Tech Talk Live returned on Monday night, as Virginia Tech men’s basketball head coach Buzz Williams and guard Ahmed Hill made appearances on the show. Both recapped the Hokies’ win at Notre Dame, while Williams spoke in detail about the scandal surrounding Michigan State. Here are the highlights.
How the team was able to pull out a road win vs. Notre Dame
“Before the game, Coach Buzz (Williams) came in and gave us a speech… and it was just like, ‘Now it begins.’ We kept saying that the whole game. So we’d mess up, then we’d say it, and we’d be like, ‘Alright, we’re done with that. Let’s go to the next thing.’ So everything that kept happening throughout the game, I think we kept saying, ‘Alright, it’s done, it can’t happen again, let’s just move on.’”
On his graphic design internship with former Hokies running back Kevin Jones
“I got a lot out of it. I love drawing, and I’m majoring in communications, so I wanted to see what going into that field was like, if I were to go down into architecture and stuff like that. I thought it was very big for me, just to go through it, and see if that’s something I want to do.”
Thoughts on the Boston College game
“I do like the late nights. It feels like a primetime game. I feel like a lot of people watch the late games, so I like it. Me personally. Buzz, probably not, because he’s old so he tries to get to sleep, but that’s fine. BC is a very improved team. They have a great backcourt, tremendous guards.”
How team was able to handle the ups and downs of the Notre Dame win
“That’s probably one of the most valuable lessons anybody in our program can learn from their experience here. Whether it takes one year or four years, because that’s what life is. Everything is connected, six degrees of separation, and all of it is so fragile and all of it is so valuable, and all of it is so important. One of the things I mentioned to them after the game, I try not to talk to them much after a game, good or bad. Occasionally there’s something I want to teach them, but not very often. I’m too spent, they’re too spent, nobody’s listening.
One of the things I asked them to listen to me on after the game on Saturday was, all of these opportunities, thus far, even going forward, that we’ve been afforded, are, if you don’t know, you think they’re the same opportunities that we’ve been given two years ago. Three years ago. A year ago. And they’re not the same opportunities. These opportunities are because of what has been created by the people and the work and the sacrifice over the previous three years. We’re asking a lot of guys to do things on a level that they’ve never had to do, and they don’t completely understand what I just mentioned. But I think that obviously, winning helps. People listen a bit more when you win, including the players. But I wanted to make sure that they understood the week that we had, and how [Tech hosted] a Big Monday for the first time ever, and there’s another Big Monday coming next month.
We went 4-4 last year in January. This is the first time, in January 2018, that we have a chance to have a winning record in the month of January. I could talk about a lot of different specifics, but how our group is maturing into those things, and it’s been hard. That’s what life is. That’s what all those moments are that you mentioned. All of the ‘gut-checks’ or whatever cliché you want to use, that’s life, and it’s a microcosm relative to the game, the Notre Dame game, but that’s just part of life. You have to run to the roar. A lion is just roaring. A lion doesn’t want to fight, a lion just wants you to be scared of the roar. And when you hear a roar, you’ve got to run to it. You can’t back away from it. You have to run to it. Hopefully we’re getting to that point.”
Chris Clarke’s performance down the stretch vs. Notre Dame
“I just thought he played, arguably, the best game he’s played since he’s been here, relative to all the things that he does that contribute to winning. He’s such an elite-level rebounder. I think one of the things, even with Nickeil, and I mentioned this to Nickeil (Alexander-Walker) earlier today, I’m only talking about the past week, I wish I was talking about a longer period of time, but our positioning defensively in both games this past week, was the best that it’s been all year, relative to, ‘Where’s the ball, where’s my man, what’s happening on the strong side, what am I supposed to do, what’s happening on the weak side, what am I supposed to do?’
And rebounding, for sure, is an Achilles heel for our team, but when you’re in the right position, you hope that you can at least push. We beat Carolina on the glass, and they were No. 1 in the league in rebounding. Earlier in the year, they were No. 1 in the country in rebounding. When we didn’t give them a second shot, it was our best field goal percentage defense of the year. And some of the rebounds that they’re getting offensively are not some of the ones we cringe at, relative to, there goes the shot, and there’s the rim, and the ball is coming down in a five-foot area of the rim. A lot of their rebounds, Notre Dame I’m speaking of, were long rebounds. Because 49 percent of the shots they took were threes, which is for sure an aberration. Maybe it won’t be on Wednesday, because those guys are so good from three, but so many of those rebounds we didn’t get were long rebounds. And Chris prevents so many of those, because of his length and his agility. I thought his positioning was as good as it was defensively, which put him in better position to get the rebound. Nickeil had five defensive rebounds against Notre Dame, he had five total against North Carolina. Those are game changers for us.
I had written on the board, prior to Notre Dame — I love writing on the board. It’s the final book report, it’s the last study guide… that’s what I do two hours before the game. One of the things I wrote up there was each player’s average number of rebounds in ACC play. Then I wrote down, and I had told them before, their number of rebounds vs. Carolina. Every single player on our roster except (Kerry Blackshear) got more than their average. Then I wrote down, ‘Ok, so what are we going to do now?’ Chris is the only player on our roster in the top-20 in the ACC in rebounding, and it was at 6.9. He’s playing 30-plus minutes a game. That’s ok, that’s not great. And I said it in hopes that he would be mad, obviously he was. He got 14. So I’m thinking of what I’m going to say now before Boston College. What can I write on the board?”
Reaction to Michigan State controversy and situation surrounding former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar
“There’s so many lessons in all of that. I don’t foresee how any of it could end up good. I don’t deal with social media after Christmas. I already have the kind of stuff that I want to post, and I just hit the post button. I don’t hit the other button, so I don’t see what’s going on, what people are saying to me or what’s going on in the world. But there’s an app called Pocket, where you can save these articles, and one of our managers, that’s what he does for me. I’ve read some of that. I was reading some of that about the Olympic doctor employed at Michigan State, Corey (Williams) was telling me what was going on. It’s so sad. It’s sad on multiple layers in multiple ways. Not just as a coach, but as a dad it’s sad. Not just for Michigan State or the Olympics, it’s just sad relative to the world. And all of the things that were not handled the right way that maybe could have prevented so much of this, and I think any time it becomes ‘He said, she said,’ things are never the same. I want to make sure that I grow from it, I want to make sure I learn from it.
I talked to our team about it on Friday night when we got to South Bend, before the team meal. We always write thank you notes the night before a road game, and before we started, I talked to our team because I want them to understand. Because as this stuff fleshes out and plays itself out, there are going to be people that they know, and it’s sad. I don’t know what the right answer is. What I told the team, and it’s not meant to sound ‘Holier than thou’ at all, because I know so many lives are involved. We only have five team rules, and they’re the most simple five team rules that you can possibly have. And I can say every six weeks or so, I make everybody write them down. Team rule No. 1, it’s ironic that I had them write it down, team rule No. 1 is, ‘Always tell the truth, no matter your emotional state. Secrets are lies.’
When we’re recruiting guys, and it starts getting real, I tell those kids, in front of their mom preferably, ‘Here’s our rules, and let me talk to you about this first one, because I know you’re going to agree with it.’ Always tell the truth right? Because people always say to me, ‘Hey Buzz, thanks for keeping it real.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you’re saying that as a compliment, I don’t know if you’re saying that like that’s cool, but do you understand that the energy and the emotion and toughness required in keeping it real at all times is really, really hard. Sometimes, I don’t want to tell you the truth. Sometimes, I don’t want to lie to you, so I just don’t tell you the truth. But I think that’s a secret. In the huddle, if you suck, I’m going to tell you if you suck. And mama, you hear that. Sometimes, if I’m in an emotional state, suck is not the word I’m going to use. But you know what? If you’re doing good, and (Justin Robinson), you’ve had the best week you’ve ever had in ACC play, when those nerds ask me on the teleconference (Monday), I’m going to say you had the best week in ACC play you’ve ever had.’
And I told our kids on Friday night, and I’m not saying I know everything, I’m not saying I have the answers, and I’m not saying that it’s easy, I think it’s life-changing. But so much of what I’m reading is a violation of team rule No. 1. And I understand how hard it is to follow team rule No. 1 as a person. It’s even harder to execute it as a leader. ‘Hey man. When I ask you something, you’ve got to tell me the truth.’ And you know what, I’ve failed in that regard. I haven’t told my wife 1,000-percent the truth every single time in our relationship, so I’m not trying to say that I came up with this rule and I’m perfect. No, it’s hard. And when you start talking about all of that stuff that I’ve read, I’m probably not supposed to say this either, I just pray. And I pray that I learn from it, I pray that I can potentially help someone avoid it, and I pray for all of the people involved because already, and there’s going to be many more, lives have been changed. And I would say as it plays itself out, many more will be changed.”
Virginia Tech has held the Commonwealth Cup for 4811 days. #Hokies
— Commonwealth Cup (@CommonwlthCup) January 29, 2018
Virginia Tech has held the Black Diamond Trophy for 4867 days. #Hokies
— Black Diamond Trophy (@BlkDiamondTrphy) January 29, 2018