Tech Talk Live Notes: Buzz Williams on Energy, and the Thin Margin in the ACC

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Virginia Tech Talk Live

Tech Talk Live aired once again on Monday night, with Virginia Tech men’s basketball head coach Buzz Williams and forward Chris Clarke as guests. Here are the highlights from Monday night’s show.

Chris Clarke

How playing for Cape Henry Collegiate School helped him prepare for Division I basketball

“I would just say playing with the caliber of my teammates, it helped me get better. I knew playing with them, they were already D1 athletes, I knew this is what I would be going up against when I got here.”

Season going by fast?

“I would say the season is going by slow for me, because I’ve yet to play a full season. So I’m just soaking it all in.”

Progress of outside jump shot

“I would say I’m where I want to be with me shooting the ball, but with my confidence, I’d say I still lack it.”

Advantage of seeing final three regular season opponents earlier in the season?

“I would definitely say it’s an advantage, because you’ve already played them. You know the players, who’s going to shoot the ball, who’s going to do what. So I’d say it’s an advantage.”

Talk amongst players about final four games of the regular season

“As you said, just staying together, making sure you’re taking care of your body, because it’s a really long season and there’s so much further to go.”

Differences between loss at Duke and win at Georgia Tech

“Just staying together. It’s not going to be as bad as it seems. We knew we had these three home games coming up, and that we should be fine for that. So we weren’t too sad about it.”

Buzz Williams

How many steps the program has taken, as evidenced by clinching a winning record in ACC road games

“A lot, is how I would answer it. One-thousand, four hundred and thirty-one days ago is when I was hired, and to be in this spot after Valentine’s Day, with Virginia Tech history at stake, is a lot of fun, and you can rewind a lot of that to winning five road games. There’s not one player or one coach that you can single out to be a part of something like that. It’s never happened in the history of the school. It’s rare that it happens to any team that’s not a blue-blood. It just speaks to our staff, it speaks to the synergy of our staff, it speaks to the continuity that Whit (Babcock) has allowed our staff to continue to grow in and develop in. It speaks to kids that have had their head beat in from early on, and understand how hard it is to win on the road, the difficulty and the magnitude per possession. It speaks to the evolution of our program on many levels, in my opinion. With still a lot to go, a lot of work to get done before Miami, but incredibly humbled. Really, really, really grateful. There’s several chapters in a book that you can write on that question there, and I’ve done a poor job of answering it, but really thankful.”

Team’s performance vs. Georgia Tech

“Yeah, I thought the first eight minutes of the second half, like we talked in postgame, I thought it was the best eight-minute segment we’d ever had since we’ve been here. On the road. And for whatever reason, I think we’re starting to learn to like to fight. I don’t think it’s human nature to want to fight. I think I was just born demented, so that’s what I prefer to do. But good people don’t grow up wanting to fight. It’s kind of a trained behavior, and it takes time, and I think there are elements within each guy where they’re kind of looking forward to, ‘We’re going to fight,’ and I think that was evident at noon on Saturday. I think it was evident, personally, at the ballroom at 6:45 on Saturday morning.

To want to fight, period, is against human nature. To want to fight until game 27, that means you have some level of resistance, some level of, ‘I know how to fight’ training, and I thought it was in many respects — I love Josh Pastner and have great respect for him, and have great compassion to what he’s been going through over the last eight months, but I thought we took their spirit. I didn’t think that I outcoached him, I don’t think that we have better players, I don’t think that we tricked them, I just think we were literally fighting and we’re going to keep punching, and eventually they just said, ‘No más.’”

Virginia Tech men's basketball
Bringing energy on a consistent basis is one of Buzz Williams’ most noticeable traits. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Embracing the “Chief Energy Officer” role

“Thanks for saying that. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I think that’s all this is. I could be wrong. I think there are a lot better coaches than I am that would answer that question in a different way. I think one thing that’s hard to quantify, unless you’re inside it, and I know both of you guys are, is the day-to-day itinerary of our kids. Most people think that starts the second Friday in November. It starts the day after Labor Day, and there’s such a route and a rhythm and a routine to all that we do athletically. And there’s such a schedule to what they do academically. And for the most part, I’ve worked really hard — Jeff Reynolds is to be commended, not me —we’ve had three-and-a-half days off each Christmas since we’ve been here, and that’s really hard to do. But in essence, from the day after Labor Day, minus three-and-a-half-days, through today, our guys have worked at an unbelievable clip on and off the floor. That doesn’t mean that we’re working harder than everybody else, every team is going through this. And a lot of coaches will say it’s the ‘dog days’ of February, and just because I want to be a contrarian nearly in everything, I want that to be flipped in our program.

I want us to be excited, I want us to be grateful, I want us to be thankful. I want us to have an opportunity to step across a threshold that this program hasn’t experienced in decades. And some of those things have happened in our tenure here, and we’re broaching another threshold, but we are dealing with 18 to 21-year-old kids, some of them like girls, some of them like to watch TV, some of them like to watch video games, some of them are into social media, some of them have an attention span that’s much smaller than mine, which is very small, so there’s a lot of elements involved. I say it in the fall to our staff, ‘We all have gas tanks. You have a gas tank, Ms. Hahn has a gas tank.’ You have a physical gas tank, you have an emotional gas tank, you have a mental gas tank, and all of those gas tanks at this time of the year, relative to what we’re doing, they’re all approaching (empty). Lyle (Wolf) is probably the best at it, (Roccaforte) hasn’t been around me long enough to know, Jamie (McNeilly) is elite at it, because I coached him, I don’t mess around with anything after the first or second week of February. Anything that’s going on in the world, I’m hearing from Corey (Williams). ‘You’re in, you’re out, you’re ranked, you’re this,’ I don’t touch any of it. I think it’s poison, I think it’s cyanide. I don’t coach our guys like that.

The one thing I’ve been trying to teach our guys — this probably isn’t the right forum to say, so I’ll summarize it — I think God, or the god that I talk to, he wants us to be dead to certain things. He wants us to be dead to the noise around us. He wants us to be dead to our ego. He wants us to be dead to selfishness. He wants us to be dead to comparison. So I just try and stay dead to everything, other than my energy, and I’m over-protective of my energy. Unless it’s three days before a game, I don’t check email. My phone is black and white, because I don’t want color on it. I just try to stay away from everything, and I try to protect my energy. So on Saturday morning, at 6:45, after traveling Friday night at 8 o’clock, ‘Hey guys, here we come,’ you have to be kind of weird and strained and say silly stuff and kind of say condescending stuff and say sarcastic things, and even say hurtful things, but I think that is why we played the way we did. I think to an extent, eight days, we played three games, all three on the road, two of those three we won, that’s hard to do. That’s hard to do relative to where we were, relative to where we are, relative to where we’re trying to go, so that’s a long answer, but energy is all that matters at this time of year.”

Biggest surprise in the ACC this season

“Good question. I would not have thought one team, at this moment in time, would have only lost one game. I would not have thought that one team, in this moment of time, would not have won a game, and I would not have thought that the other 13 teams, in essence, were separated by three games. If you’re Tony Bennett, you’re probably excluded, if you’re Coach (Mike Krzyzewski), you’re excluded, if you’re Coach Roy Williams, you’re excluded, if you’re Rick Pitino, you’re excluded of things on the floor, but the margin does not trend towards there being a lot of Frank Beamers in ACC basketball. Because the margin is just so thin. Two years ago, Boston College was winless, and I remember listening to, ‘That’s never happened in a Power 5 league after World War II, of any Power 5 league that plays 18 games. Two years from now, since he’s a senior, and our first ACC game is going to be the first game of the year, because TV is running it. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, I’ll just cut it off. There’s going to be 20 ACC games. So now, all of a sudden, pick any two games that you want to pick. Pick Radford, pick Ole Miss, pick a team, you ain’t playing them anymore. Now there’s 20 of those games, and now the margin, I already think it’s invisible, it shrinks even more.

So the longevity of life and the longevity of coaching life is continuing to shrink because if you look at the numbers, we’re 8-6 through 14 games, the difference in the margin through 14 games — man, we’ve played really good, we’ve played really bad, we’ve played eight of the 14 on the road, here comes a really good homestand Buzz, but do you know that the margin today, Virginia Tech, 14 ACC games, is negative 0.9. That includes the demolishing in Durham last week. That includes, we played really well against whatever team. Through 14 games, negative 0.9. This media guy, ‘Hey, will you do this?’ ‘Will you do that?’ No. Not in profanity, it’s a place, hell no. Like no, I can’t do that. Like, I can’t give you my energy, and the spread is negative 0.9. I can’t do that. We have four of those to go and everybody is like, ‘But three of them are at home.’ Did you know we had early bird this morning, then I told some kid that I would do Chalk Talk, and then we have practice, and then we have the radio show, no, that’s it. That’s it. I can’t do anymore. All because in our world, in this world, at Virginia Tech, everything is based on, ‘I am going to have more energy than you.’ And I show up and our players are looking at me like, ‘Hey Coach, what’s up?’ And I’m like, ‘Man, I’m ready to see you pal.’ That’s got to be real, because they know me. But negative 0.9?”

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16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. OMG….. I love this look into Coach’s Beautiful Mind.

    Hokies…..Did anyone see the hidden gem that Coach just gave us? Did you listen closely to his words about avoiding Poison and Walking the path God wants.

    I’m not trying to get overspiritual……but Nick Saban breathes that same philosophy to his troups every single day! He’s fanatical every single day.

    That same philosphy, those same similar words were expressed earlier this year by the leader of one of the greatest Football dynasties that College Football has seen next to legends like Bear Bryant or Frank Beamer. Saban exclaims and teaches that its external Poison that is the ‘Troy’ of men.

    Legends like Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Bill Belechick, Mike Krzyzewski all express a similar Professor Xavier type quality about them and a mentally-tough teaching style that’s allowed their teams to achieve high dominance and high greatness. Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, Patriots, Blue Devils all welcom and embrace adversity. They welcome the Fight.

    If we can treat Buzz right and have a slight bit of lady luck on our side like scoring a 5star or four 4star recruits in one class……. A few years from now the nation could be talking a whole lot more about Buzz.

    We could be witnessing the birth of another great moment in Tech History.

  2. I love Buzz’s passion and energy, and he sure is entertaining. But speaking crisply and coherently isn’t his strong suit 🙂

        1. As long as we are talking decimals, that is .8 in my book, not .9 – unless there is some unseen rounding.

          For the record – getting out-scored with a winning record is a sign of a good team. Of course, going undefeated and not getting out-scored would be better.

    1. I think he’s saying if you add up all of the ACC scores of our games and divide by the number of games, the average margin is -0.9 points. i.e. a small difference is all we are working with for wins and losses.

    2. I just finished reading the article and went down to the comments to ask if someone would explain what -0.9 meant. Thanks for doing it for me!

      Buzz is an interesting guy, and I’m very glad he’s out coach. But the latest glimpse inside of his mind reminded me of the 80s Fox sitcom “Herman’s Head”. I bet someone could write a successful sitcom based on Buzz interviews.

      1. I would love to be a fly on the wall during a one on one conversation between Buzz and Timothy O’Leary (RIP).

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