Tech Talk Live Notes: Buzz Williams Comments on Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament Chances

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With Virginia Tech men’s basketball traveling on Monday for their game vs. Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Tech Talk Live was moved to Wednesday night. As usual, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams was on the show, as was junior guard/forward Justin Bibbs. Here are the highlights from Wednesday’s Tech Talk Live.

Justin Bibbs

Message at halftime of win over Pittsburgh

“We knew what we needed to do. They were getting a lot of open threes, a lot of open shots. Our offense was fine, we were going to hit shots. We weren’t pressured or pressed at all. We just knew what we needed to do.”

What’s changed since loss to Virginia a couple weeks ago

“Like you said, we went back to the basics. A lot of running, a lot of film sessions… three-hour film sessions. Just getting back to the basics, focusing on keeping our man in front on defense, getting rebounds, being tough, be aggressive and try to be competitive too.”

How Chris Clarke’s injury has changed his role on the floor

“Him going out, that hurt a lot. He was a big piece to our puzzle, but I mean, he did a lot for us. He was a great guy getting rebounds, getting a lot of hustle plays. It’s just not for me, it’s for everybody. We need to step up our play. What he did on offensive and defensive rebounds… that was a big piece for us. We all need to step it up.”

How far Bibbs’ parents are willing to drive to see Virginia Tech games (attended game at Pittsburgh)

“They’re some road warriors. My dad loves to drive. Anytime they can support, they try to come out.”

Reasons for slow starts

“Yeah, we just, we have a lot of mental lapses. We knew their (Pittsburgh’s) personnel, we knew that they like to shoot threes, but obviously they were getting a lot of open threes. That’s what put us in a hole early. Things like that, we can change. We can control that. Obviously we don’t like putting ourselves in a hole like that.”

How winning at Pittsburgh boosts confidence for future road/neutral site games

“That was big. Any type of road win, we’ll take it. It was nice, how we got momentum from UVa. and we just brought it to Pitt. Any type of road win, we’ll take it.”

Not having any practice after win vs. Virginia and before win vs. Pittsburgh

“It was very hard. Every possession was a different play. Yeah, it was a lot of film sessions, just trying to get to know their personnel. We couldn’t really focus on them, we had to focus on ourselves and how we were going to defend.”

Buzz Williams

Meaning of “Condition is not your conclusion” and how it applies to Hokies

“We have chapel on all gamedays and depending on where we’re at, what the vibe is and who’s available, the speakers change. I have a friend that I grew up with in Texas and he’s been a pastor his entire adult life. He’s probably been to four or five games in Blacksburg since I’ve been here and four or five games on the road. He tricked his wife into, her Valentine’s Day gift would be a trip to Pittsburgh… I don’t know who goes to Pittsburgh for Valentine’s Day, but Moody is his last name. He did chapel and it was a Bible story that he spoke in practical ways. Most of our guys go to chapel, and I thought it was very apropos.”

Stress levels over last several days

“You would think the longer you do it, the better you should handle it. It’s the exact opposite for me, internally. I’ve always said, from a very early age, I wouldn’t do this as an entire career. I don’t know if that was my spirit speaking, or what, because I didn’t have any wisdom to say anything like that, but it does make you old internally and externally. I don’t know that in the heat of the moment that you’re doing anything as a coach, other than trying to figure out a way to help your team. Sometimes you’re paralyzed and you can’t do anything. We couldn’t do anything about Chris’ injury, we couldn’t do anything about Zach fouling out. We’re going to have bad officials every game, they’re going to make bad calls. We’re accustomed to that. I just try to stay in a mode of, ‘How can I help you get better?’ Whatever that is, whether that’s an individual, that’s our team… our staff has done a terrific job all year. I think I mentioned it to you last night postgame, or maybe it was pregame with Laaser, we’ve played 25 games and we’ve never suited up more than eight players. That is not the way you want to do it at this level. Your margin is zero from the beginning and now, we’ll play a minimum of seven games with only seven players. That’s for sure not how you want to do it.  Only two of those guys are seniors.

“Some of the reasons behind all of that were out of our control too, just like things during a game are out of your control. You just have to try to stay in a position where the mentality is, ‘OK, what’s coming next and what can we do to improve whatever that is.’ I don’t know that I could accurately describe all of the different things that are going on internally with me.

“Jerry Wainright, who I think we talked about a couple weeks ago, I hired Coach to be my ops guy. He turned 70 a couple weeks ago, so he would have been 65 when I hired him. He had been there about a month and every morning, I’m always the first guy in the office, he would come in and say, ‘Hey, good morning.’ He had been there about a month and he came to the office a couple hours later and he says, ‘Hey Buzz, you got anything you want me to do?’ And I go, ‘No, thanks for asking. Why are you asking?’ He goes, ‘Well I’ve been here for a month and you’ve never told me anything to do.’ And I said, ‘Well Coach, you’re 65 years old, you’ve been coaching longer than I’ve been alive. If I’ve got to tell you what to do, you probably need to get another job. Figure out how you can help our team, figure out how you can help our program.’

“So he watched every Big East game as if he was doing a scouting report on us, and he watched all 18 regular season games and did a scouting report per game. He gets done, that’s a long time, another month goes by and he goes, ‘Hey Buzz, I’ve got all these scouting reports, do you want to go over them?’ I go, ‘No, I don’t want to go over them, but I’ll read them and study them.’ He said, ‘The one thing I would say to you, I’ve never seen a coach be so clued in to the five kids representing his team on the floor. Kids come off the floor to be subbed out, and you may give them dap, but your eyes never go off the court. You don’t partake in any shenanigans on the bench with your staff or with your team,’ and I had never had anybody tell me that. I said, ‘Coach, I’m not talented enough to do more than one thing, and I’m not sure I’m talented enough to do the one thing I’m supposed to be doing, so I have no time to give away.’ I think when all of that stuff is going on, I was telling our guys last night on the bus, I couldn’t even see the ball on the last possession, from the angle I was at. It just looked like we were playing sand volleyball and the ball was just going every which way. I just started watching the clock going, ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry.’”

Virginia Tech men's basketball Chris Clarke
With Chris Clarke gone for the season, Virginia Tech must rally together to make the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

How team adjusted to Clarke’s absence vs. Pittsburgh

“I thought we did well defensively. We will, no matter what, struggle from a defensive rebounding perspective. Their (offensive efficiency rating) was 1.05, which is above average for sure, but we held them to 41 percent from the field, which is really good for Hokies that don’t believe in defense. They turned the ball over 22 percent of the time, so considering that we were small, a lot of the things defensively that we tried to do I thought we good.

“Offensively, I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is. Obviously it’s a burden on multiple guys. We need Ty (Outlaw) to play, Ty’s only going to play at one spot. Bibbs is going to have to play at two spots and if Bibbs is playing at our four, now all of a sudden, (Ahmed Hill) and Seth (Allen) and (Justin Robinson) are going to have to carry more water, all of which happened last night. We’ve got to find a way to get Matt a few consecutive possessions at a time, so that those guys can come get a drink of water.

“I don’t know what the answers are going to be. I think the other problem is, like this week, we play three games in seven days. Two of those games are on the road, so that means four out of the seven days, we’re traveling this week. We had no preparation for the Pitt game, we didn’t even practice. We’re off (Wednesday), you have to take one day off so four out of the six days we can work, we’re traveling. I don’t know, I don’t even know, honestly I’ve been thinking about it and trying to have peace with what would be right for us to do (Thursday). Those guys gave incredible effort for 50 minutes against UVa., they gave incredible effort (Tuesday)… I told them in the locker room before I talked to Burnop, I think when you get to Valentine’s Day, you see team’s trajectory as a stock you would want to invest in, or you see teams at a trajectory where you should be trying to pull your money out of.

“Our stock, just like any other team, it’s three components — it’s emotional, it’s physical and it’s mental. I have to be aware of those components per player, but also per unit and they have to help hold one another accountable, because they’re still, even though it’s cliché, if you look at the league… and you look at the games that are going to take place tonight, there’s five games left, a lot of things can transpire. Good and bad. We have five games left and it’s over a short window of time, which makes the window of time you have an opportunity to practice even shorter. I think part of the answer is to tighten down, pare whatever it is we’re going to do. But then you play Louisville and they play nine different defenses in one possession, and our guys are going to be looking at us going, ‘Coach, they have three 6-11 guys and you’re calling this play and they’re in that defense.’ That’s what you’ve got to avoid, because you have to play with an incredible level of energy like we have the last two games, just for it to be a one possession game in both.”

How Khadim Sy (aka Dream) has played in last two games

“I thought UVa. was the best he’s played and at Pitt was the worst he’s played. That’s probably what you would anticipate from a freshman who played in front of the best crowd at home he’s played in. I don’t know if he’s played in an overtime game, he may have been on the bench during one. Then, ‘Hey Dream, this sometimes happens, we’re going to leave tomorrow after you get out of class and then we’re going to play the next day. It’s not going to be on ESPNU, it’s going to be on ESPN2 and those guys that you’re going to guard, they’re 25 years old and their record is 3-9, and they know that they don’t know who you are, so they’re going to try and shove it up your nose. Does that make sense Dream? That’s the scouting report.’

‘Yes Coach, I understand.’

‘No, you don’t. No, you don’t. But I’ll give you a chance out there pal.’

On telling team after Pittsburgh win that they’re not in the NCAA Tournament

“We’re not close. I don’t think it got their attention. They know. I think there’s been some issues in the past with Virginia Tech maybe thinking that they earned a right to play in the tournament. I’ll go ahead and say it without any emotion, because if it happens, I’ll handle it in the right way, we will have to do more than our peers to be an at-large. That’s because we’re the Hokies, that’s because of the tradition of the program, that’s because of the history, that’s because of who the head coach is, that’s the truth. Some of the chatter that goes on on the outside, not speaking about here, just on the Internet, on Twitter, whatever the chatter is, whatever the bottom of it is, wherever the bottom of the well is, Virginia Tech is right under that. Whatever that is. That’s the truth. That’s the way the committee will view us, that’s the way our schedule is in the ACC, just to be very frank with you.

“I have a litany of things I could use as evidence, but it’s not the right thing and here’s why — because we are going to bust through, I can’t tell you when we’re going to bust through, but because of all of those things, all of those things I do let our players know, not so that they have an edge, but so that they learn from it, there’s a reason why teams have always won. There’s a reason why teams have always lost. It’s not always the coach. It’s not always the players. It’s the totality of the program and when you’re trying to flip something when for a long time, it’s been on one end, you have to overcome everything to get it flipped. That includes perception. Seven wins for the Hokies will not get us in. Will it get someone else from the ACC in? Possibly, but it won’t be us.”

Thoughts on Louisville

“They’re good enough to play in the Final Four. Constantly changing defenses, changing defenses with really good players who are incredibly long. Offensively, they play similar to the way they’ve always played. I think that Coach (Rick Pitino) is way ahead of the curve in how they play and how they go about things strategically. It’s very difficult to know. They will change defenses based on who catches it, based on where the ball is caught, so you kind of have to have a plan of no matter what they’re doing, this is what we’re going to do. That sounds relatively simple, but it’s relatively complex when there’s 10 guys on the floor and there’s a lot of moving parts, particularly when it happens amidst a possession. Our guys, all players, they go, well what they’re doing is changed, what are we supposed to do? That’s part of what I think they want you to do actually, is to be unsure, to take unpracticed shots, to shoot the ball with a non-balanced floor so that they can score in transition, to make you hesitant, with your passes, soft with the ball to create turnovers. It happens in the full court and they can bring it back to the half court… it’s a lot of stuff.

“I normally don’t say anything strategically publicly anyway, but I don’t know what is best for our group, considering the change in our team. With Chris (Clarke), ‘Hey here’s a zone, we really don’t know what it is, this is what we’re going to do every time and Chris, you go there and we’re going to throw you the ball and then please, create a shot for somebody standing near you.’ Well, Chris ain’t here. That doesn’t mean our guys can’t handle it, but it’s not going to be the same play. We got to figure out how to have some semblance of stability, regardless of opposition, particularly on Saturday, as good as they are.”

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4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. What a great interview. More info in that one interview than I have seen/heard in a long, long time.

    Very interesting.

    Tough to lose Clarke, any way you slice it.

  2. For a guy who says this, “I think when all of that stuff is going on, I was telling our guys last night on the bus, I couldn’t even see the ball on the last possession, from the angle I was at. It just looked like we were playing sand volleyball and the ball was just going every which way. I just started watching the clock going, ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry.’ ” but, has the wherewithal to notice this, “…the best crowd at home he’s played in.” (regardless of the two different venues), shows the depth of this guy. He sees it all and understands the complexity of not Rebuilding but BUILDING a program. He has all the tools (facilities, hand picked staff, funding) and is now getting the intangibles (crowd, recruits, institutional support) on line and he’s only just beginning.

    Hokies needed a reason to engage and embrace the BB program again and Buzz is giving it to us. I think he feels it. I think he likes the fact that he is single handedly righting the VT BB ship and getting a nation of rabid fans back on board (not since days of Dell, the Youngs, Bimbo). There are SO many moving parts between the coach, his staff, players and the AD + staff that I think if a better job knocked, it would have to be a damn good one. He’s on course to be the Frank Beamer of Hokie hoops (hall of fame, most well known/revered not just in the Hokie nation but the entire nation and a beloved figure level coach all things combined, not to mention the conference or Blacksburg is a great place to live and work). Will he reach Beamer status in NCAA BB? Don’t know but, where else do the planets line up like this for any coach? EVERYTHING is in front of him, all is achievable. How much money is that worth? I know, a lot to take away from a little but, this guy says a lot with few words. He endears himself to most everyone he comes into contact (directly or indirectly) and he’s having a profound impact on the program, department, school and Hokie nation. As Will once put it about the AD transition; right guy, right time, right place to fill the need. That happens rarely and Buzz has found himself at exactly that moment in history that all coaches dream of, a perfect storm.

  3. This is incredible insight and I realize it’s probably not even the tip of the iceberg if we, as fans, were privileged enough to listen to Coach inside the locker room or team room. I appreciate his candid nature.

  4. really love how Buzz’ comments challenge even us fans to think about the expansive horizon of what it takes for our team (coaches, admin, trainers, mgrs., red-shirts, etc.) to continue to improve and be a “high quality basketball family.” it’s so much more than X’s and O’s; it’s not just computer simulation come to a court; it’s vision, intuition, personality, pace, film room, history, respect, perspective, toughness, etc. ad infinitum. it’s all the aspects of a game and life rolled into a spherical matrix that boggles the mind.

    so true about:
    “It’s the totality of the program and when you’re trying to flip something when for a long time, it’s been on one end, you have to overcome everything to get it flipped. That includes perception. Seven wins for the Hokies will not get us in.”
    but imho – we’re one year (or two, conservatively estimating) ahead of schedule. on a pivotal mission where we are just reaching the first beach head and securing that base for step(s) next.

    thanks Coach! for sharing and educating us – as well as the entire team about what’s important in life and its carryover applied basketball.

    Go Hokies!

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