Tech Talk Live Notes: Buzz’s Staff

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Virginia Tech Talk Live

Buzz Williams gave his staff members an opportunity to tell their stories on Tech Talk Live.

Baylie Stous, Director of Administration

On her journey to Blacksburg…

I started as a student manager at Wichita State for two years. I got to learn all about sports and men’s basketball and how a mid-major Division I program operates. Then, I had the opportunity to go with an assistant coach who got a head coaching job, Chris Jans at Bowling Green State University. I was with him for a year and then transitioned back to Wichita State where I finished my undergrad degree and started my master’s.

I worked in student services for a year, so I got the academic and student side of things. Then, I ultimately decided that my passion was with basketball and the organizational side of it, so I transitioned back to the men’s basketball program at Wichita State where I finished my master’s. Then, Coach Marshall gave me my first chance to work full-time on his staff as the program assistant.

On her life growing up…

I’m from a very small town called Barrington, Kansas, just south of Topeka, the capital of Kansas. I grew up on a farm. I was the son my dad never had. I had a great childhood. I played volleyball, but I never played basketball, which is kind of an odd quirk to how I’m here, but I’ve always been a kind of helper person. I was a manager in high school, which is how the whole thing got started. I did start with baseball, not basketball, that was my first true love.

Transitioning to basketball, I just had the opportunity at Wichita State. My hometown is only two hours from Wichita State, so it was nice that I got to see family a lot. I would go home on weekends and they came to games. It’s a little different here, but I definitely love Blacksburg.

On how the transition to Buzz Williams’ staff has gone…

I was a little worried about that. I never thought this early in my career that I would take a job where I didn’t know anyone on the staff, but from the interview, they did a really good job. They all acted exactly like they would act every day, at breakfast, Jamie [McNeilly] was cracking jokes and they’re talking recruiting. I felt very welcomed even from my interview. Then, as soon as I got here, from the get-go, they’ve been nothing but supportive. We did have a little transition after I got here, but it went very smoothly and now we’re all very close.

On her job…

You never know each day what you’re going to get. For the most part, I help organize all of the events that we do, “Hokies, Hoops and Heels”, “Buzz’s Bunch”, all of those fun things we do. I help organize and manage those for the coaches. I work closely with Lyle [Wolf] and we kind of help each other out with travel and recruiting, like Lyle got the plane for today, but I got the car. Obviously, I help Coach Williams a lot, keep his calendar, schedule, his meetings, things like that. Then, team meals, feeding the guys.

Ryan Nadeau, Director of Player Personnel

On his role with the team…

I break down our opponents. We do five games out for each team, so I’ll break them down with the managers. We’ll go through them, offense and defense. Then, I’ll try to help out Lyle and Coach McNeilly as much as I can with breaking down their plays, what sets they run, and giving that to them so that they’re organized. I do as much as possible to do the grunt work for them. Also, looking at different statistics, trying to find anything that puts us in a better position.

On how he made it to Virginia Tech…

After high school, I really wanted to continue my basketball career. Calvin College, I was fortunate enough, they asked me to come and play. They were a small Division III school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I played for two years and then realized that I wanted to get into coaching.

I didn’t know that playing would put me into that situation. I took a leap of faith and transferred to Michigan State without really knowing anybody. I went out to be a manager and ended up getting a position for two years, and Coach Izzo asked me to stay on for a third year. I stayed there as a fifth-year senior. After that, the coaches and I sat down and talked and were trying to figure out what path I wanted to take whether it was front office or coaching. We both decided that coaching was the route that I wanted to go. He figured that the NBA would probably be the best fit for me, just so I could learn X’s and O’s.

Going to the NBA, that kind of accelerates that because it’s only basketball on a daily basis. I ended up getting very lucky, I had a few interviews in the NBA and got a job with the Chicago Bulls as a Basketball Operations Associate. I spent two years there, learning as much as I could under Coach [Fred] Hoiberg and Coach Jim Boylen. Then, after two years there I saw that this job was open, decided to go after it, didn’t know much about it, and ended up getting lucky.

On how analytics in basketball have developed over the years… 

With the new cameras and technology today, you can track so many different things. From how many times someone dribbles in a game to how many miles they’re running. So, you can really track your players and how efficient we’re being. I think the new cameras really offer a huge advantage to teams nowadays. I’m trying to bring some of that stuff from the NBA to help out the Hokie coaching staff. They already have a great feel for analytics and I’m just trying to give ideas when I can here and there. Analytics is really good when you know how to apply it to the game. You can’t just look at numbers and assume it’s going to translate, you have to see where it translates. 

On how he got into the video side of basketball… 

I actually wasn’t that into video. When I figured out that I wanted to get into coaching at Michigan State, I found out that video was the way that I had to get into coaching. I ended up taking as much time as I could to study and analyze the video aspect and learn as much as possible. Thankfully at Michigan State they had a great manager program that allowed you to do that. That’s kind of the steps that I took to learn all of the video stuff and got good at it.

On how he has built relationships with players… 

We have a great group of guys, which is extremely helpful coming into the situation late in the year, as the season was pretty much starting already. You’ve just got to be open and honest with guys, that’s the most important thing, getting them to trust you. I think you have to show that you want what’s best for them and their future and that’s all you really care about. Building a relationship off of that and learning from Coach Williams, how he does it and how his players look up to him, has been really helpful so far for a young, aspiring coach like me. I think you just have to build trust with them and then move on from there.

On his favorite and most challenging parts of his job…

I think my favorite part is interacting with the student-athletes and thinking that you help make a difference in their life going forward. That it’s not all about basketball, it’s about life after basketball, and you can sit there and have a normal conversation with them. I think that’s the most enjoyable part. The most challenging part is that the game is always evolving, so you have to try and stay ahead of the curve. Thinking outside of the box and being creative on how you can convey things to players and to anyone on staff that might put you ahead in recruiting or anything like that.

On showing something to players that can directly lead to success…

It’s really fun. Basketball is supposed to be fun, and your players are supposed to enjoy it. When you see someone make an extra pass and that guy makes it and they get excited for each other, that’s really fun to watch and enjoyable. Seeing something that you work on come to light is pretty cool. Being able to analyze that and have that help us win the game is pretty cool.

On his dream job down the road…

Being a head coach at the college level. I really enjoy working with the young student-athletes. I enjoy being more of a teacher than in the NBA where it’s all about managing personalities. I think you get a really good friendship and relationship with players at this level versus the NBA.

On whether Nickeil Alexander-Walker has approached him about the NBA…

 

We’ve talked about it. Nickeil and I have watched film after every single game, and we watch a lot of practices together, and he just picks my brain and I try to help him out wherever I can. Nickeil is a great kid, and a great kid to interact with, and I think that is the most glaring thing that I see, is that you see someone without an ego who really wants to help the team, who has that great capability. He just genuinely cares about winning and the team.

On how close the team is to getting to a Final Four like Michigan State did when he was there…

That team, it was really interesting because we started off really slow and we were a seven seed. We had a group of guys that really loved playing together, which is what I see here. Everybody on this team loves playing together. They’re friends off the court, which is the same as it was at Michigan State in 2015. These guys, I think, after they’re done playing here will still be friends and still do stuff. Obviously, we have a lot of shooters, which we had at Michigan State that year too, and being able to space the floor is something that I think will be a benefit in March. 

Josh Chambers, Director of Recruiting Operations

On how recruiting has evolved over the last few years…

I don’t do nearly as much as Lyle and Ryan and the assistants do as far as recruiting. It’s a fancy title, and I think Coach is just trying to be nice to me and keep me around. The title, don’t buy too much into that stock. I do a lot of design for the program as far as what we’re sending to recruits, what we’re tweeting on our social media profiles, the graphics around Hahn-Hurst, what is a recruit seeing when he first walks into the building? What is he seeing when he walks into the locker room in Cassell? Just making sure all of those things align with the program and Coach’s pillars and morals and what we stand for as a program.

I’m just making sure that we’re putting that message out there on social media and the arena, and all over our program and our family. I kind of got lucky as far as my skill set and the social media boom happening at the same time. When Coach originally got here, I had very little experience with design, and even being around basketball and college athletes in general. I was a manager for James Johnson. I did my undergrad here and graduated, Coach came my senior year and inherited me as a manager. I joke around that Lyle was pretty close to firing me. Coach Williams walked in one day and asked if any of the managers had any design or photoshop skills, I was the only one who raised my hand.

So, I kind of got lucky, but that allowed me to work with Coach Williams one-on-one as a manager. Throughout college basketball that’s pretty rare. I got to kind of work with him one-on-one and build relationships with the staff. We have an unreal staff here, and as a manager I was kind of spoiled that I got to do projects for them. Small projects grew into recruiting stuff, Buzz’s Bunch stuff, and obviously I got to learn more about our athletes that we’re recruiting, 17 or 18-year-olds. What are they interested in? What are they looking at on Twitter or Instagram? What are things that we can sell to them through an avenue that is kind of uncharted waters at this point?

This was in 2014. No one had really taken claim of that territory and I kind of got lucky with my photoshop skill-set. It wasn’t much then and it still isn’t now, and I kind of lucked into that and was able to grow and develop and really study those aspects of recruiting. I tried to figure out what the Nickeil Alexander-Walkers, Wabissa Bedes, and Isaiah Wilkins are interested in outside of the basketball court and playing time, which I know nothing about. My sole focus is marketing and branding and making sure we’re relaying that message to them.

On working with Nike in LA after college… 

It was unreal. Coach Raveling is probably one of the best men I have ever met. I was lucky enough to meet him through Coach Williams. I think they’re 1A and 1B in terms of people I have met. I was able to meet Coach Raveling through Coach Williams, and he offered me a job kind of like Lyle’s for him in LA working for Nike. Coach Rav is Nike royalty, so they let him open up his own office wherever he wants, and him and his wife live in LA. I got to move out there and do his administrative stuff, as well as the marketing and branding stuff. I got to put on some events for him, so I got to dabble in a whole lot of different stuff.

One of the most powerful things anyone has ever said to me is Coach Rav when he hired me. He said, ‘Listen, I’m not hiring you to be my employee, I’m hiring you to be my partner.’ For me, that was very empowering because there’s two things you want as a creative – and I’m fortunate enough to consider myself somewhat creative – a constant paycheck, because free-lancing is no joke, and then you want the ability to be able to create. For Coach Rav to say that, I didn’t have to look over my shoulder and think, ‘Am I doing a good job?’ He empowered me to do my thing and create and do what I’m passionate about.

I got to dabble in so many different things working with Nike, working with Jordan, and he worked for the Clippers. With all of these different organizations, I just got a wealth of experience. Seeing how they did things, not only organizationally, but from a marketing and design standpoint as well, was very much empowering to see all of that. Coach Rav was an unbelievable partner and boss, and one of the hardest things I had to do was to tell him I was leaving to come back here. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I remember the day Coach Williams got to campus. I was in practice and it was just him that day. I knew I wanted to work for him. It was just kind of a feeling, and after getting to know the staff, Lyle, Jaime, Devin [Johnson], who had come over with him from Marquette, I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do. I initially thought that I wanted to coach, and it has drastically changed now, but I knew I wanted to work for Coach at some point in my life.

When I took the job with Rav, there was nothing open here. It wasn’t me saying, ‘Coach, I’ve gotten past you, I want to work for him.’ It was more that I knew what I wanted to do, but it’s not the right time, let me go get better and grow and do something else for a little while, then when the time is right, we’ll know. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I didn’t want to miss the train ride. It was stopping at my station and I hopped on.

It was an extremely difficult conversation with Coach Rav, I still talk to him weekly, but it was the right time and he fully supported me and still does. He always asks me how the Hokies are doing, what we’re doing in practice, and how he can help. That’s the one thing I love about Coach. He’ll never hang up the phone unless he asks me what he can do to be helping. I just tell him to be my friend, that’s all I can ask for.

On what it’s like working with Buzz Williams…

Similar to Coach Rav, he’s never told me “no”, ever. He said create, and for me, that’s bigger than any title or pay check. That’s the number one thing I can attribute to any kind of success that I’ve had. He’s always let me have free reign to create whatever I want. If it sucks, it sucks, and if it’s really good, it’s really good. He has his own ideas too, which helps me a lot in my job.

The worst thing you want to have if you are an artist of any type is having a subject with no emotion. With our staff, Coach Williams, and all of the players, everybody in this program has an amazing story. It makes my job so much easier. To tell Coach’s story, I could do it in my sleep. It goes with our staff too. I sit six feet from Lyle, he has an amazing story, and then I walk out in the hall and Jamie is right there, then you walk down and there’s Devin, he has an amazing story. He was a mascot in the NBA, and now he’s an assistant coach at the ACC level.

Ryan came from the Bulls, and Baylie grew up on a farm, and she played volleyball and now she’s at the ACC level running the ship. [David] Jackson, he played Slam Ball. Then our players, Nickeil, Bede, Ahmed [Hill], he was here when I was a manager, his story is incredible. Each individual person has a lot to do Coach’s ability to dig into the deep with people and find out the story behind the story and what makes them tick. That’s how he hires, that’s how he recruits, he looks for OKG’s [Our Kind of Guys}. A lot of OKG is, 90% of it is not your playing ability, it’s whether you’re a good person, what made you develop into who you are? What was your upbringing? Who were you around? When I have that type of content in front of me and those resources to pull from, it’s so much easier as a creative to create content that people enjoy.

Lyle Wolf, Director of Basketball Operations

On his pursuit of his doctorate…

First thing, glad it’s over. Working for Coach Williams and going to school at the same time, you can ask our student-athletes, it’s the same for our staff. We have a lot of our staff who are getting their master’s right now. I’m very happy it’s over, but at the same time very fortunate to have a doctorate from ETSU. Coach Williams brought it to our attention first and said it would be a great opportunity for you and our former athletic trainer, Earnest Eugene at the time, to pursue. He thought it would be great for our development and our future. We said yes in a scary way, and I’m glad it’s over.

On the turnover on the staff this year…

It’s been a very interesting summer. As you all know, Coach Williams is great at building a culture, and so it was very easy to just fall in line with what he says, and you couldn’t go wrong. We’ve been very fortunate to have great additions to the staff. Eddie Benion, he is very skilled, Ryan and Baylie are unbelievable additions to our skill sets, and if you knew how much each of them do daily, you’d be shocked. Josh is Coach Williams’ biggest secret, he’s a big-time asset as well. We have had a lot of additions over the summertime, and it was very unique for a lot of people, but they’ve hit the ground running, they’re humble and hungry, and happy to be Hokies.

On losing the seniors and graduate students at the end of the year…

They’ve been unbelievable people for the organization, obviously Coach Williams doesn’t surround himself with anybody but great people, so a credit to him for getting OKG’s. Regardless of their skill-set, they’ve been unbelievable assets for the community and building the brand for Virginia Tech and what it means to be a Hokie and the pursuit of getting better. Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, Ty Outlaw, and I know K.J. [Blackshear] has one more year, they’ve been the core group of guys that have built us to where we are today. We’re very fortunate to have them as leaders now because they’re very much guys that are stepping up and making sure that the tracks are still set for teams in the future.

On crazy travel over the years and how it has improved…

We were at Syracuse four years ago and we’re leaving. I get a phone call from Laaser saying that we left them at the arena. We were about five minutes away after the game, and I had left them, so they were talking bad about me. It’s been very nice, having the operations and logistics with Baylie and Josh, and Ryan dabbles in it as well. We usually can have each other’s backs when we slip up and miss something. We have partners on multiple levels, and that’s made it easier.

On staying level whether the team wins or loses…

It helps to have a team of accountable partners. I’m sure many people have that in their personal life, people to straighten them out when things are going astray. The operations team can’t allow winning and losing to affect our job, because we’ve lost two in a row, so everybody is emotionally sensitive. Not just the players and the staff, but ourselves as well. We can’t let being sensitive negatively impact the logistics, and logistics are pretty much everything in regard to five or six members of our staff.

On how his role has changed throughout the years…

Coach Williams has been a blessing and allowed me to expand my knowledge in a lot of different ways. It’s been good, I’m allowed to learn from assistant coaches, and I’m able to observe our assistants and Coach Williams breaking things down from a basketball standpoint. You definitely want to shadow and be a mentee, it’s been good. When you surround yourself with good people that are willing to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to talk about recruiting, you can listen in just in case down the road you’re in a position where you can learn from that.”

On how much pride he takes in how the program has grown since he’s arrived…

When you’re a part of building a house, you want to make sure that when it’s completed, someone doesn’t come in and spill a drink on a carpet or scratch a wall. So, you’re obviously very protective of what you’ve built. A lot of us have that edge to make sure that everybody around the organization knows the organization. I do believe there is a lot of value in that. Buzz probably spends more time on the events like “Hokies, Hoops and Heels”, “Buzz’s Bunch”, and tip-off events than basketball. He’s more conscious and thoughtful about the details of those events, and he’s very particular of how the community is a part of our program just as much as we feel the same.

On how his time with the Hokies has prepared him for a possible head coaching opportunity in the future…

It’s been great working under the tutelage of many different people. You get to learn from people who are younger and older than you. As you aspire to be a head coach, you want to learn from somebody who is really good at that position, not somebody who is not. I’ve been very fortunate because the only head coach that I have worked under is Coach Williams, that’s a great example in my opinion.

On preparing for Georgia Tech…

We need to win that game, so I’ll do whatever it takes to help us win that game. At the end of the day, Coach Williams, Coach McNeilly, Coach Johnson, and Coach Webster, they have a great game plan when it comes to on-court and off-court situations and how to approach these next 48 hours. I think the past 48 hours have been thoughtful enough to be like, ‘What can we do to give ourselves the best chance to win?’

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9 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Really great article. I would actually rather read this than hear it live because when you’re just listening on the radio you miss so much but whoever is doing this right up is doing a really great job.

  2. As a former manager at a D-1 school, almost 20 years ago, I really enjoyed this article. It is amazing how staffs have grown and how much bigger a role social media and analytics are playing.

  3. Fantastic article! Whose idea was it to bring these people out? Was it Buzz’s? Was it yours? How does this stuff work?

  4. Looks like a great staff to me based on how the team has played this season. And a lot of us were concerned over last summer and fall.

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