Tech Talk Live Notes: Ahmed Hill, Frank Beamer and Buzz Williams

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Ahmed Hill has made huge improvements to his defense this year, but he’s still a potent offensive threat. (Photo by Jon Fleming)

Ahmed Hill, Frank Beamer and Buzz Williams were Monday’s guests on Tech Talk Live.

Ahmed Hill

On how difficult it has been to change defensively heading into this year…

I just want to thank my coaches for giving me the confidence to go out there and guard their best player. From last year, it was a struggle, but after the season I wanted to focus in more. I wanted to gain the trust and confidence back to be able to go out there and defend and play an important role for the team. I kind of took initiative, watched film, talked to coaches to see what was wrong and just studied positioning. I still work on it to this day. There’s still room for improvement, but I try to get better every day.

On adjusting when someone gets in foul trouble…

Our motto is when somebody goes down, other guys step up, and I think the whole team just went into attack mode. We followed the game plan very well and executed it very well. We were attacking the rim and getting the ball to the middle. Then, guys started knocking down shots and we started playing our basketball.

On how the team has matured and can deal with adversity…

It’s easier when a guard gets in foul trouble rather than KJ [Blackshear]. When we lose KJ, we lose a lot, but when we lose a guard it’s just the next guy up. We have a lot of great guards on the team, and everybody gets in foul trouble. I happen to get in foul trouble a lot too. When KJ gets out, we just have to rebound. We know we have to be aware of rebounds and getting the ball and not letting everybody get to the paint for easy shots. I think that’s the biggest thing for the team.

On his last season with the team…

I think this has been the slowest season I have been a part of. I don’t know why, but it’s the slowest season. Last year, we probably would be playing ACC already it felt like, but now every game is just so slow to me. I think basketball in general just has slowed down to me, probably because I’m learning to play it now, but that’s a good thing.

On the pride he takes in the growth of the program in his time here…

I just remember talking with one of the freshmen this summer, and they were talking about how they came to a game last year and it was sold out. I just remember my freshman year when there were probably 600 people in the stands and now we have every game basically sold out. I think it is phenomenal, and thanks to the fans who come out every day and support us. I think that’s a huge factor for us. When Cassell is loud, it’s hard to play, and coming from freshman year to now it’s just a crazy turnaround.

On the Hokie fans in Atlantic City for the game against Washington…

We were warming up and we had a lot of fans, I thought, ‘Oh, this is like a home game. We have a lot of fans here.’ They said, ‘That’s what happens when you start winning.’ So, that’s definitely a good thing.

On having a daughter…

It just brings a different level of motivation. She’s amazing. I never thought about this at all, but she just gave me a new smile every day. I just have something to strive for in life, to just give her a great life. Somebody I just love unconditionally and it’s hard to put into words how I feel about her.

On how his mother has inspired him…

She called me the other day, kind of mad at me, because I didn’t call her back one night. It’s the same thing with her. I have a lot of motivation to give her the best life for sacrificing so much for me for so long. I just want to repay it one step at a time.

On how his time in Blacksburg has been overall…

It’s been great. Growing up, I didn’t know if I would even go to college. Now I have a degree, I graduated, which was crazy to me. I thought my brother was going to be the only one, and he got a master’s, now I’m working on my master’s. It’s kind of crazy that two brothers in the same family both have master’s. My mom is very excited, she’ll probably come to this graduation as well to see me walk because that’s something she’s really into. She’s really into education because basketball won’t last forever, so I have to have something to do after.

On why he tells the best stories on the team…

I would say I go into very vivid details when I tell stories. I just have a lot of things happening in life and I like to share it as knowledge to give somebody else. It’s funny, whenever something bad happens I just like to tell people just in case they make the same mistake, or they think it’s really funny. I think that’s what it is, I go into vivid detail. I also love fashion. I feel like it’s a way to express yourself without talking, and I don’t really like to talk too much, so I let my clothes do the talking.

On how he has worked with the younger guys on the team…

I think it’s great, thanks to Coach Buzz, we all live in the same complex. We’re not spread out, so every time we come back from team meal, everybody just comes over to my house because I have a nice house. I have a projector, so we sit there and watch movies and play video games. Everybody just bonds and we’re always talking and joking. I think we’re probably the youngest, funniest, and least mature teams in the country by how we act off the court because we’re always around each other and always want to be around each other. Even when we go home on this break, we’ll text each other, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘Miss you and can’t wait to get back.’ I think that’s how we built this thing and that’s how we play.

Frank Beamer made a guest appearance on Tech Talk Live on Monday, (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Frank Beamer (Buzz Williams asking questions)

On being a part of the playoff committee…

It’s thirteen members, it’s very interesting. There are athletic directors, media people, Condoleezza Rice just went off, Barry Alvarez just went off. They use integrity a lot in there, talking about what we do. It’s important, there’s a lot of time involved in it, but I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and the process. People say, ‘How’d you get Oklahoma in there?’ and I say, ‘I had absolutely nothing to do with that.’ Anytime it’s even talked about or discussed, I leave the room (because Shane Beamer coaches at Oklahoma).

It’s the same way when Virginia Tech, particularly last year, was in the rankings, and anytime it was talked about I left the room. Anytime, last year, Georgia was talked about (when Shane coached there), I left the room. I spent a lot of time leaving the room. It finally got to the point where I asked, ‘Does anybody know a good bar around here?’ I’d like to enjoy myself. It’s really neat and I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

On the playoff expanding to eight teams…

It’s a (school) president decision. People are very happy with four. The thing about four is that every game counts. During the season, when only four get in, if you lose one game, you’re probably not going to make it. You lose twice, you’re done, probably. Making every game important during the season is important to that. The other side of that is that if you had eight you could put your conference champions in there and the Central Florida types in there that deserve a shot at it, and then put a couple of other selections, maybe a runner-up or whatever.

It probably would make the most sense as far as having all of your bases covered. The contract goes for four or five more years, and I know of no one that matters who is arguing for eight teams. We’re happy with four, the system’s working, and there’s a lot of conversation about the games that are coming up, so we’ll see.

On whether the four-team system is taking away from the value of conference championships…

I think the conference championship games become more important when you do it this way because that is their avenue to be in that eight. I think there are a lot of reasons why it would be good if there were eight teams involved, but I think the main theme is every game counts during the season.

On the Alabama-Oklahoma game and his son Shane’s thoughts… 

I think they feel good, it’s going to be a great game. Alabama’s defense versus Oklahoma and that little quarterback, they can move the football. I told him, Kyler Murray, I was out there for one game and I went in there and I said, ‘You remind me of Michael Vick, a lot of things he did.’ Then I saw another game and I said, ‘I think Michael Vick could learn from you.’ He told me they had each other’s phone numbers and talked a little bit. He’s sensational, you talk about an athletic guy, but watch him throw the football and see how many guys catch them on the dead run and can continue to go.

Somebody was talking to him the other day and said they thought the Alabama quarterback threw better than he did. He came right back and said, ‘Why do you think that?’ They said, ‘Well, I just thought…’ He said, ‘No, no why do you think that?’ He wasn’t going to accept that. I think he’s sensational, and the Alabama quarterback is sensational too. You’ve got to have that quarterback. You can be average around him. If you have an average quarterback, you may have a below average team.

On his favorite Bear Bryant story… 

I always associate Jerry Claiborne [with Bear Bryant], he was my coach and of course he played for Bear Bryant. I felt like I knew Bear Bryant and knew almost everything about him. I think mostly the thought and image of him leaning against the goalpost with his hat getting ready for warmups, that’s what I remember. I remember he almost always seemed to be in control of the situation. That’s what I tried to do, as much as things were turning, I never wanted to be too high or too low. I admire the way you coach. My wife always told me to show more enthusiasm on the sideline. You look at how your kids play and that shows how good of a coach you are. I’ll be there Wednesday night.

On his favorite Mack Brown story… 

Mack, he had good success at Tulane. We played him, and that’s the only time I actually coached against him. We’ve become good friends, and Sally [Brown] and Cheryl [Beamer] have become good friends. We like them a lot. I didn’t really know him that well back then, but he was coaching Tulane. That’s back when we were having a hard time just winning a game, and so we got in at halftime and it’s about 35-6. One of my coaches, I forget who it was, said, ‘Coach, you have to go in there and get after those guys, you’ve got to get in there and lay the law down.’ I said no, and he said, ‘We’ve got to do something to rally the troops.’

So, I went in there and started screaming and I think I may have even thrown a chair against the wall, it went on for about three or four minutes. We went back out and kicked off to them and they took it to the end zone. I thought, ‘That talk was good.’ So, that shows just be who you are, don’t be somebody you’re not. That talk didn’t work out.

On Mack Brown coming back to coach at UNC…

I was surprised. His thing is that he missed the players and missed the team. I said all along that you have to do what your heart tells you to do.

On whether he misses coaching…

I miss certain parts. I don’t miss coming here after we’ve lost a ball game. I’ve said this many times, I think more about how fortunate I was to have coached 29 years at the place that I love, had the fans that made us and got involved, made College Gameday and got it started here. I think more about how fortunate I was rather than what I’m missing now.

Buzz Williams likes the togetherness of his team. (Photo by Jon Fleming)

Buzz Williams

On his level of satisfaction with the problems the team has solved so far this season… 

I’ve been running around the country all day today after we watched film this morning, and one thing that I was texting the staff about is that tomorrow will be our 39th practice. That’s how I judge where we are in the season. Really good teams practice 100 times. You have to get to Easter Sunday to practice 100 times. In essence, we will be at 40% of the season complete before the kids go home. One of the things I texted the staff was, tomorrow we need to practice man offense because your whole practice itinerary, your brain, your film sessions in preparation for Washington was all zone.

I think that the togetherness of our group is continuing to grow at a rate slightly faster than normal. I think they better understand how distinct and important each of their roles are. I think they’re for sure ahead of schedule relative to that. Strategically, I would say that we’re behind 12-15% on where we should be. It was not necessarily a conscious decision, but I’ve been more focused on their togetherness and them completely, not only understanding, but having confidence in their ability to execute their role. I’ve been a little slow, particularly after Thanksgiving, in “we need to add this and know how to do this” because I think it becomes similar to what Coach was saying earlier. If you have a bad quarterback, you can have the best wide receivers, but it stresses every other grouping out.

I feel the same as a coach in a different sport. If your togetherness, your fight, and your understanding of your role is not completely clear, then no matter what strategy or plays you have, it’s going to fail. It’s a byproduct of issues on the other side. I think we’re ahead in that regard, but we need to make up some time. We’ll practice tomorrow, we’ll practice Wednesday before the game for an hour, and then we come back Christmas night. Christmas night won’t be much, then we practice the 26th, 27th, and then play the 28th. We have to make up some time relative to that percentage I think we’re down in.

On whether he will take some time to decompress during the holidays… 

I’m excited about it in some respects, but dreading it in others because of the wear and tear. Not that it’s a hard job, I think some coaches act like we’re doing things that change the world. Maybe we’re changing guys that will change the world, but relative to the game, I think sometimes coaches kind of overstate it. I’m going to speak at a leadership deal on Thursday morning. I’m also going to watch Bubba (Buzz’s son) play on Thursday, which will be fun.

Friday, I’m going to try not to do much. Saturday, I’m going to go recruiting all day. Then, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I’ll be off until we get back together Tuesday night. Corey and I have been married 18.5 years, so this will be our 19th Christmas together, and we’ve never left home. Obviously, I’ve been coaching the entire time, and throughout all of my children’s school age years I’ve been a head coach.

I don’t know that we couldn’t go somewhere, but to have 2.5-3 days at home with no radio show, no practice, no recruiting, those are the only three days of the year that I get that. To be able to maybe sleep halfway like a normal person, and maybe sit around. It’s not necessarily what our kids want to do, but as a family we enjoy being together in our own home. I’m kind of funny about our house. It’s my sanctuary where I feel like I can be myself, so to be able to get three days at home is really good. I am looking forward to that.

On the maturity and experience of his team… 

At this level, we’re one of the older teams this year. I think we’ll be the youngest team in the country next year. We’ll for sure have seven freshmen on the team. We still have a scholarship available if we sign another freshman. It’s probably not the right way to enter year six, but to have Ahmed Hill, who is in his fifth year, Ty Outlaw who is a JUCO kid now in his fourth year here, Five [Justin Robinson] didn’t redshirt, Kerry Blackshear did. Within each independent scholarship, there’s always a story, and how you best support that story, and all of the trials and tribulations, and the excitement and all of the good things, it’s rare that you get to this level when guys are leaving early.

The transfer rate, 351 schools, and on average more than two kids per year leave. It’s the number one problem in our profession. More than 700 kids are transferring. The higher the level, obviously the higher the talent. With a transfer rate that high, kids are leaving as soon as possible to get to the highest level. To get to this point is special.

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6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Coach Frank Beamer, a living legend. what he has done for VT is so profound. So happy for him for enjoying the good life! Thank you for everything Coach.

  2. I’m surprised Buzz doesn’t know the length of his marriage down to two decimal points. (18.5 years? Don’t you mean 18.57?)

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