Tech Talk Live Notes: Mike Young On His Start, Justin Fuente On Beating Wake

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Mike Young, Virginia Tech

Mike Young is thankful to have a veteran point guard in Wabissa Bede. (Jon Fleming)

Mike Young

On his first week as head coach of the Hokies…

It comes at you fast. The first game as a Hokie, I have to go to Clemson, back to the state where I made a lot of memories and had a lot of friends there. You’ve got a game to play and you have to put your team in the best position possible to win, and we did that.

I was just so happy with how they played and how they carried themselves. Game one, you’re in some sticky situations, a couple of which we didn’t handle very well. We made enough plays to get out of there, and you get back and have another one on Friday. I thought we played very well there. We’re playing very hard and we’re playing as a team. The last time I checked, that counts for something. I’m thankful that we’re 2-0 with a lot to look forward to, but a lot of work left to go.

On the crowd at Cassell on Friday night…

I’m not afraid to recognize that that crowd may have had something to do with Coach Foster and the Hokies’ football team. That’s okay, I’ve got no problem with that whatsoever. Speaking of which, I have enjoyed every home football game. I have admired from afar for many years, but to see that shellacking on Saturday and to see that defense strangle Wake Forest and thoroughly roll them was great, great fun.

Back to the point, to see that grand, old building full and that student section, that place is unbelievable with the Cassell Guard. All of those guys are approaching me through the summer, and I’d see some games on TV through the summer. I’ve said this before, I’ve seen many games in there, and took a team in there in 2002, and I’ve always said it’s as hard a place to play as anywhere.

Roy Williams stopped me this summer, who I’ve known for a long, long time and he said, ‘Michael, you will find that it is as hard of an arena for a visiting team to come into and win.’ I hope that he’s saying that for years to come. It’s a tough place. It’s compact and people are on top of you. That was the thrill of a lifetime, and I look forward to many more games in that arena, but to do it for the first time as the Virginia Tech basketball coach was fulfilling and a lot of fun.

On eating popcorn before games…

I don’t know where it started, but it started a long, long time ago. It’s just kind of what I do. I’m a nervous wreck. I’m like the old duck, swimming like crazy underneath, but calm and cool above the surface. I like to have a little popcorn and settle my nerves and watch the other team get a few shots up. It’s just kind of what I do, and I enjoy it.

On maintaining intensity in a game that you are in control of…

It can be difficult, especially with a young team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll never use our lack of experience as an excuse. We have to do a better job of coaching them. Until you’ve been inside it and lived it as PJ Horne and Wabissa Bede have, you find yourself up comfortably and you relax a little bit and shot selection can go out the window and we turn the ball over 15 times. That just drives me crazy. I cannot stand sloppy basketball.

They have the want-to. They want to play the right way, and I think we got their attention a little bit. It’s easier to get their attention and make those teaching points when you win by whatever we won by. They have to understand that it’s a long game, and a lot of things can happen. They can get that 6-0 or 8-0 run and get a little bit of wind in their sails, so you have to play the full 40 minutes and fight and compete.  I thought we did, but certainly some things to shore up.

On Wabissa Bede…

I can’t begin to explain to you how much I admire that young man. He and PJ Horne both. I’m so appreciative and thankful that they’re wearing the Hokie uniform. They’ve been great for me inside the locker room. Those guys are about the right stuff. They’re about winning and doing things the right way. I couldn’t imagine two finer guys for young guys like Nahiem Alleyne, Hunter Cattoor, or Jalen Cone to look to. I reference that often in film and on the floor, I say, ‘Look at that guy, he does it the right way.’ That’s been a real blessing.

On PJ Horne’s shooting…

I don’t know if I’ve encouraged him. He took one in the scrimmage and I said, ‘Woah, woah big fella. That might be a little quick right there.’ He can really shoot the ball. I haven’t discouraged him either. For him to make three on Friday, if we could get one of those a game, that’d be great for us when he’s matched up with that big, lumbering five. Coppin State didn’t have one of those, but teams in the ACC like North Carolina or Duke will.

We can use him to extend that defense, and now you have a better angle of which to drive and make two, play one and throw it around and get people in long closes. PJ Horne is an all-timer. We’ve got to manage his body. He played 36 minutes against Clemson and he played 20-something against Coppin State. We have to watch him. He doesn’t have the youngest body. We kid him that he’s an ’88 Buick. He’s spitting oil, those electric windows get stuck about halfway up, the tire is going down on the rear passenger’s side, but he still brings it every day. I love that guy, and I love coaching him.

On Nahiem Alleyne…

He was great. Those guys are going to continue to get better and better. They’re very good basketball players. Nahiem comes from a really good high school program. I felt fortunate to get him because he had every intention of doing a prep year at Brewster, but he came up on a visit and loved it as most do and wanted to come. There was some talk about redshirting him, his dad really wanted him to, physically. You see him out there, he’s a little fella, but he’s going to get bigger and stronger.

We thought he could help us win games right away and made the choice to keep him alive if you will. I’m glad that we did. He came in, and you can tell a lot about a young person in his first game. At Clemson, with the crowd, and he bangs his first three in front of Clemson’s bench. He’s going to be a dandy. He’s got as good of a feel defensively, and that’s why I started him [against Coppin State]. He’s in the right place more often than anybody on our team with the exception of maybe Wabissa. We’ll always reward the guy that finds those spots defensively and helps us there.

He’s off to a heck of a start, and he’s only going to get better. He’s going to have some dips now, that’s how it plays out. He’s going to have a game or two where he struggles a bit. That’s part of the growing process, but he’s going to have a productive career for us, and we’re lucky to have him.

On the team pushing each other for larger roles…

There’s no substitute for competition in practice. If you have a guy out there that knows he’s going to play 35 minutes, that can be a hard guy to reach. We don’t have that. We do have pretty good competition in practice, which is essential. That’s going to continue to get better as we go along. Hunter is looking over Nahiem’s shoulder. Tyrece Radford is looking over Isaiah’s [Wilkins] shoulder. Tyrece will start on Wednesday against Upstate. I thought he had a really good floor game for us on Friday and is deserving of the starting nod.

On outrebounding the opponent in the first two games…

I’m absolutely blown away. If you would have told me on Monday that we were going to outrebound Clemson by eight, I would say, ‘no way.’ We are who we are and we’re not very big, but these guys are tough. Our boxout technique is improving, and then it’s a matter of pursuing the ball.

You alluded to Wabissa, he had 8 against Clemson and 9 against Coppin State. That is significant, and we are harping on it daily. We have to rebound with five. We can’t watch the flight of the ball and expect PJ, Landers, or John Ojiako to come out with all of them. We have to rebound as a group. So far, so good, but it’s an everyday deal. It’s been an emphasis for our staff and for our team, and so far, so good.

On Clemson respecting the speed of the Hokies…

I had been giving that a lot of thought. I know Brad [Brownell], he was an assistant at Wilmington back in the late 90’s and we’ve run in the same circles for a long time. I think a lot of him. I think he is a whale of a basketball coach; terrific defensively. I think it’s a product of where we all are offensively and defensively and trying to put our teams together.

I said it in the postgame, I said a little too much in the postgame, but we’re going to be better a month from now and so will Clemson. We’re all kind of holding some things back and taking baby steps and not missing any steps. We’re taking care of today and not worrying about the rest. We’ll continue to move it down the road.

On the energy in the locker room…

It’s just human nature. You’re kind of tepid and feeling things out and there are new voices. Then you win one, and you win another one. Everything is a little bit better; you sleep a little bit better, and everything tastes a little bit better. There’s a greater level of belief within the locker room with bright eyes. They go, ‘Oh, that’s how everything is supposed to work out.’

There is a long way to go between now and January and February and a lot of growth and opportunities for an uptick in our play. I look forward to those, but we talk about it every day; tomorrow’s practice is the most important one that we have. Let’s play better on Wednesday and get better, but there’s nothing like winning. There’s nothing like winning and getting their attention a little bit more and being able to crank it up a little bit.

On USC Upstate…

I’ve seen a couple of games. They play tonight (editor’s note: they lost to NC Central), so we’ll watch that tomorrow. They’re pretty young and not really big. I made the comment in the office today, everybody has good guards. Everybody does, and everybody is going to have a guard or two that can come in and knock the bottom out of it and give you heartburn.

Dave Dickerson, who’s been in the ACC for many years at Maryland with Gary Williams when they were in our league, is a fine coach. Ron Bradley was at Clemson and was the head coach at Radford before. They’re well-coached and they’ll be prepared. We’re going to have to play a good game to get a win.

On turnovers… 

I think anything under 10 is good. With Wabissa back there, if we’re 10 and under, I’m good. Anything over that is reckless and careless. Let’s be honest, we don’t have a great margin for error right now. We’re not going to be perfect, but we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot and expect to succeed. We need to take care of the ball and find a good shot, if not two, each time down. If we do that, we’ll be in every game.

On what he would like to see from the team this week…

Just to be a little bit better across the board. I mention often, I think it’s a critical part of how you play, your transition defense. When you’re transitioning from the offensive end, to get the defense back so you’re not playing transition defense is important. We have some teams in our league that will drive it right at you. You have to get that thing set and get five guys back there to the wall. Our wall is inside the three-point arch.

Then, we get set to make a stand and fight and put a good defensive possession together. I also want to see the ball move better. I think the ball is getting stuck from time to time with certain people. It’s nothing egregious or intentional, but the ball has to move. It has to find different sides of the floor. From one side, a ball reversal to this side and get that defense moving, now you can drive it.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente know Georgia Tech has talent. (Ivan Morozov)

Justin Fuente

On the game against Wake Forest with Bud Foster being honored…

I was really proud of the way we played in all three phases of the game. I thought our kids did a good job handling the moment and the opponent. We addressed it early in the week and late in the week, I thought that was the best way to do it. It was obviously well done by our athletic department, and I know Bud was very appreciative of it, but we were also just focused with trying to find a way to win the game. Really a great performance by our players, who attacked the game plan in all areas and found a way to win the game.

On the opening drive…

We were going to take the ball. Our best cornerback was out for the first half in Jermaine [Waller]. It worked out great, they deferred, and we took the ball. I knew going in that we were going to have to go forward a little bit if we needed to. Brad [Cornelsen] did a great job on those third downs, just treating them like they were second downs. He knew that if we were in a certain range, we were going to go for it, and he didn’t even have to ask. Our third down conversion numbers weren’t as good as they should be, but we treated them like second downs three or four times.

We moved the ball and when we kicked the field goal, I felt like I got kicked in the stomach. I really wanted a touchdown there. It started off just like we wanted to. We wanted to control the ball and keep the high-profile, fast-moving offense off of the field and try to win the game as a team. It certainly started off the way we wanted it to.

On attacking the Wake Forest defense…

If you look back on it, if we take care of the ball twice, we score some more points. I don’t want to take anything away from Wake, but that was the disappointing part of it for me. I think the turnovers that the defense forced evened out that part of the game, so we could end up with a comfortable win.

They’re a defense that’s going to force you to execute. They play a little bit soft. They try to jump some routes to make big plays, but for the most part, they’re going to try and keep it in front and force you to execute your way down the field and limit big plays. It was nice for us to get some big plays like the big run in the second half by Tre [Turner]. We knew we were going to get the ball in space and if we could break some tackles, we would have a chance for some more big plays. Running the ball certainly helps, and helped us play keep away, and our kids played at a high level.

On trailing 10-6 at halftime…

I think our kids were a little bit disappointed, not deflated, but disappointed in themselves, which is what you want. We’re all taking ownership in this, and it’s 10-6, but it very easily could have been another story if we executed better. It was a pretty normal halftime. I voiced my opinion on some things a little bit right away, and the assistant coaches came in and made the adjustments.

I thought that first sequence [of the second half] was really big for the game. The defense comes out and gets a stop and Tayvion [Robinson] gets a big gain on the punt return out to the 50-yard line. Then, Tre Turner catches a contested ball on the first play on offense. I thought that really set the tone for the second half.

On bouncing back from Notre Dame…

The point I was trying to make, and it happens to all of us, is that we buy in to something and really want something and work really hard for it. When it doesn’t go the way that you want it to go, it’s human nature to not invest as much into it because then if it doesn’t go well, it won’t hurt as bad.

The crazy thing about us right now, and football for most people across the country, is that the difference between winning and losing is so small. The games are close. There are close to 200 plays in a game, and the game is going to come down to a handful of those plays, and nobody knows what those plays are going to be. The margin is small, but the difference in feeling between winning and losing is miles apart. If you don’t come through, you’re crushed. When you do come through, you’re sky high.

You try to not let those feelings affect the preparation. When you’re doing well, it’s easy to take those things for granted and it’s easy to not be as focused and assume things are going to carry over. When you don’t do well, it’s hard to get invested in what’s going on. Trying to negate those feelings and get the same level of preparation is what’s so difficult in the middle of a football season. I thought our team did a really good job of that.

On Dashawn Crawford and Oscar Bradburn winning ACC honors…

Oscar continues to be a weapon for us. He continues to get us hangtime so we can cover and flip the field. I was really happy for DaShawn. The team was really excited for him. He’s very well-liked on the team, and he’s just a great kid. For him to get an interception, I was trying to give him a hard time and asked him, ‘When was the last time you actually touched a football?’ He was quick to point out that he had quite a pair of hands in junior college. He wasn’t close this time to taking it to the house. I’m sure he’ll be in my office asking to get more touches.

On Tayvion Robinson at punt returner…

We’ll take another look at it this week. They’ve got to continue to go out there and prove it and make me feel comfortable by how they practice. Tayvion had done well enough in practice to make me feel comfortable putting him in in the middle of the game. We talked about it after the game, I wanted to try to get him in the game earlier in the season at punt returner. We never afforded ourselves that opportunity because we didn’t pull away from the teams that we were supposed to pull away from. He just kept working, and I felt comfortable enough to throw him and there and he provided a spark for us.

On the team’s success in the red zone…

On any given day, this isn’t true every week, but the game between the 20-yard lines, the ball gets moved with the way people can throw and run the ball. Once you get down inside the 20, what separates people is the people that can get the ball in the end zone and the people that settle for field goals.

That’s been a huge point of emphasis for us. Bud and his staff have done a great job of keeping people out and forcing field goals. Offensively, running the ball is huge in that area because it’s much tougher to throw the ball. They don’t have to defend the deep ball. Things get condensed really quickly, and finding a way to run the ball or creating an extra hat to run the ball like the quarterback or the tight end has been really good for us and helped us be more productive.

On Georgia Tech’s new offense…

It’s an interesting transition. Coach Collins comes into a program that has run the triple option, so there’s obviously a big change offensively. Defensively, it’s a new scheme and a new system, but they’ve been recruiting defensive players to run some sort of system for a long time. Special teams, they run different things than they used to run, but that’s not that big of an adjustment.

They have a winning program, that’s the factor that people don’t think about. Yeah, they’re changing from the triple option to a more conventional style, but they have kids with pride in their program and kids that have been to bowl games and won big games on the road. While their record isn’t what anyone at Georgia Tech wants it to be, they still are playing hard, have talent and it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us to face them on the road this week. They’ve beaten us the last three years, and last year they came into Lane Stadium and whooped up on us pretty good. We need to get ready to go down there and go play.

On GT’s quarterback James Graham…

We recruited him as a defensive back. He was Lecitus Smith’s quarterback in high school from South Georgia. He ran a 4.4 at camp, and he can really run. He’s a competitive kid, and he throws the ball better than I want him to. He threw a 60-yard touchdown pass on the second series of the game against Virginia. They have speed around him, so it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. If you look at their last handful of games, they went toe-to-toe with UVA, they beat Miami in overtime, and they lost a pretty close game to Pitt. You can see them continue to improve throughout the season.

On Bud Foster…

It all worked out really well. It was an incredible challenge too. We were playing a top-25 team with an explosive offense, and we really played well collectively to go get the win. Coach Foster is obviously very deserving of it. We can never repay him for everything he’s done, but we can try to honor him in how we prepared and how we played, and that’s what our kids did.

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15 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Another Great hire by Whit with Mike Young, absolutely what VT needed to take our next step and how refreshing that our new Coach wants to connect with the Hokie Nation & players vs attempting to be seen as the smartest guy in room due to his ego.

    What a contrast and UPGRADE for VT!!!

    Welcome Home, Coach Young.

  2. I laughed out loud at Coach Fuente’s comments about Dashawn Crawford probably wanting to get more touches. Pretty good humor from CF. Winning games makes such a difference in our attitudes, and how we carry ourselves. Keep it up guys…Go Hokies!

  3. I continue to love what Coach Young is saying. I really really want him to succeed because I want to continue to enjoy hearing what he has to say each week.

  4. In four consecutive interviews (initial TTL, both post-games & this TTL), Coach Young has expressed appreciation to and/or thanked Wabissa Bede and PJ Horne for being Hokies this year. Pretty obvious that he can only imagine what dire straits he would be in but for those two.

  5. Coach Mike Young comparing P J Horne to an ’88 Buick. LOL!! CMY is a good ole boy, “Aw shucks” and everything. I love it, a refreshing change from Brent’s brainiac musings. Virginia Tech men’s basketball is in good hands. Alleyne reminds me of Bibbs. I can’t wait until he is filled out and more mature (he is still young). Would be nice to see a seamless transition from Bibbs to Alleyne

    1. Yea, I LMFAO with CMY’s Horne/88 Buick analogy. A friend of mine coached JV basketball at Radford and had CMY as a player. Love him then and thinks the world of him now. We got a great fit and great coach.

  6. If I was 50 years younger I would love to play for Coach Mike😂. Seriously, we hired the right guy.

  7. in regards to Fu saying 83 was never able to get in at PR in previous games bc we hadnt pulled away from the teams on the scoreboard….

    didnt 83 return the first punt of the second half to the 50 when the score was 10-6? i dont get it. seems contrary to his own logic.

    83 needs to stay at PR and 35 at KR IMO. they provided an obvious spark

    1. Actually, he said that was his reasoning in earlier games, but 83 had done so well in practice that he was now comfortable to go with him in any situation – at least that is how I interpreted his comments.

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