Tech Talk Live Notes: Mike Young And Justin Fuente

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Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young was Tech Talk Live’s first guest. (Johnnie Izquierdo)

Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Young

On the team’s trip to Bubbleville…

Let’s wait and see. I learned a little bit about us when we were down twelve. I think I called a timeout or there was a media timeout. I told my team that we’re about to find out a lot about ourselves. We weren’t playing bad basketball; we were actually playing pretty well, but Villanova was very good during that stretch.

I found out a little bit about our team when, I mean I botched it with the foul shot. I asked Keve [Aluma] to miss it. I think I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve asked a guy to miss a foul shot. I didn’t coach my team to avoid that play down there on the baseline. So, they go to the foul line and knock down two shots and overtime they come. The body language and the sour faces was a bit scary for me. I tried my best during that media timeout to get them recharged and we’ve got five more minutes to play, so a fast start is essential.

Back we came with a 5-0 run to start it. Then, to come back the next night against a completely different team. They weren’t nearly as talented as Villanova, but they were big and strong and could just maul you on the offensive glass. To outrebound them, we had our way a little bit offensively. We weren’t as sharp as we were the night before, offensively, but to get out of there with a win, I think we learned a lot about ourselves.

We’re just three games in, and we’ve got a long way to go. Sitting here on Tuesday night, we play in 48 hours, everything is good. We’re preparing, and we had a good practice tonight, but with everything going in, you just don’t know. If we hit the floor at 8 o’clock on Thursday, our team would love to have that opportunity.

On Keve Aluma…

That’s a really good team that’s won two national championships in the last, whatever. This Villanova team could very well make a run at it, but Keve Aluma was the best player on the floor that night. That’s not a stretch. That particular night, he was the best player on the floor. Robinson-Earl was a load, and I watched him play against Boston College and Arizona State and they couldn’t do anything against him. I talked to Keve on the day of the game, and he was excited about the matchup and he was aware of Earl and how he played in the two prior games. He was revved up. He can really guard; he’s long, and he has a really good understanding of what it’s about defensively.

I was with him for his first two years at Wofford, and his role was as a defender and a rebounder. He couldn’t score 23 points in six nights. That part of his development, and his game has been a bit surprising. Football players are no different than basketball players; a year in the smokehouse and a year to expand your game and get bigger and stronger. The shot he made at the end of the half against South Florida, that’s a high-level basketball player. We drew something up, we wanted to back-cut the help and that worked out well. He turns his left shoulder and gives a violent ball-fake over to where he left and then squared his shoulders and got it down to put us up 13.

I’m just proud of him and the work that he’s put in. That’s a frustrating year because you really want to play, but the positives far outweighed the negatives, and he’s reaping those benefits now, as our team is.

On the staff in Bubbleville…

They were awesome from top to bottom; the security, the meals that the kids had, every meal was well-prepared. They did a great job. It was annoying because you could not interact with anybody else. We were on the 17th floor and we were there. You were not going to move about the hotel without your security guard. We had a guy named Robert up there who was an older gentleman. He was awesome.

I ran into Coach Bennett when we first got up there, and we were talking about each other’s masks and I had a security guard almost tackle me. I’m walking out and we’re done on Monday morning and I ran into Mark Pope, the coach at BYU, who I’ve known forever, and the same thing happened. A young lady comes rushing out of her chair to alert me that BYU has not tested yet. They were great, and I certainly am thankful for the work that went in so we could get up there and play a couple of games. It was a terrific facility; I thought the arena was great and the accommodations were spot-on.

On the resolve of the team early on…

You harp on it and you emphasize it. Our team took eight charges, four against Villanova and four against South Florida. I thought Nahiem had a problem and a little head injury, but he comes right back and plays great basketball.

We’re up late Sunday morning watching South Florida and Hisham, our athletic trainer who is phenomenal, texts me at 2:30 or 2:45 that Tyrece [Radford] had stomach cramps and he thinks it’s something he ate. He didn’t sleep very much at all, so we leave him in bed for most of the day. He didn’t participate in any of the preparation, didn’t go to shootaround. He just wanted to rest and get as many fluids in him as possible. We didn’t know up until game time that he was going to be able to play, and then he goes out and scores 23 points. That’s the season, and we all deal with it. We have great people and tough kids that are about the right stuff. We also dodged some bullets, too, so I’m thankful for that.

On the team’s defense…

It has exceeded expectations. I’m surprised, to be frank. I was not satisfied against Radford. I didn’t think we were very good, and I was nervous because I just didn’t think we were very connected. We didn’t look like the outfit that I expected us to be. Then, here we go to play the third ranked team in the country with Gillespie and Earl and others. Man, we fought. We were light on our feet, we were connected and communicating with one another. I was a little bit surprised that Villanova shot 42% from the field and we outrebounded them by ten. What a statistic that is. I think we made more foul shots than they took, and we put the ball in some really cool places offensively. It was a pretty darn good performance.

On Cordell Pemsl and Cartier Diarra…

They’re probably a little bit ahead of the curve after coming in this summer and getting up and running. The luxury of those old guys is that they’ve been around. They’re not puppies, they’re grown men who have been in good programs with Carti and Kansas State and Cordell at Iowa. They know how the thing is supposed to play out.

Cordell really helps our offense because he’s a really good motion player. He knows what he’s doing and was a really well-coached at Iowa. Both of those guys are good communicators. So far, so good. I’ve got a little issue with Jalen [Cone] coming back. I’m thankful he’s coming back; what a dynamic player he is, but to get those minutes right and getting guys on the floor as much as they need to be on the floor is giving me a little heartburn. We’re going to figure it out, though, I’m not too worried about it.

On Jalen Cone…

He’s a full-go right off of the bat. I don’t want to throw him in there for 33 minutes though, we have to ease him into it. We’ve got some space here in our schedule with VMI on Thursday and Penn State on Tuesday (Dec. 8), but we don’t have Clemson to open league-play until next Tuesday (Dec. 15) I believe. We’ve got an opportunity to work on some things, and I think that over that period of time, we’ll have ample opportunity to get him up to speed and get some game reps in. He practiced tonight full-blast and looked good. He’s bigger and stronger, but still jumping through the roof and making a ton of shots, so we’re excited to have him back.

On Cone’s involvement in Connecticut…

I insisted that he sit in the front row and started calling him Coach Cone. He’s been so limited through the last couple of months. He just has this exceptional enthusiasm, and he’s a great teammate. He knows exactly what he’s looking at. He took it a little too far in both the Villanova and the South Florida game. He’s recommending play calls to me, which I got a charge out of. I ran one of them against Villanova, and I thought the guy was right. He’s a great person, and just a delightful guy to coach.

On the chemistry in the program…

I think about it all of the time. I’m convinced that the people we have in our building are the right kind of people; they’re high-character folks and we have a lot of fun together. We talked about it tonight, it takes one guy with his mouth stuck out because he’s not playing enough or getting enough shots, so it’s a day-to-day deal. Everybody has to continue to be a great teammate and continue to have both feet on board. It’s easy when you’re winning, and shots are going down like this weekend.

I also know, after 35 years of coaching, that it’s a long way to the end of the year. If we can continue this feeling and this level of trust and commitment, we have a chance to have a pretty good year.

On not relying on the three this year…

I was really happy with it. We were 10-20 from three against Villanova, and I don’t think we took that many against South Florida. People ask me to compare between the two years, and I’m not taking anything away from last year’s team or pumping the tires on this year’s team, but we were a one-trick pony. You take away the three and we had problems.

We’ve got a little bit of a bigger, stronger athlete in the frontcourt now and one that we can pump that thing in the post to and expect good things to happen. We’ve harped it and talked about it daily that we don’t want to settle for threes. Those analytics guys and all that garbage makes me sick to my stomach. Give me a guy who puts two feet in the post and can put that thing in there and you can expect good things to happen. Give me that guy any day of the week.

On VMI…

I’ve competed against Dan [Earl] a lot over the years, and he’s a great friend. He sent me a text after the Villanova game. He’ll spread you out and back cut you. They’ve got the Stevens kid, the big kid that is kind of the nerve center of everything. He’s a good passer and can shoot. They play a match-up zone, so different than our first three games. We didn’t handle their matchup zone very well at all last year. We’ll do a better job with it on Thursday. We look forward to getting back into Cassell, having the opportunity to compete and seeing our boys go up and down the floor.

Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente talked about the progress made during the bye week. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech Football Coach Justin Fuente

On the bye week…

I think it’s been good for us. I wish it would have come about four weeks ago. We set out with two objectives. I’m a big fan of setting goals and trying to explain reasons for why we’re doing what we’re doing. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we got out there and worked with some of our younger players to get some good vs. good looks. I guess I should go back, on Monday, the offensive and defensive staff and the special teams coordinator were all in their separate rooms combing through the season and basically presenting a report to me on what we’ve done well, what we haven’t done well, and what we need to improve on.

We had two good short, crisp practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. My mission for Thursday, Friday and Saturday was for people to get recharged. To say that it’s been a long journey would be an understatement, just between our players and the mental strain of what we’ve been dealing with. Our guys came back on Sunday night and had a great workout and Monday was off again, and we had a great workout this morning.

On injuries…

We’re as good as we could be in terms of health. We have some guys who are playing hurt and don’t get to practice all week, but find a way to make it out on the field. I think they deserve our respect and admiration. Those are hard things to do to be beat up and gear yourself up every single week. Obviously, they’re in better shape than they were a week ago. We’re in as good of shape as we can be for this time of year under the circumstances, given everything that’s transpired.

On the reports he got from the coaching staff…

In general, it was pretty obvious. You go into those meetings with an idea of what you think it’s going to say, and usually you’re in the general ballpark. Seeing it in context and in writing and having conversations about it kind of brings it home a little bit more about where we’re at and what we haven’t done well and what we need to improve on shortly.

On Quincy Patterson…

His situation is understandable. I think Quincy has handled things the right way, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, I always will. We had several conversations as he was going through this, which is the right way to do it. He is like speaking to an adult, so we have those conversations, and obviously I didn’t want him to leave, but I understand the situation he finds himself in. I’m going to support him in every endeavor that he has for the rest of his life. I think that it’s important that he understands that. There will come a time in his life when he’s no longer a ball player and needs something, and he knows he has a friend in me that will do anything to help him out.

I told him to use us as resources through this process. We can filter things for him, or more importantly, once he figures out what direction he is headed, we can find out the real information on those places because coaches all know each other. It was tough to have him leave because I think so much of him and admire him for so many things. I don’t think many people understand all of the things that Quincy has been through in terms of where he grew up. He’s got a wonderful family, but they’ve gone through many issues that don’t need to be public. Quincy just keeps a level head through all of it and never seems to be too bothered by any of those things. He does what he’s asked to do to the best of his ability.

On the transfer portal moving forward…

What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have two wings of your recruiting department. It’s going to be the NFL. When I say that, I mean that the NFL evaluates college players and free agents. That’s exactly what’s happening in college football. You’re going to have to have somebody disseminate the information from transfers and another staff disseminate the information from high school players. It’s going to get pretty crowded in there, and it’s going to be pretty interesting to see how it works out. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but that’s going to be another arm of what everybody is dealing with.

On seniors possibly coming back…

The good news is that the seniors that come back, in short, you’re allowed 85 scholarships, but if you have five seniors come back then you can be at 90 for one year. However many seniors that come back, you can be over by that amount for one year. That eases the tension of that a little bit.

What becomes difficult is not the total roster number, but the distribution. Let’s say you really need a right tackle, but there may not be right tackle that comes along with experience. There may be two defensive tackles come along, but you can only have so many defensive tackles, so it gets all out of whack. The balance of it all is what comes into question. I think we’ll be able to handle the overall number, at least in the short term, but the days of your roster being laid out and nice and balanced are going to be pretty difficult.

On name, image and likeness…

I can tell you what I think I know. We’ve had businesses that handle these things for schools come in and present what their services could be. We are in the middle of figuring all of that out as an administration. We all believe that it’s going to pass. It obviously started with the state government who, you can pretty safely say, forced the NCAA’s hand into this. Basically, they’re going to be allowed to make money to endorse products or car dealerships or whatever it is. It could be through social media or commercials or autographs or speaking engagements or Zoom birthday wishes.

The problem is that it’s all going to be regulated. None of this has actually happened, but this is our best guess of what’s going to happen. The NCAA wants to set fair market value for these events. They don’t want kids to get paid $2 million for a 30-second birthday wish to little Johnny. How do we figure out what market value is? I know how we figure it out in the stock market because of supply and demand. This is a little different deal.

No coaches are allowed to be involved with any of it. We’re not allowed to set any of it up or be involved in it. Thank goodness. Trying to figure out what is fair market value is interesting. There’s some discussion that it may involve social media numbers, which sends cold shivers down my spine. There’s some talk that they may determine what your market value is from that both on social media by posting a tweet eating a Subway sandwich or making an appearance. It’ll be interesting to see how well it all works out.

On Clemson’s defense…

It starts with their personnel. They’re fantastic everywhere. They have some younger guys on the defensive line that I think are going to be great players. Then, they have age and experience in the backend. Schematically, they just do a lot. They carry a bunch into each game and change it up from week-to-week. They’re incredibly aggressive defensively.

On Clemson’s offense…

Offensively, we know what they are. Everyone says that Trevor Lawrence is the first pick in the draft, probably rightfully so. They played without him and scored 30 on Notre Dame in regulation, and you saw what Notre Dame’s defense did to North Carolina. They’ve got skill players and they are as good as they’ve been on the offensive line in some time.

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13 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I am afraid NIL will be a disaster for VT – they have trouble managing the relationship with their boosters (which should be a no-brainer). Creating a marketplace, working with content providers, setting/meeting expectations of the student-athletes (and their families), knowing how far to push compliance, etc. will be a nightmare for the athletic department and university administration. Another level of complexity and resource allocation that is unhelpful in the current environment.

  2. I’ve been disappointed in how football this year has unfolded, like most. I feel for Fuente, the coaches and the players. It’s hard to practice, want to win and then lose. Some of the comments and quotes regarding the team and CJF have been a little bit of a head scratcher to me. I like Fuentes’ comments and hope he can get better outcomes going forward into next year.

    1. No offense but you have to be the first person I’ve heard say they like Fuente’s comments in a long time. He’s miserable to listen to and has zero positive energy. I hear nothing from him but complaints, excuses, negativity, and a nonchalant attitude stemming from his arrogance especially of late…..he can see the end in sight as can the rest of Hokie nation and he appears ready to move on IMO.

      1. Really? No offense but not every Hokie agrees with your point of view. If our program was currently like Alabama would you be complaining? I seriously doubt it. Ever listen to Nick Saban? His interviews, comments, etc. are of a similar style only difference is they’ve had more W’s. If VT had more W’s to your liking you wouldn’t care about what Fuente sounded like.

        1. Yep, we can put up with quite a bit if we’re racking up the W’s. If you are not, sayonara buddy.

      2. You’re completely off base. That’s all manufactured by you because you don’t like the guy and our results this year

      3. I really like listening to Fuente, all of his comments are from the heart. So sick of people giving Fuente a hard time because we’re struggling right now. He is a class act, he respected Beamer immensely through the entire transition, even honored him with the weekly 25 jersey number, maintained discipline in the program, has dismissed players that were not following team rules, and has maintained the untarnished reputation of the program. All those things go unnoticed by simple minded fans that only care about winning. Still believe that the best days of Hokie football are in our future, and Fuente is the man that will lead us to the promised land.

  3. Love the quote from CMY, “…spent a year in the smokehouse…”. That’s as “country” as it gets.

        1. Just north of Blacksburg in Craig County I learned it as “finer than a frog hair split 9 ways!” hahaha always makes me laugh hearing variations of it

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