saturday… When we got home on Thursday, that was Dec.1. There’s kind of a process I go through on the first day of every month, how I close down the previous month, how I start the next month, how I look back at the previous year — it’s four hours, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the first day of every month. I do the same thing. I look at my December 2016 and there’s nothing on it. The only thing that’s on it, in red, are game dates. All of the other things, which is 99.9 percent of it, Cara (Jacobson) had not put anything on it, but Cara’s not going to put anything on there until I tell it’s time to put things on there. So Saturday morning, I showed it to our guys and I go, ‘That’s what we’re doing this month guys, right there. What’s missing?’ They go, ‘Coach, are we not practicing?’ They kind of thought that would be good, and I think that in essence was a capsule of what I told them. What you did in November allows December to be the biggest month, maybe, of a December in Virginia Tech basketball history in a while, at least in recent memory. How the steps that you took in November we’re all thankful for and grateful for, but as you keep taking steps up that mountain… there’s less oxygen per step, so how can you continue to grow while being encapsulated by the process, not thinking about what has happened, not thinking about what is going to happen, but being consumed with where we are at today. Obviously we talked about the days we were off. We were off Friday, we didn’t really do anything Saturday other than yoga. We’re going to be off three, four and a half days after Christmas, so how are we going to handle this month? If we handle December in a more mature way than we handled November, now all of a sudden, January becomes the biggest month. I think that’s what you want to do, that’s what you try to do when you’re trying to build something. They were great today, they were way better than I would have anticipated, which is encouraging. We need to add 10-12 percent to that tomorrow in order to be ready to play again on Wednesday.”

Why teams played zone against Tech on road trip, how far along Tech is when playing against zone

“I’m not coaching anybody else’s team, so I’m not trying to put words in anybody else’s mouth, but we’re really fast. We’re not just fast physically, we’re fast with the ball. We don’t take a lot of empty dribbles, there’s not a lot of one-on-one per say, the way most people think of one-on-one and when we get stops, we call it a license. Who on our team has a license to initiate offense. Hopefully, the more recruiting classes we have, the more licenses there are on our team. So depending on who’s on the floor, we’re always going to have three, most of the time we’ve had four and there’s been a few possessions this year so far where we’ve had five guys. So when we can get a stop, and there’s five guys, or four, four of which are all interchangeable and that ball is going downhill as fast as it can, whether that’s off the pass or the bounce, I think that causes apprehension. I think the flip side of that is if we don’t score in the full court, when it becomes against a set defense, we’re slightly above average in the number of ball screens we’re going to set and the location of those ball screens, then you have a choice as a coach, ‘How are we going to defend, what’s going to be our coverage in this particular ball screen?’ Because our versatility is not necessarily, ‘Well the guy setting the ball screen is always a roller or the guy that’s setting the ball screen, he can’t shoot so we can go under,’ I just think it puts teams in a bind, particularly when our pace is the way we want it to be.

In some ways, I thought our zone attack was good. We didn’t handle Texas A&M’s length. Texas A&M’s counter to our speed was, ‘We’re going to play two fives, a four and a three and a combo guard.’ We’re just going to be as big as we can and we’re going to try and shrink the floor as much as we can. That was if you miss, we got it and we’ll just try and pound you methodically on the other end inside.’ Our zone attack as far as the attack was fine, we haven’t had a lot of reps of it prior to Anaheim. New Mexico played man the whole possession and the previous four teams, there may have been a possession here or two to have some sort of zone. I anticipate the team we play Wednesday will play some sort of zone, but going forward, I would probably say we’re going to play against a little bit of zone every game. Obviously, you’ll play it the whole game against some teams in our league, but I think our speed and the versatility in the half court, relative to ball screen coverage, I think sometimes it’s just easier to go, ‘Never mind, we’re going to play zone.’”

How Seth Allen has improved defensively this season

“I think he’s dramatically improved. Saying this the right way, he was aware that’s where he needed to improve the most. I think he’s gifted with the ball in his hands and I think he understands he needs to be able to guard their version of Seth. He’s been more committed in my opinion, as has our team. I think collectively, that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in now. Obviously Seth spends a lot of time guarding ball guards, so his pressure up top, he’s the head of the snake. He’s very important. I think (Justin Robinson) has been distinctly better defensively and it’s like anything else. You know when you make a shot, the next guy that shoots feels like he’s going to make a shot. If you make a free throw, can we make 19 in a row? If you miss two in a row, are you going to miss eight in a row, I think some of that happens defensively too. Those guys are playing with more confidence and I think maybe some of the adjustments that we’ve made in how we’re playing defensively has also helped those guys. Zach (LeDay) doesn’t get near the silly fouls that he once did. I think (Khadim Sy) has been great, giving us productive minutes when he has played on both ends of the floor. He’s a different kind of matchup than anybody else on our team. Seth has for sure improved and he’s taken more pride in what he’s become defensively too.”

Seth Allen
Seth Allen (4) has stepped up his play on the defensive end this season.

Love for football and thoughts on football team this season

“Well I grew up in a town with no stoplight in Texas. Football is it. So the head football coach was the athletic director and the offensive coordinator was the basketball coach and the defensive coordinator was the tennis coach. I knew at an early age I wanted to coach and because it’s such a small town, coaches are always recruiting all males to be on the team, so I would go through football offseason every year and then never play. They knew that, but they allowed me to take part in it. During the season, I would be on the field coaching, even though I was a kid, I was on the field. Those were all my buddies that were playing, but I was always around the coaches. They gave me all access and I got to learn how to coach and that was so important. Coach (Lewis) Orr changed my life in many respects, but trying to figure out what’s happening in coaching, I learned when I was in high school because the football coaches let me hang around. The AD was a two-time Academic All-American quarterback at Rice. He’s in his mid-60s now, I still talk to him. The defensive coordinator has been to Blacksburg every year except last year, he had bypass surgery. That was years and years ago and I still have relationships with those coaches.”

“I think the thing on Coach Fuente, his staff, Coach Beamer, his staff that remained, his staff that left, on Whit, I know that sounds inappropriate coming from me… that transition, Coach Beamer, to me, is and was Virginia Tech. How his career ended, how Coach Fuente started — in year one he’s ACC Coach of the Year, after winning the division, playing in the championship game, going to play in the Belk Bowl, that’s a lot of variables. Coach (Fuente) should be commended for not only how he handled and has handled the reverence that we all pay to Coach Beamer… Coach Beamer’s not coaching anymore. In my opinion, Coach Fuente is deserving of all the accolades he has received because he’s the one doing the coaching and he’s coaching a lot of the kids who were there upon his arrival, but he’s also added some really important pieces, maybe that have pushed it over the edge. For their staff, I don’t know them the way I know Coach (Beamer) or some of his guys, I think it just speaks from the top down… Mike Goforth and his entire staff is still here. I didn’t want the trainer that was here when I got here, I want my trainer. I didn’t want David Jackson here, I want my strength coach. I was wrong, I was right, however you want to say it, but coaches are creatures of habit so when you’re walking into a place that’s been to 23 consecutive bowls and when you walk to your office, you cross the street named after the person that coached here, then they name the locker room after him, goodness gracious. Coach (Beamer) is deserving of all of that. I think credit should go to everyone and that’s not to negate what Coach Fuente has done, because he’s been the leader of it, but man, it could’ve went to hell in a handbasket fast and I don’t care what anybody says and I don’t care about the wide receiver or the quarterback, players make plays, that’s right, but you’ve got to get them to the field to make those plays and all of those decisions that were made… I think how Dr. Sands handled it, I think how Whit handled it, man that’s delicate. You’re not talking about Buzz, you’re talking about Virginia Tech and here comes the new president, here comes the new AD, let’s get rid of this coach and let’s get rid of that coach and nobody really cares about those sports, so hire who you want and let’s see how it works out, then you say, ‘Coach Beamer is leaving,’ and everybody goes, ‘That’s why I went to Virginia Tech.’ How’s that going to work? I think it’s a lot deeper and deserving of more than ‘He’s Coach of the Year,’ it’s way bigger than that. He had to set his culture into place, whatever it is that he believes in while not disrespecting what had been established, while also carrying the torch in some way figuratively of, ‘This is what we’ve been about but this is what we’re going to be about, and we’re respectful of that but we’re also going to be respectful of this…’ I would have never done that.”

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19 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Fantastic interview. At the risk of stating the obvious, if VT can keep Babcock, Williams, and Fuente happy and in Bburg for an extended period of time, the future of VT’s major sports could be great and the successes could be somewhat reinforcing. Would love to be back on campus and have compelling fall and winter sports seasons to enjoy!

  2. When Buzz did that ceremony combining a salute for Vets with a lesson for the team, I knew VT hit a home run. Buzz seems to grasp that coaching is not all x and o’s. Most of the kids that play for him will never play on an NBA court. But it seems the teacher in him feels an obligation to all his players to make sure they leave VT as better and wiser young men than when they arrived.

  3. That was really interesting – The high school years, and the Fuente/Beamer transition. Thanks, Buzz for the insight.

  4. If you could get B’street to interview Buzz, the resulting article would be either the Rosetta Stone or the best symphony Mozart ever wrote.

  5. Buzz has all of these processes set up (I love the “take 4 hours to set your month up, wrap up the previous month”) in place because he knows he’s bat-crap crazy and would spin out of control without it.

  6. Buzz is such a great interview. There is very little coach speak in the way he talks. He is honest. I love that about him.

  7. I love Buzz as a person and coach. I love what he has done with our MBB program, but his logic is a little hard to follow at times.

  8. Wow….having listened to Coach Buzz and reading this transcript, I think Coach Buzz has a little B’ Street in him and vice-versa….and I mean that in a nice way…they make you think a bit…

    1. Me three. Add to this list the new Provost and the new “Development Director,” a VT alum who came from Cornell. VT has hit one home run after another in the last three years. Not since Marshall Hahn have we had such all-around excellence in leadership. AH.

  9. I have so much respect for Coaches BW and JF. Proud of them for becoming Hokies! Thank you Gentlemen!

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