Tech Talk Live Notes: Tony Robie and Buzz Williams

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Virginia Tech
Tony Robie and the Hokies have a big match coming up against Pitt. (Photo by Jon Fleming)

Tony Robie

On the team heading into the matchup against No. 13 Pittsburgh on Friday…

I feel really good about where we are as a team right now, how we’re competing and how we’re wrestling. I felt great about our preparation over really the last month since school ended in December. For us, not having class is a great opportunity for us to improve and focus. The guys could just solely focus on wrestling. We give them about six days off before Christmas, then we came back and sent a few guys down to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Southern Scuffle and a few guys up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to compete in an open tournament at Franklin & Marshall, but we haven’t competed a ton.

That’s allowed us to train and focus in some areas that we need to get better, and really steadily improve throughout the course of this month. In the sport of wrestling, like most sports, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We want to make sure that we’re wrestling our best down the home stretch.

On what he learned about the team early in the season…

It’s really good to be healthy. That’s one thing in our sport, I don’t know if people realize it, is when you have a guy out, we had two starters out, that’s 20% of your starters. Not being healthy is part of it, and we competed against two good teams. I always say when we’re putting our schedule together, I want to design our schedule so that we’re exposed a little bit throughout the course of the season. That way, we can tweak and fix some things as the season goes along.

That was part of that process. When we went out there, obviously we didn’t have the results we wanted against a good Missouri team, who I think is No. 4 in the country or No. 5 in the country. Then we came back and didn’t wrestle great against Northwestern. I do think that’s part of the process for us in identifying where we need to improve and how we can get better. It allowed us to address those areas as the season went along. That’s ultimately what it’s about, it’s about the process of improvement throughout the season and that’s what we try to focus on.

On David McFadden’s performance against Princeton…

He was wrestling a pretty tough guy from Princeton and he shot in, but he shot in deeper than I thought. He hit his head on his opponent right in the knee. In wrestling now, you can take an injury timeout, but the opponent gets their choice. They do have a concussion protocol, so David went into that. When that happens, they take the wrestler out of the arena, they take them back in an isolated area, and they have a doctor that will evaluate him at that time. David went back and went through the concussion protocol and they cleared him to wrestle, so he came back out like he was Superman and finished the match. That was good for us because we got a W and it helped us win that dual meet.

On how the training, conditioning, and nutrition has changed since he began wrestling…

I think there are a lot of differences now, especially in those areas. The nutrition is a big part of it. The sports psychology is huge, especially in our sport, the mental aspect is huge. That’s something that we try to spend a lot of time on with our guys. Not only training them physically, but training them mentally, training their brains, and having them ready to compete, and they have a belief in themselves when they step out on the mat. That’s definitely a big part of it.

The science, nutrition, and the resources that these athletes have at their disposal has changed tremendously over the course of the last 20 years. With everything they have at Virginia Tech, with the Oasis, the nutrition center, sports psychology, sports medicine, strength and conditioning. You’re seeing a bigger, stronger athlete than you did 20 years ago, and I think that’s true for a lot of sports. In our sport, guys are training year-round more than they did when I was around. These guys are wrestling 100 matches a year from the time they’re in the third grade.

I don’t think that’s necessarily good either, there’s a higher burnout rate. You can also see the quality of the wrestling of the guys that make it through is really high. They come into college wrestling at a really high level, and you’re seeing guys that are true freshmen winning NCAA titles. That’s definitely something that you didn’t see 20 years ago, that’s a big change in the sport.

On military appreciation night against Pittsburgh on Friday…

That’s obviously a big deal for us and our program. It’s a great honor to be able to recognize those guys and everything they do in their service to our country. We’ll have some cool military singlets and recognize the Corps of Cadets. I think more than anything, we’re excited to compete at home again and like you mentioned, we’ve only had one home game. We have several down the stretch, including the ACC Championships in Cassell Coliseum. It’ll be good to get back on the mat in Cassell against a very good opponent.

On facing UVA at the Moss Arts Center in February…

I think there are still 200 tickets available for that event. We need to sell that out. It’s on February 16th at the Moss Arts Center. If you’ve never attended a wrestling match there, it’s a really cool environment to watch a wrestling match. I think it’s probably the most unique venue in the country for wrestling.

I know that’s always an exciting night for the guys on our team. They always love going over there and competing, and our fans enjoy it as well. Make sure you get your tickets for that and come out and support the Hokies. We’ve got a big one this Friday against Pitt like you mentioned. They’re wrestling great, they’re ranked No. 13 in the country, and there are going to be some great individual matchups in that match. I think that’s what makes dual meets exciting, is that you’re going to see a couple of really tight matchups that will come down to one or two points.

On the crazy stretch coming up for the team…

I think, for our fans, this is going to be a really cool stretch here for them to come out and watch us compete. If we take care of business against Pitt and the rest of our ACC opponents, we’ll likely be competing for the ACC dual meet or regular season championship against NC State. Then, we’ll turn around March 9th and have another chance to win an ACC Championship in Cassell Coliseum. We know that’s something we’ve circled on our calendars, we’ve talked about that as a team a lot, and it’s certainly on our list of goals for the season.

On B.C. LaPrade…

He’s been knocking on the door for a long time. He had a good year last year as a freshman, and kind of got injured at the end of the year. He didn’t finish things quite the way he wanted to finish things. He really put in a great summer of training and I’ve said this before, people from the outside who aren’t in the wrestling room every day might be surprised with his breakout performance. He beat the No. 4 or No. 5 ranked guy in the country from ODU, and had another good win against UVA where he pinned his guy in the first minute of the match.

I’m not surprised. I know how important wrestling is to B.C., I see how hard he works, I see how much pride he has, how he approaches his craft, so he’s all-in on wrestling. It’s good to see him get those kinds of results.

Virginia Tech
Buzz Williams and the Hokies host Syracuse on Saturday. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Buzz Williams

On the difference between the losses to UVA and UNC…

I thought our energy was better, I thought our energy was more cohesive, I thought our “try” was more impactful. That’s not to take anything away from North Carolina or Virginia. I thought our guys hung in there [more] mentally, physically, and emotionally on Monday night than they did on Tuesday night on the road. I was encouraged by that. Not that we lost, but more how we lost. That was the disappointment at Virginia, the loss, but more important, how we lost. That was my discussion with the guys after the game, and I think that they felt the same way.

On the start against UNC…

I thought we started good. I thought our guys were in a good groove, and mentally and emotionally, they were in sync. They felt that in the two ATO’s [media timeouts] that were a part of that run. Obviously when you make shots it looks better, but just the mentality again. I think sometimes you miss shots because of mentality and sometimes you make shots because of mentality.

The plan relative to what we wanted to take advantage [of] was coming together from the beginning, and they saw it. I was not a good player, so I think when players are able to take what you’ve been saying as a coach and they’re able to see it, now, it becomes even more powerful. I think that was for sure happening in the first ten minutes of the game.

On the players taking lessons from the losses…

I think the reason why the feeling was different last night than Tuesday night is because of their maturity. They continued to fight despite some of the things that were stacked against us on Monday night. I think that’s only from their maturation and togetherness of those kids exclusive of the coaching staff. I think it speaks to their parents and how they raised them and the discipline they had growing up, because at any point, maybe the last five minutes of the first half, the last six minutes of the second half, things could have really splintered apart. We’ve been a part of that, but I did not sense that in any way.

On getting past those two tough road tests…

I’m glad it’s over. It’s similar to what we’ve talked about before. It’s got to be a day-tight compartment. You can get caught up in who or where you play, I also think it’s when you play, that’s a big part of it. You can become so excited. As a coach, it’s like, if we win I sleep, if we lose I can’t sleep. It probably shouldn’t be that way. It sounds like the job is way more important than it is, but it’s more relief when you win as opposed to overwhelming anxiousness when you lose.

When you get into that as an adult and that begins to be infused into your kids, I don’t think that that’s the right approach. I’ve been really hesitant and mindful, and tried to be self-aware of maybe, what can I do to help them the most? Also, for their life, what is best for, we have to do today. Whether it was UVA and whatever they’re ranked or North Carolina and whatever they’re ranked on the road, or now we’re at home and when we’re at home, we automatically win. You can’t get into all of that.

All of this is so fragile, and what you can be responsible for is your attitude for your work and how you go about your day. Today was our off day. It’s the first day that we’ve been off since after UVA. That’s hard, too. Any time you play on the road, you get home at 3:00 in the morning. Our kids got to go to school today for the first time in the spring semester, so that’s added to the plate like it is for every other team. So, let’s do today, then we’re back to work tomorrow.

On the foul trouble the team had last night…

I knew I was going to burn a timeout. When could I burn the timeout to maybe buy us another two possessions? When will there be a dead ball when I can put Five [Justin Robinson] or Nickeil [Alexander-Walker] in so maybe we can get some semblance of offense or a basket? Can we get a basket and then use the timeout? How can we control the clock to eat up some of the clock to get to halftime? You’re just playing all of that the best you can.

I don’t think it has to be a hard and fast rule that when you get two fouls, you can’t play anymore. I trend that direction, but I also think it’s a part of your roster. How many are on your roster? How many can make an impact on your roster? What’s the time, score, and momentum of the game? I think we started out really well. I don’t think they were on their heels, I just think that we were on good footing early.

I think it was 3:28 was the last media timeout before halftime, and I just told the guys, “This is where we have to manage it the best we can, this is where we have to fight, this is when we can’t have a live ball turnover.” Just stand there and hold the ball till the clock runs out before we just give it to them. 22 points on live ball turnovers. It was the most turnovers we had all season, and it was the highest turnover rate we’ve had all season. That’s not to put it on the kids that had the turnovers, but some of it is that we had our two-best ball-handlers on the bench for the first time ever. It was all of those things happening. In the second half, we only had four turnovers. That’s good. What if we had six in the first half instead of twelve? That’s a big difference, on the road particularly.

On Kerry Blackshear…

I think he was the best player on the court. I told him that when I pulled him out. We’re going to need him to continue to have superlative effort, and hopefully superlative statistics, over the rest of the season. Maybe that’s one biproduct of last night, that we can lean on him, because I thought that he was dominant in many ways.

On what the process of getting right after a loss looks like…

It’s a different week because of how the last week has gone. We played Tuesday-Saturday, and then it was our first Saturday-Monday turn in conference play. We were off today because school started, and physically none of us could have done anything, including me. Tomorrow is not a two-day or one-day before prep, so this week will be a little different. Because this week is different than last week, that typically means that the following week is going to be more like last week, because next week we play Wednesday-Saturday-Monday.

In other words, the next time we play three games, it’ll be three games in five days. Not to try to go too far ahead down the road, but you have to win the next one. That’s what any coach would tell you, but you also have to try to have enough wisdom to think about what is best considering the week we just came off of with a little bit of wisdom to think about what is best considering next week.

Tomorrow, we will close down North Carolina. In our program, any time we have a day off, the next morning we have early bird. I think this is the twelfth week of the basketball season, so that means we typically start work six weeks before the season starts. We’re doing individuals and stuff the day after Labor Day, but tomorrow morning will be our eighteenth early bird of the year. That’s just another moving part, that’s a tradition in our program. The morning after a day off, we will always have something the next morning. During the season, that typically means we’re going to close down the previous game. If it’s a two-day before or a one-day before of a game on early bird, we would begin preparation for the next game, but since tomorrow is Wednesday and we don’t play till Saturday, tomorrow is completely an “us” day. We’ll start with early bird and close out North Carolina tomorrow.

On UNC’s 20-0 run…

I can’t remember all 20 points, but I can remember most of them. I used a timeout during one of them, for sure could have used another, but that would have been three in the first half. Typically, I don’t want to do that, I’ve done it once in my career. There wasn’t another option. Five had three fouls, Nickeil had two fouls. I wasn’t going to risk Nickeil getting his third foul, so the five guys we had on the floor were the five guys.

The only decision I had was whether I should burn a third timeout. I didn’t want to. I wanted to get it to halftime and see if there was a chance we could potentially turn it into a game in the second half. I think it was 13-0, it may have been 14-0, was the last ATO score. We potentially could have used another timeout, but hindsight is 20/20. That was kind of the only thing that could maybe be different.

On Justin Robinson’s foul trouble in the second half…

I told all of them at halftime that if they’re playing not to foul, I’m not going to play them. I think that was Five’s first time in his career having three fouls entering the second half. Ty [Outlaw] did it once earlier this year, and I subbed Ty in for offense to hopefully make a shot. It was a home game, I don’t remember which. He did the same thing on an offensive rebound and got his third. Five’s third foul was on the charge. At that moment in time, you have to play regardless of what your foul situation is.

On attacking Syracuse’s zone…

One of the things that we will do on Thursday. As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow morning we’ll close down North Carolina. When we played Washington, I think we played Washington on a Saturday. I think it was the second Saturday of December. We did not close down Washington on purpose so that when we start on Thursday morning for Syracuse, we have a sample size to add to all of our stuff from Syracuse from years past.

We’ll utilize what we used against Washington relative to how we attacked that zone. We’ll show them some of those clips from that game in Atlantic City, and then we’ll begin to show them things that Syracuse has done so far this season. Obviously, it’s our only time playing Syracuse this season, so we’ll use some of the evidence from Washington in preparation for Saturday’s game.

On Tyus Battle…

He’s a hard matchup for anybody in the league. He’ll for sure be a hard matchup for us. A guy with size who can pass, dribble, and shoot, with a scorer’s mentality, will get fouled at all three levels because he can score at all three levels. They’re 4-1, I think they play on Thursday at home, so they’ll play their sixth game on Thursday, but through five games, he’s a big reason why they’re 4-1.

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I would rather read Buzz than listen to him on the radio. That way you don’t miss a whole lot and you can go back and reread and say what??! and I try to figure out what he just said. Whoever is writing this up is doing a fabulous job.

  2. Wow, Buzz is never short on words. I think he is more detailed than my wife and that’s saying a lot!

  3. Buzz: “Because this week is different than last week, that typically means that the following week is going to be more like last week, because next week we play Wednesday-Saturday-Monday.”

    Who’s on first?

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