Tech Talk Live Notes: Mike Young on Virginia Tech’s Progress

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Virginia Tech, Mike Young
Mike Young likes Virginia Tech’s progress, but wants to see more in the next few weeks. (Jon Fleming)

On the atmosphere in Cassell Coliseum on Friday…

It was the best. It had been about 40 years since I had been in there with that kind of environment. It’s as special as any place there is. The students’ support and the support of the Blacksburg community and all of the Hokies that came out was special. It was a great environment, and I wish we could’ve played a little better and won the game.

On the game against Duke…

I go back and watch those last eight minutes time and again, and I need to put them in better situations. In terms of their effort and attention to detail, I can’t ask any more of them. I wish we could have gotten to a couple of other things. We had to effectively eliminate one of the best players in the country in Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt, who was a top-25 player in the country, he didn’t play in the second half because of the ball screen stuff and spacing with Landers [Nolley].

Coach K doesn’t win 1,000 games without knowing a few things. Some guys will just pound their heads against the wall and say, ‘This is how we’re going to play.’ He did the right thing and played Joey Baker at the five and went smaller. That allowed them to match up with us better, and we had our struggles offensively. When that occurred, our defense suffered a little bit, but let’s be honest, Tre Jones in the backcourt is a pretty special guy. He kind of took some things over.

When things get rolling downhill, they start going in from everywhere. O’Connell is shooting 21% coming into the year and he makes two [threes]. The Goldwire kid, we played the numbers, he had made one three coming into the game. I think he’s a junior and had made five in his career. He bangs two threes in the first half. In an effort to surround Carey, who is special, he’s an animal, I thought we did a good job with that. Our team adhered to the things that we asked them to do. We went into the half up three, but it should have been more than that. We had a foul to give at the end of the half and we didn’t use that. Just some things, the more plays we see, the better we’ll be. Wabissa [Bede] knew it, the second he saw it, that we should’ve given one there. That’s as much coaching as anything. I need to do a better job.

On Duke pushing them higher on the floor defensively…

It’s coming, and they understand that. We have to have a better response. It’s time to grow up. We’re nine games in, and it’s time to have the proper response. A 4-0 run is going to happen. A 6-0 run is going to happen. We need to stop it with a great offensive possession; get two ball reversals, drive it, make two play one. You grit your teeth a little bit and get into a better defensive stance to do a better job on that end.

I continue to see those eyes get really wide when things start going downhill. It’s a one-point game or a three-point game with seven minutes to play. We are right here. We didn’t handle some things very well. Let’s be honest, though, that team on the other side is pretty good. No excuses, but they made a couple of really good basketball plays and touched us up in some areas. That’s part of the process. We’re going to continue to get better.

On Wabissa Bede…

We took Saturday off, but we came back yesterday and watched that film before practice. I’m sure the Hokie fans saw Wabissa’s comment, that’s being a great teammate, that’s being a great leader. He was asked to comment on Landers, who didn’t play very well, and said, ‘We need him to score, he’s a big part of our team, and we’re not going to say another thing about that.’ P.J. Horne said about the same thing.

Those guys are about the right stuff. They’re the best. I’m so glad Wabissa Bede is on our team. There are a lot of things about coaching that I enjoy, but getting to be on the floor every day and see that kid smile and see him feeling good about himself is the best. He was phenomenal on Friday and you could say that through all nine games. He has almost a 5-1 assist to turnover ratio, and he ranks nationally in that category. Anytime you can have a guy at the top that you’re not worried about, that’s helpful. He’s playing great ball, and I’m glad that he’s a Hokie.

On the good things he took out of the Duke game… 

There’s a cohesiveness and a connectedness about our unit that is so important. P.J. alluded to it in his comment after the game, and he’s dead on. It’s a group that enjoys one another’s company. There’s not a knothead in the group that we don’t like playing with. They like playing with one another. I’m proud of them. I see us getting a little bit better every day.

I’m not sure how high our ceiling is. We’re a long way away from our ceiling, but I always thought during this time where we have some gaps in our schedule between Gardner-Webb and VMI, that’s exam week, I’ve always seen a pretty significant uptick in our team’s play. I think we’re going to see the same thing with our current team. We’ll still have some things that shouldn’t be happening, but we’re going to continue to improve.

On Landers Nolley’s tough game…

He’s handled it great. I’ve told you that I love coaching him. I brought him in yesterday and said three things, I will not tolerate poor sportsmanship ever. Not going to have it. He owned it and took responsibility for it. He was frustrated and he wasn’t playing very well. He shoved the kid and got a technical foul for it; he should get a technical foul for it. Number two, I won’t share with anybody. Three, I care for you and I love coaching you. He had a tough night, but maybe I didn’t coach well enough either. We’re going to do it together and I’m thrilled we’ll have that opportunity. I told him to go have a good practice and he did. I won’t say another word to him about it.

On Horne’s development…

He’s playing so well. How could he not be happy? For Lord’s sake, the guy shoots anytime he wants to shoot. All of these coaches are encouraging him to shoot more. He takes a bad shot, and everybody says, ‘Leave him alone, that’s P.J. Horne, he shoots when he wants to.’ He’s still over 50% from three. He’s such a unique guy in that regard. He’s playing with great confidence.

There’s a clip in the film of him guarding Carey, and he looked like a flea on the back of an elephant. Here’s Carey, who’s 260 pounds or something, so it just struck me as something interesting. P.J. Horne is fighting for us. He comes to practice every day with the right stuff.

Very rarely in my coaching career of 34 years do our teams not vote for captains. I said this year, ‘We’re not going to vote for captains, P.J. Horne and Wabissa Bede are our captains.’ How could they not be? Those guys embody everything that I envision as a Hokie, as a student, as an athlete. They’re doing a great job and I’m blessed to be able to coach them.

On Tyrece ‘Boots’ Radford…

He played like he belonged on that floor, and he did belong on that floor with his offensive rebounding and his tenacity. He’s going to guard the other team’s best player if it’s not the point guard. He sees more that his year off was helpful, but he still has some rust to work off, and he did defensively. What a shot in the arm he was on Friday night for us. He was rebounding all over the place, and he came out with a majority of those 50/50 balls. He’s getting better shooting. His shooting percentage is great because he never takes a bad shot. He continues to play good ball for us.

On teams having to change their personnel to play the Hokies… 

We’ve got great heartburn in guarding the likes of Vernon Carey and others throughout our league. Don’t forget that they have to guard us, too. They’re making 2’s and we’re making 3’s. I like making those 3’s. We were playing at such a high level, and the pace was good. We are hard to guard, and our spacing is really good. Anytime that you put five players on the floor that can light it up, you’re in good shape. Landers Nolley is a threat anytime he touches the ball, and we’ve talked about P.J. Horne. Hunter [Cattoor] did not have his best game, nor did Nahiem [Alleyne]. We’re going to see them do it a lot more over their career.

On the game being like a chess match… 

I can’t stand gameday. Practice is heavenly. I love practice and seeing guys get better. On gamedays, I’m a nervous wreck. They make fun of me eating my popcorn over there, trying to soothe my nerves. It’s all fun. I don’t think that I look at it as countering what they’re doing, there’s some of that going on, but the tweaks are on ball-screen coverages and how we’re trapping the post defensively. The majority of those conversations at timeouts or at halftime are about defense.

I don’t want to sound ugly when I say this, but I’ve always thought the offensive part of it was pretty easy. You have guys who can score and pass, that plays itself out. The defensive part of it is more intricate.

On Nahiem Alleyne driving right at Vernon Carey… 

Boots had one in the second half, too, moving right to left on the other side. Both of them, I yelled at them during the play. I never do that, but I did it because it was Carey, he blocks everything. He’s like a volleyball player, he gets it and the ball is out to mid-court. I expected that to happen as Tre Jones picked it up and dunked it at the other end. Both of them got it up and over him and in. My staff was laughing at me because as soon as it went in, I turned to them and said, ‘I can’t believe that happened.’ Good players making good plays.

On Jonathan Kabongo… 

He’s four months into his rehab. I’m not sure, to be frank, what his timeline is. I know he has an appointment coming up. I saw him doing a little bit more in the training room today. It looked like he was jumping. I’d like to get him back on the floor to help us win games, but I don’t know. Needless to say, we will do what our medical staff tells us to do. When he’s ready, we’ll throw him back in there.

On Chattanooga… 

The [Maurice] Commander kid at the point guard spot has done a good job for them. I liked him out of high school. They have a Vanderbilt transfer, Matt Ryan. He started his career at Notre Dame, and that just doesn’t feel right to me. He started his career at Notre Dame, transferred to Vanderbilt, and grad transferred to Chattanooga. Find a home and give it a run. He can shoot the basketball and has improved that team.

I like the Vila kid in the post. He’s got some size and can score over either shoulder. They have a lot of kids who can play, and we’re going to have to play well on Wednesday night. I like Lamont Paris, their head coach. He was with Bo Ryan at Wisconsin for quite some time. We had a good practice today in preparation, and we’ll have another good one tomorrow.

On players looking forward to going home… 

I haven’t talked about that yet. I have had some teams that start eyeing the door and getting home to family and eggnog and Christmas trees. This is basketball season. This is our time. I love that period after exams where it’s all ball and we can really work on some things and make some improvements. We’ll be respectful of their time and everything that goes into exam week here. There are games to play, and there’s time to get better. That’s what we intend to do.

On what improvement he would like to see before the full ACC schedule begins…

There’s nothing specific. It’s everything. We have to get better defensively. Our first six opponents, we held them to below 40% from the field. Our field goal percentage defense from three was good. It hasn’t been as good in our last three, which are all losses. Our offense has continued to grow through that stretch.

It’s not one thing, I want to see a lot of things. I want an uptick in every area. It is there to achieve, but we just have to hammer away at it on the practice floor. We have three weeks or so before that time. The only thing we’re talking about is Chattanooga. We have a practice tomorrow that we look forward to. This is as critical a period as we’re going to have in terms of growth and improvement.

On the Cassell Guard…

It’s pretty incredible, and our team feels that and senses that. I know I appreciate it and our team appreciates it. There’s a bit of a buzz going through our community and our campus. Davis, my son, tells me that they’re talking about it at Blacksburg High School. That’s fun. Let’s continue to grow that. Let’s continue to make it the place to be.

Our students have been a constant. They’re there in full force. As I’m enjoying my popcorn, I hear those doors open and it sounds like a herd of cattle coming down the stands to be in the front row. That’s what college basketball is supposed to be about in a grand old arena. I think it’s been wonderful, and I hope it continues to spread.

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32 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Is it my imagination or what? Doesn’t he remind you of Frank Beamer. A local guy who seems down to earth. Not pretentious but knows the basics of the sport. A great hire!

  2. I’m sitting in Namibia, so I always read TSL later than most members…and stream games a day or two later than most folks. But after watching the Duke game, I just had to comment: Coach Young & his staff know how to coach!!! I continue to be very impressed by the team. “Hokie land” has much to look forward to…especially if Coach recruits the big man he covets.

  3. I was his boss for the first job he had as a teenager in Radford and was a great kid with a fantastic Dad that was a referee in basketball and really knew a lot about how to play the right way! He is a Radford Bobcat so I know he will do great things for VT. Looking forward to some amazing wins and upsets! Go Hokies! Good luck Mike Young!!

  4. This dude is a breath of fresh air. I’ve started reading every word of the transcript again, as opposed to quickly skimming over a babbling and borderline incoherent mish/mash of thoughts.

      1. Ha! My favorite was when Buzz thought the team played selfishly he would say “I know that’s not the way their parents raised them”

  5. Coach Young, you played an excellent game with very talented players. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Duke just had enough talent to wear our players down. I clearly see help on the horizon. Next year will provide greater depth; so keep a positive perspective and let the team know we love them and we appreciate their brilliant play and determined effort. IT WILL PAY OFF! Oh yeah, you are our man and we love love you. Thanks for joining the Hokie nation! Lest I forget, thanks to Witt Babcock! GO HOKIES!

  6. This is one smart guy. Tons of experience in the college hoops community, knows the landscape and has a great demeanor and approach. Just more and more impressed with him over time.

  7. He is promising no doubt. If he can recruit to a level that brings in the players to compete for a National Championship his attitude and coaching skills should make him a home run, if not this is all window dressing that means nothing. There is no reason whatsoever UVA can do it in b’ball and we can’t…………..none. Time will tell. We need to quit being happy just because coaches sound good in interviews or in our opinion “say the right thing”.

    We should expect, not be surprised, to be elite………………same thing goes for football.

  8. Awesome. Loving me some CMY. He’s like ‘ol Roy without the pretentious UNC surroundings and without the fake classes of course

    He’s going to win A LOT of games in Blacksburg

  9. Right guy at the right time. I love his talk about Nolley ” 3 things”
    And only mentioned 2.
    Got to luv that, because it’s really nobody’s business but theirs.

  10. Hokie fans have to love this coach. He is so “down to earth” and tells it like it is. I’m so impressed with him as our bb coach and the hire made by Whit. So different from other coaches we’ve had and just seems to be the right “fit.” Go Hokies!!!!

    1. yup. great hire. mike young is a perfect fit for vt, he’s a hokie 4 life. just have to give him some time to build the program. he has a great staff. vt basketball is a stock that’s trending up, bigtime.

  11. Man, Mike is such an enjoyable interview. Clear, concise, insightful. He’s a vast improvement over his predecessor in this regard.

    1. Exactly what I was going to say. And after reading or heading his interviews, I am never left with that feeling of unease.

  12. Is CMY a much fun to interview as he seems? What a seemingly “home run” Whit hit with this hire. He really does act as though being “the big whistle” at VT is a life long dream come true for him, and I am suspecting for the VT family as well. Really nice to be able to cheer for such a “good dude” and I’ll bet the players play their tails off for him.

    1. well said…. and when I read him saying things like “For Lord’s sake,…” I can even HEAR him saying that with his accent in my head.

    2. He grew up in Radford going to VT games as a kid just like so many of us here locally. I imagine it has been his lifelong dream to coach the Hokies and he was probably as surprised as we fans were when it happened. He is easy to cheer for, no doubt, and he has done already what many on here never expected him to do when the hire was first announced. Buzz who?

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