Tech Talk Live Notes: Buzz Williams And The Seniors

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Buzz Williams has guided the program to a third straight NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Buzz Williams

On whether he thinks back to the work previous teams have done to get the program to where it is now…

Yeah definitely. I think it speaks to the character of our guys, if that was their response. It speaks that they understand where we were, they understand how hard it is to build. That speaks to them having some idea of how hard it is to continue, and maybe just as important, how hard it is to continue and improve. I don’t think that you can only think about this year’s team when something historical like this transpires. I think about all of the managers, the staff people that were here and are no longer are here. I think about all of the people that were here to build it. We are in this position largely due to the work of the current group, but the foundation was laid by the people that are no longer here.

On the job he did coaching this season…

I got beat 30-12 [in ACC Coach of the Year voting], so it was a distant second place. I think what I’ve learned is how hard it is to change midstream. Then, how important the IQ and the EQ are of those that are going to be a part of the change. The stuff that we’ve done over the last twelve games, I know you guys know this, offensively, none of it was a part of our play package up until then. With each passing week, we’ve been able to add layers to those new actions. I just think that in and of itself is a tough burden to carry.

Then, to be able to execute those new things without the reps that you typically have in the month of February to look back at, that makes it even harder. I think our staff is staff of the year. I know they wouldn’t win a political contest either because they’re not known, but their gifts, talents, and ability to teach it to our kids, and our kids being able to execute it is something that I’ve never seen, but I’ve also never been through it. I’ve never seen a player as good as Five that is the quarterback go down and miss more than half of the conference season, and then within the games remaining, knowing that the results of the games determining whether we’re having this interview or not. I think that’s a heavy burden to carry, and it wasn’t carried by one person, it was carried by everyone, I think that speaks to who everyone is.

On inserting Justin Robinson back into the lineup…

This will be new. Most importantly, that Five is going to be able to finish his career playing, long term throughout the rest of his life, that’s more important than the results or our style of play going forward. I’m thankful that we’re playing on Friday, that will give us one more day of prep. That gives us one more day of reps. That gives us one more day, not of preparation necessarily for the opponent, we need the prep for us. How are we going to meld Five back? What are we going to take from what we did before he was hurt? What are we going to continue to use when he didn’t play that he’s going to have to learn that our guys have been comfortable with?

I don’t have evidence of what is the right thing. I don’t have a coaching book manual for how to do that appropriately. This will be our 33rd game, and to play a new team for the first time over the last twelve games, when Five returns he’s not going to be what he was when he left, and the other kids that have been playing, they’re not what they were when he left either. So, it’s not one-sided, it’s a two-sided equation, and it’s kind of like when you were a kid and there was a math problem with a negative on one side of the equal sign, and somehow you have to make it positive on the other side. We have to be able to manage both of those.

On playing Saint Louis again after losing to them last year in Madison Square Garden…

I thought it was one of the worst games we’ve played since we’ve been here relative to our energy level from start to finish. I don’t know anything about Saint Louis relative to their personnel and their schemes this year. I have great respect for Coach Ford. We are not close friends, but we are friends, we occasionally text. It just so happens that when they won their final game on Sunday in the [Atlantic Ten] tournament, I sent him a text of congratulations, not knowing that we would see them next to Virginia Tech a few hours later.

I think our returning players remember the hollowness that we played with at the Garden. I think that was Bibbs’ last game that he did not play while at Virginia Tech. We never had the energy that we needed, almost to the point that when we played Washington the next night, it was the energy required for Saint Louis and Washington that we played with. It was one of our highest scoring games since we’ve been here. Maybe it’s appropriate that they’re our first team, and that we have to go to the other end of the world to play them. At this stage, obviously, if you don’t have energy from start to finish you have no chance. I don’t anticipate that we’ll have that issue this time playing them.

On how fast the season has gone by…

I told our guys, I guess I didn’t tell you, when we lost to Florida State, in the locker room before we went to do media, I told the team, ‘This will come across the wrong way, and it’s selfish in how I’m going to say it, but you guys have known me for a long time, and you know what I’m going to say is the right intent. I don’t want to win so we win. I don’t want to win so we change our seed. I don’t want to win so we play in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament. I want to win just because it means that the season continues. It means that we’ll be in film more, practice more, lift weights more, hang out more.’

It’s the most special group that I’ve been a part of at handling things that were out of our control and using what, on paper, could be harmful, and turning it to good. I’ve learned so much from who they are and how they handle things, but maybe more importantly the ‘why.’ It’s not ‘how’ it’s ‘why.’ The ‘why’ of this group is as special as I’ve seen as a coach.

On whether this team is the most positively emotionally scarred he has seen…

I think so. The one thing that I’ve learned is, and I know that in some respects yesterday with the media, I’ve been overprotective of the group to the point that they smirk when they ask questions. I’ve learned a lot from that, but our culture does not offer excuses and our culture does not offer alibies. I think we’re a work-based culture. I think we’re an effort-based culture.

Regardless of who has been in uniform or what transpired on who was not in uniform, I don’t think you’ve heard anyone in our organization have an excuse or an alibi. I think you’ve always heard, no matter what question you ask, the answer will always bleed into our effort and work. I think that, as far as being scarred, no matter what transpires this week, or if there is a next week, I don’t think anything will catch us off guard.

On his fondest memory of the NCAA Tournament…

That’s a good question. I would have to think about that. This will be my eighth trip as a head coach. I went twice as an assistant coach. I better understand how hard it is to get there. I better understand how hard it is to have success once you get there. I think the margins continue to shrink. We played in thirteen NCAA Tournament games before I was 40. Being immature, being egotistical to some degree, I think I kind of thought, ‘This is not quite as hard as it is made out to be.’

I think for us to be in the position that we’re in now, I don’t know that it’s a particular game per say. We’ve played in three Sweet Sixteen games, we’ve played in an Elite Eight game. I think what I remember more and more as I get older, and hopefully more mature, is the process that led to that. No matter how old us three become, I think we’ll always remember bits and pieces of the timeline of this season of what led to this game. I think that, whether you were the color or the play-by-play, or you were a player or a redshirt or an assistant or a manager, I think all of us would have a similar timeline on, ‘Do you remember that?’ Some of it would be the results of games, but a lot of it would be, ‘Do you remember when this happened, and we couldn’t control it and how we turned it?’

One of the things I said to our guys, I was talking to Ahmed as an example, ‘I think sometimes you think that when you’re taking out the trash and the trash is full, you think that the way you handle the trash can is to just kind of get it at a ten-degree angle, then a twenty-degree angle and let the trash leak out into the dumpster. I think what’s happened to us is we, not me, collectively have picked it up from the bottom and turned it head over heels.’ I think that’s the hardest thing to do in life, I think that’s the hardest thing to do in sports. I think that lesson will carry them, no matter where life takes them.

On whether he is able to recognize the history the team was able to accomplish this year and over the past three years…

I hope that through those experiences, my wisdom has morphed into something better for everyone involved. I think I still have an edge in how I coach and in how I lead. I actually think at times, not with you guys because I trust you guys, I have an edge in how I talk. Like we learned in vacation bible school, sometimes your blessings are also your curses. So, you have to figure out how to turn that in a positive way.

In year one, we won our first game, they changed the rules in the summer after our second game in which we lost. I look back at some of that and it was selfish in nature to try to prove that I could coach. Now, I’m kind of on the back end of that, relative to, ‘It’s okay if I can’t coach, but what’s more important are the hearts and souls of the people involved.’ I’m much more aware of that. I think, probably to some degree, that’s what I’ll be held accountable for whether we win or lose or where we’re ranked or what our seed is. Did I do right by those parents that have made sacrifices their entire life? Did I carry on what they did, as far as pouring into those kids, the right stuff? I think I’ve improved in that regard, long way to go to be any good at it, but I’ve definitely improved.

Ahmed Hill wants to be remembered as a spark plug. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Ahmed Hill

On what was going through his mind when he heard the Hokies announced on Selection Sunday…

When I saw our name, I was just very excited. I knew all of the hard work that we had put in this offseason after we lost and how bad we wanted to get back as seniors to go off on a high note. Once we saw that we had another matchup as we had last year, and we knew we didn’t play a great game last year, so it’s another good feeling that we can get some revenge and close the chapter on that one. Last year was kind of heartbreaking.

On his time at Virginia Tech ending…

I try not to think about it too much. I try to stay in one moment at a time. I know that we can win more than one game, more than two, just as long as the team stays together and focuses on the small things. I haven’t really thought about what’s going to come after, I just don’t want the season to end so fast. Being around my teammates is kind of fun. When we’re on the bus, I catch myself thinking about all of these fun memories that we joke around with that aren’t going to be there next year. I just kind of take it one day at a time.

On how he plays with so much passion…

I just think that’s the edge I have picked up in the recent games. I figure that once I let all of my passion out that I tend to play well, I don’t care about anything. I react instead of thinking and then reacting. That’s what I’ve been working on lately. Justin has also been helping me to control it because it can be good emotion and bad. I try to exert all of my energy and see my teammates get some energy off of it as well. I just try to be the spark plug that can get everyone going.

On having Justin Robinson back…

It’s going to be amazing. He’s going to come back and fit right back in. Handling the ball, facilitating, driving to the basket and finishing. It’s going to be like he never left, I feel like it will be, because we play so much together as a team. We all know how each other plays. I think the few practices that we get in this week are going to be amazing just to get a feel for him and where his passes are going to be and what we need to do. It’s going to be great.

On how he wants to be remembered at Virginia Tech…

I want Hokie fans to remember me as a trendsetter, a person that plays with extreme energy and is willing to do anything to win, somebody that is funny, and someone that people just enjoy being around.

On his fondest memory at Virginia Tech…

I would have to say beating UVA at UVA was an amazing memory to be a Hokie.

On his hair for the tournament…

The pigtails are kind of hot right now. I have to keep them. I’ll maybe refresh the hair-do, but the pigtails have to stay.

Ty Outlaw has been a great three-point shooter for the Hokies. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Ty Outlaw

On his emotions heading into his final NCAA Tournament…

It’s been a long road. At times, it feels like it was a long time. Other times, it feels like it was just yesterday. It really depends on the day and the moment. My main emotion right now is that it will all be worth it if we can just get at least one win. Preferably, at least two. We’ve made it twice, but haven’t really won there yet. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot of our other goals, that’s the next one on the checklist before I leave this great college.

On winning the Bradley Award at the ACC Tournament…

People have been talking about the award and I’ve been looking up some stuff about it, just to figure out who Bob Bradley was, and to be honored with this award makes me feel appreciated that people noticed what I went through and what I’ve overcome to get to where I am now. They don’t see the hard work, the rehab, the pain, the medicine, all of the times you have to keep your confidence strong and get your physicality back. They don’t see that stuff, neither should they, everybody has their own lives to live. For someone to recognize me and nominate me, then to actually win the award, humbles you and honors you a lot.

On what Buzz Williams has meant to him…

He’s taught me to be smarter and more aware of the world I live in, basketball and life. I was kind of intelligent for a young man, not saying that I’m the smartest guy out here, but I thought I had a good grip, including what life meant and what basketball was. Once I got here and got under his tutelage and all of the other coaches here, I learned so much that I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know before. The more knowledge you obtain, the less you feel like you know. I’ve learned so much since I got here, and the more I learn, the more I feel like I have so much still to learn as my life and my career continues.

On what he takes from the ACC Tournament to the NCAA Tournament…

[My foot] is feeling better, I’ll be good to go by the time we get back at it. It’s just a minor setback. I was feeling great to start that because I’ve gotten the hang of this ACC thing. I just have to go out there and compete every night. Every time, it feels like it gets a little bit easier. I was rolling earlier that game [Miami], it just so happened that the shots were going down. I’m just getting more comfortable every time out. With comfort comes more confidence. I’m just trying to keep that rolling.

On how he wants to be remembered at Virginia Tech…

I’m different around my teammates and friends of course, but I’ve always been told I’m the quiet kid that rarely ever smiles, but I think that’s quite the contrary when you get to know me. I just want people to know that I was the really good shooter that Tech had who was part of all that great history that Tech made. You could always count on me to make some threes.

On whether he has imagined hitting a big shot in a big game, like he could have the chance to do in the tournament…

Not really in the tournament, but here when we beat Duke, that was one of those moments. I went and sat out at about the six-minute mark in the second half. I came back in with about a minute and thirty second left. A couple seconds after coming back in, the game was tied, I hit a three to put us up that eventually helped us pull away. I thought about a moment like that a lot growing up.

It wasn’t exactly mind present during the game, but that’s good because you don’t want to psych yourself out. You’re just ready for whatever comes your way, but I’ve dreamed of that one shot that makes the difference in a game. You shoot it perfectly and know it’s going in. Everybody runs out on the court and has a group hug, pile up, I would love for that to be the case. Just as easily though, it could be one of my teammates, maybe off one of my passes. I pump fake and draw two guys and I find one of my teammates who can hit the shot. I would still feel good about that. I really just want to be out on the court for whatever comes our way.

Justin Robinson says Virginia Tech isn’t losing in the first round this year. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Justin Robinson

On coming back…

The process has been hard, sitting out as a competitor. It’s been tough to watch games that we’ve lost that, if I had been playing, I felt like I could have done something to help us win. I just think the idea of everything coming full circle and God blessing me with the ability to play on the biggest stage again with my teammates is something I couldn’t ask more than to be blessed with that. I think just embracing the moment and definitely not going into the tournament and letting my team lose in the first game again, and letting them know that it’s not going to happen.

On how he feels heading into this weekend…

[Not playing until Friday] will give me another day to practice. Ever since I was younger, my parents have told me that my body has been very adaptive and different than other people with my pain tolerance and how I can play an ultra-amount of minutes. Hopefully, it’s just like riding a bike and I’ll be able to play as much as I did before I was injured. Even if I can play two minutes, if it helps us win, I’ll do that. If I have to play 25-30 minutes, I’ll do that. I’m just going to try my best. Obviously, there will be some adrenaline running, so hopefully I’ll be able to endure that and just keep going.

On the new offensive concepts he has seen the team run while he was gone…

I think it will be a little, not awkward, but take a little bit of getting used to being on the floor with them running some plays that we ran before I got injured again. The plays that they’ve been running since I’ve been out have worked tremendously. The guys being able to step up and play at that level to win crucial games like they did is such a blessing to be a part of, even though I didn’t play. It just shows how mature and how good of a group that we have. Being able to sprinkle some of me into what they’ve had going in is going to be big for us.

On Buzz teaching more about life than basketball…

Ever since he started recruiting me, he’s had a relationship with me and my parents. I think him being a father-figure for me away from home has been something I can’t repay him for, and I’m very appreciative of him for that. Him just teaching us the variety of the thing he has taught us, whether it’s taxes, numbers, life-lessons, getting us introduced to other coaches’ aspects and leadership values, it’s something that’s going to take me a long way in life. I’m very grateful that I got to meet him and choose the right school in coming here.

On finding out he was ready to play in the tournament…

Obviously, my parents were going to drive up no matter what the result was going to be. I went to the office with my family, Coach Buzz, and the medical staff. I just think, the whole time, that Eddie Benion, our trainer, was going to be there to keep me in good spirits. Having a guy like that around throughout this process is something that I was very appreciative of. He was new to us, and he just fit right in to what we were trying to do. He kept me stable and in the right mindset.

I think going in there and having him with me to keep my spirits up was important, then we came to an agreement that everything was ready to go and that everything was fine. That was big for me. It was just a blessing for me and my family.

On how far this team can go…

 

I think we have a good chance to go as far as we want. I think we control our destiny. Me, personally in a selfish aspect, I don’t think I’m going to let us go into the tournament and lose our first game. I just can’t see it happening again. Just us winning is what we’re going to try to do, just so we can be around each other more. I don’t think it’s for us to rejoice in a win, it’s just for us to get to spend more time with each other and be around each other. It’s just a blessing to have that chemistry with each other because I don’t think any other school has it.

On the team having more confidence…

We could always make excuses throughout the process and say that we would have won more games with me playing, but I think the way that we handled everything and the situation that was dealt to us was the best way possible. Winning games like that in the best conference in the country, we felt that with or without me that we could win any game that we step on the floor for. I think with a group like that, that’s so gritty and will play their hardest for forty minutes is great for us. I think us carrying that into the tournament knowing that even that if we do take a spill and take a loss, that we’re going to lose the way that we came in, fighting.

On his best memory as a Hokie…

It’s kind of in the air between the UVA upset at their place, or being able to be blessed to become the all-time assists leader. It’s something that me and my family will always cherish, and I’ll never forget.

On how he wants to be remembered at Virginia Tech…

I want to be remembered as more than an athlete, but as an outgoing person who always tries to cheer people up and is seen as someone who likes to see others happy rather than themselves. I just think, overall, on the basketball court, I want to be known as the guy who put his all into the program, his blood, sweat, and tears and one of the guys who came in and turned the program around back to making Blacksburg fun again. Being known as the best version of myself.

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11 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Buzz Williams is just an amazing coach and person unbelievable introspective thoughtful and selfless and Godly.

    I just find it hard to believe that he’s now bringing 18 minute upper echelons of the ACC the premier basketball league in college and I just don’t see him leaving.

    Now if a job like North Carolina or Duke or Virginia was offered to him then I could see him leaving I just don’t see him leaving for an inferior conference

  2. Been watching Hokie basketball since the early 70’s and while the wins have been great, watching this team get up after getting knocked down has been amazing. Love the way they play for each other. Now on to the tournament so Ivan can take some more great photos!!

  3. Buzz doesn’t speak like a guy who’s leaving. Rather, he speaks as if he’s looking forward. I wish he’d stop using that word, “scarred.” Too much negative connotation. “Marked,” or something like that would be better.

    1. Hope you are right, but given the major talk about this, if I was coach and had no plans to leave, I would address it head on and say the rumors are not true and I am staying. If I were leaving I would avoid the question and give coach speak about no distractions etc. seems to me he is most likely gone but I have no clue.

  4. great article and insight to many of our players on how they grew into manhood learning about life . I enjoyed the information on Buzz. .

  5. I LOVE these guys. Hope to watch 6 more games as Hokies. Or at minimum 3. A Sweet 16 would be great, but I’m not sure they’ll stop there

  6. I just wanted to relay an experience I had with Justin. Last fall prior to a football game I was standing in front of Cassell when Justin and a few friends walked by. I yelled out “Hey Justin”. He stopped, walked over to me, stuck out his hand and we talked a bit. I was so impressed that he would take the time to do that with a total stranger. What a great young man!

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