Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Mike Young discussed his team’s trip to Brooklyn and the NIT Tip-Off, while Hokies football interim head coach J.C. Price hopped on Tech Talk Live on Monday to talk about Virginia.
On the Merrimack game and them having a zone-based scheme:
I thought we played pretty well; that was kind of by design, with Georgia Tech twice this year, Syracuse at home. Both those teams are heavy-zone teams and I thought that would be good for us. I thought we had some good work at it. Needless to say, Georgia Tech and Syracuse’s zone is a lot longer and more disruptive, but those two little guards for Merrimack yesterday were hard, tough on the ball and made some things difficult for us. We moved it well. Our assist-turnover was good. I thought our shot selection was good. I thought all-in-all, a pretty good ballgame for us.
On shooting 55% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc:
Numbers are good. It does get a lot more difficult, but I’m ready for that. Our players have begun to get a little restless. They wanted to step it up here a little bit and we’ll step it up in a big way Wednesday against the Tigers of Memphis.
On the eagerness of the team with big matchups coming up:
It’s competition. You want to play other really good teams. It comes at us fast. You guys know the schedule as well as I do. Memphis, then Xavier or Iowa State. At Maryland. Home ACC opener against Wake Forest. The hits keep on coming. I watched St. Bonaventure, who we have later in December, man, what a good outfit they have. We will be tested here coming up. We look forward to it.
On how he thinks his team will face adversity:
You’re going to get hit in the nose here, coming up. That’s basketball, that’s athletics. How will we respond? I think with an older group, I feel better about that – [Naheim] Alleyne, [Keve] Aluma, [Justyn] Mutts, and Storm Murphy, that have been through it and have taken a ball bat across the kneecaps. You gotta respond the right way and continue to hang in there and defend and the little things that go into winning. I feel pretty good about this group and their level of toughness in that regard. Time will tell, it’s coming.
On minutes distribution and guys who have made an impact on those decisions:
I feel a lot better about Sean Pedulla. I know I’ll play nine on Wednesday. The minutes are going to change. Aluma’s going to play 31, 32, 33 – all that’s considering fouls. Mutts is going to play a lot of minutes. I wanted those five games to see where we were. I think David N’Guessan is ready to go, I think Darius Maddox is ready to go. He’s had a good early season run at it here. I think John [Ojiako] wasn’t great yesterday, but I thought John has played really good basketball for us and has given us the opportunity to get Aluma off the floor some.
I didn’t play Aluma at the four as much as I wanted to, simply because of trying to manage those minutes between Mutts and N’Guessan. If I’m playing John and Keve together, those two guys are off the floor. It is continuing to evolve. It will continue to do so for quite some time. I feel as good as I can feel right now heading into really the next portion of our schedule.
On the walk-ons hitting threes on Sunday:
I wanted Ben [Varga] to get one up there. I’m telling you, some of my favorite people in my thirty-six years of coaching have been walk-ons. Just consummate team guys. They’re both freshmen. They’ve come in and fulfilled a role. They do an unbelievable job with our scout team. I’ve always said our scout team sometimes runs our opponents’ stuff better than the opponent, and we take a lot of pride in that. It’s like a badge of honor for us, and we applaud those guys.
Camden [Johnson] got one down, probably should’ve pulled that thing out, but I wanted Ben to have a crack at it and low and behold, he stepped up there and threw that thing in, in the final seconds, which was pretty cool. And to see that celebrated by the unit, it’s what it’s all about. Cheering for a teammate when he makes a big play and we got a lot of that going on and that’s gotta be a constant.
Talent and length. Talent and length in an abundance. The Bates kid is a really talented person. Jalen Duren in the post looks like a statue. He’s 6’11”, 250 [pounds] and runs. And there are others. The Lomax kid does a nice job for them in the backcourt. Number eleven, I butcher his name every time I try to say it, my staff was making fun of me earlier today. He’s really good, he’s a good basketball player.
Coach Hardaway has played eleven, twelve guys in each of their first four [games]. Read a couple of things today that he will shorten that against us. They come at you in waves. They are very active defensively, disruptive defensively. Small sample size with only four games in, five games in for us, but we’ll have our hands full. It’ll be a good ball game.
On playing against Landers Nolley and guys that he’s coached in the past:
I don’t know that I’ve done it yet. He had a really good year here. He’s a really good basketball player. Different role for Memphis, still a significant role. He seems to be playing good basketball for them and I know we’ll see a lot of him on Wednesday.
On the 9:30 p.m. tipoff time:
Oh for goodness sake. We’ve got like nine of them. Nine 9 p.m. starts, that is the worst. That is such a long day. It’s brutal, but this is the first of many, so might as well get used to it.
On the approach to the NIT tournament with scouting teams:
We finished yesterday about 6, 6:30, and by the time we got back over there, I wanted us all to look together. Eight of us in there and we looked at Memphis together. We watched a couple three games. Then we got in this morning and Kevin [Giltner] and Ace [Custis] were on Iowa State and Matt [Olinger] and Coach Webster were on Xavier.
They will have their full attention going into this week, so after Wednesday’s game and we know who we’re gonna play, that group comes to me and we get started right away after Wednesday’s game. I don’t watch any of either of those teams before we play Memphis on Wednesday.
On the number of weapons on the roster:
It’s a blessing and the great thing about all of those guys is they can play different positions. I heard Coach Vice talk about our offensive line being able to play multiple positions and the responsibilities are different, but if you can play two or three spots, that aides if somebody has foul trouble, if somebody is down for a game or two.
[Hunter] Catoor can play one, two, three. Mutts can play four, three, two. Aluma can play five and four. That is really a big deal. Alleyne can play two and three. N’Guessan can play four and three and can guard three, two, one. Those are certainly luxuries that we have.
On Storm Murphy’s entertaining play:
That guy. He is selling. The play yesterday, I knew exactly what he was doing. He’s directing our team. We encourage them to stay in bounds, the official’s not going to hand the ball to them while they’re in bounds and he’s telling this guy to do this and this guy to do this and “I’m gonna throw it to you back there,” I knew something was up.
So all those defenders are prepared for what he’s communicating and right off the back of that kid it goes and he sticks up in there real quick before somebody punched it into the new river. He’s an interesting fella, always has been. There’s a little bit of actor, there’s a little bit of stage performer to him and he’s not showing anybody up. He’s competitive and we don’t say a lot to him. I have full faith in him.
On getting to coach his 600th career game:
[It’s gone by] in a flash, in a flash. I can remember my first year, I can remember bits and pieces of a lot of them. It’s flown by. [I] hope, good lord willing, I’ve got plenty more in me and I absolutely love it. It’s a lot of fun.
On program win number 1,500:
That’s a great accomplishment for the Hokies and to be a small part of that, and I think of all the great players and all the great coaches: Don DeVoe and Charles Moir and on and on. Again, to be a little piece of that history is really neat.
On Thanksgiving activities with the team:
Stephanie [Ballein] has everything organized. We’ll have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with them, I’m certain. We’ve got a lot of parents coming and wanted those guys to have the opportunity to be with us. We’ll have a banquet hall at the hotel. We’ll have a really nice meal. I bet I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at home during Thanksgiving, that’s part of it. I am thankful that this is one of the rare times that Margaret and both of our children will be able to travel with us, so I’ll be with them.
But it’s ball season and Thanksgiving is a special holiday, but it’s a special time for our basketball team, too. When you’re trying to cram that non-conference schedule in, you’re almost forced to play during the holiday. We’ll get two games in up there and get back early Saturday morning and take it from there.
On taking days off for Christmas:
Every third year it’s not ideal. We typically take off five or six days at Christmas, I think that’s important. I think getting them home and being with their families, they come back rejuvenated and batteries recharged and seeing their mom and sleeping in their own bed and they come back ready to head into league play and earnest and get with it. We’re one of the teams, we play on the 22nd [of December], I think only four other league teams do that. And then we gotta come back and you gotta play either the 28th or the 29th. Fortunately, we do play the 29th.
We will come back Christmas Day. We will not practice. I did that one time in 1988, I was at Radford University and we practiced on Christmas Day and that was the worst practice I’ve been a part of. Nobody wanted to be there and I said then in ‘88 a long time ago I would never do that. But we’ll have a couple practices on the 26th, 27th, and head to Chapel Hill on the 28th.
We’ll have a lot more here in January, February with some of those big ACC games. Recruiting has gone very, very well. I’m very pleased with the three young people we are bringing into our program. Rodney Rice from DeMatha is really a good basketball player. Patrick Wessler from Charlotte; big, mobile, good hands. MJ Collins from down just over the North Carolina line in South Carolina is a three-level scorer and also a very fine player.
We welcome those guys. We’ll need a couple more. We’ll hit that portal a little bit and try to get some age and I think we’re narrowing down exactly what we need and I feel good about heading into the winter with where we are.
On how the team almost made the comeback against Miami:
I told the team yesterday that I grew up in era where it’s you win or you lose, and there’s no such thing as moral victories. But this past week changed my mind on that. There is such a thing as a moral victory. What these guys went through, I told them I don’t think there’s a team in the country that had their head coach fired on Tuesday and they were supposed to play a game on Saturday.
The look in their eyes when it happened was one of surprise and sadness. The coaches became psychologists and how we went out and practiced Tuesday I wasn’t really sure, but they did, and they actually practiced pretty well on Tuesday. Just to overcome everything they overcame during the week and then the way we started, getting down 21-3, people with no heart, no class would’ve cashed it in. And those kids did not do that.
On the slow start:
We knew the quarterback was a talented kid and they’re a typical Miami team that has speed at the wideouts and their skill guys are really good. They made some plays. Some of those balls were contested 50-50 balls. It was just one of those things where we didn’t get any of them. You would think one of the three-deep ones would’ve gone our way, it just didn’t. The kid really made some great throws and they made the catches and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
On the coaches staying committed to the team despite uncertain futures:
We’re all professionals. We know certain things about when you sign on to be a college football coach or a college basketball coach or any type of college coach, you understand that it’s a business first and you want to do what’s best for the kids. Every one of those guys has been a professional, gone about their business and done their job, even though they have uncertainty at home. That’s the part that people miss is the uncertainty that your family has to go through. We’re grown-ups, we can handle it, but we all have kids and they go through things, whether it’s at school or wherever, that we have to help them handle.
As far as coaching, you want to do your best for the kids, but there is a distraction, so that takes away a little bit from your preparation. I’d be lying if it didn’t happen with me. I have two daughters I have to talk to about what’s going on. So at the end of the day, everybody on that staff wants the best for Virginia Tech and then that’s how they’re performing right now.
On what he learned about himself over the last week and how much sleep he got:
My wife’s gonna kill me because I’ve had some issues with my heart, but I found out coffee does wonders. Not a big coffee drinker, but I found that out. I gotta fu-fu it up, I gotta put all kinds of creamers and sugars in it to drink it, but I had to do something to get through. I didn’t get much sleep and it wasn’t even X’s and O’s that kept me up, it was how was I going to go in and get these guys motivated, what was I going to say to the kids.
Now having the head coaching spot, you understand why some of those head coaches look so tired at times because you stay awake at night and you just wonder what’s gonna be the key thing to make them practice a little harder. What’s going to make them play a little harder? What’s going to make them play a little better on Saturday? You just cannot turn your mind off sometimes.
What feedback did he get from his wife:
Her biggest recommendation was just to be myself. That was the biggest thing she was telling me and I’ve been preparing for this all my life, didn’t expect it to come in this fashion, did certainly not really expect it to ever come here, but I’ve been training for this my whole life and she said just be yourself and things will work out and that’s what I’m doing.
On the onside kick call:
I could actually hear Coach [Frank] Beamer’s voice in my head saying, “don’t lose the game, don’t lose the game, you’re only down two scores, we’re okay.” I was pretty nervous when I made the decision, but the kids executed well and I walked down there right before the kick and told the defense, “we’re getting ready to surprise onside [kick], if it doesn’t work out, save my butt.”
On Connor Blumrick’s performance and his fourth down throw:
It was a great throw and catch, it kept the momentum and actually that was the onside kick drive. Me and [Brad Cornelsen] basically decided we were gonna let everything fly on that drive. If it was fourth and ten, we would’ve gone for it, cause it was just a free possession. We went for two, we were like we’re gonna maximize that possession. Connor’s a great story. The kid transfers in, gets hurt, and shows great resiliency to come back from the injury. An injury that he probably could’ve sat out the rest of the year with. I don’t know if he’s quite 100 or not, he looked 100%.
He shows great character for a kid to come back, where some kids would’ve just called it a year. He fought to get back, he rehabbed his butt off, got to the point where he could perform and we threw him out there to see what we had. Next thing you know, he lit a spark under the team.
On freshmen wide receivers stepping up:
In the coaching profession, you see it every year. Your team in November doesn’t usually look like your team in September. By this time of year, you’ve had some freshmen who have played a little bit, but they’ve kinda developed, they’ve done some things in practice. We weren’t surprised. We’ve seen those guys do that in practice, but they hadn’t had the opportunity with [Tre Turner] and [Tayvion Robinson] – we don’t want those guys off the field at any time.
It’s called competitive excellence, their numbers were called and they were prepared because they had put the preparation in during the week and all through the year preparing while they were waiting. They weren’t just waiting their turn, they were waiting to perform when it was their turn and that was just a tribute to them.
On holding Miami to a field goal after the turnover inside the 20:
That was huge. We talked about it at half, that we had to start fast defensively. We did not start fast in the first half and we knew that basically, if they scored any kind of amount of points, then the game was probably going to be out of reach, given the weather and the rain that was pouring off and on. To come out and get a stop on the first series – and that fumble was a fluke. The monsoon had just started.
And again, that’s what I’m telling you, that’s what I’m telling people, how close we are. We are not that far away from being a championship-caliber team because we have the heart and we have the fight. We’ve just gone through so many little things that no one else has had to deal with and we’re going to come out of this. We tell the guys that one of the things that Ben [Hilgart] had talked about in the off-season was that bison run into the storm. Right now, we’re in the storm. We’re going to run into it and we’re going to come out of it eventually. When we do, look out.
On his passion for the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry:
We want to get those guys every year. It’s a big deal. When you’re a player you think about just beating them and smack talk. When you get into coaching, well now you want to beat them because there’s other things that are tied to it as far as rankings, championships, and now being in the same conference, the coastal and recruiting. So it’s very big within our state.
On coaching guys who don’t know much about the rivalry:
You rely on the other players. I think the other players set the standard. We’re not going to go out and practice angry or something this week, but what you do is you just focus just a little bit more. You put just a little bit more into your preparation than you normally would. And when the guys see that they’re like “ooh, this week’s different.” I think that’s what makes them realize what they’re in for.
On what Virginia brings to the table:
No one’s slowed them down on offense all year. They’ve scored points and moved the ball on every team they’ve played. The quarterback’s got a quick release. He’s a big, good athlete. He runs better than you think. He’s big enough to run you over, but he’s agile enough to make you miss. Their receivers, really they should be playing on an NBA basketball team. They got a tight end that’s 6’7”. They’re just gigantic and they all can run and move around.
Their defense has good players. We probably either were involved with some kind of one way or another recruiting the same guys they have and vice versa. So they have good players. Why it hasn’t worked for them, I’m not sure. They’ve switched up a little bit and gone to a little bit more four-down on the defensive line, which probably they think fits their personnel a little better than the 3-4 stuff they’ve been doing. Now that makes them even more dangerous because now they’re able to jump in and out of both fronts and that causes havoc on offense.
On this week being more player and team-led:
When we talk about being a player-led or a team-led team, it means they have to take the reins. One, [Justin Hamilton] put it best, is they have to reinforce and echo our statements and our message as far as how to prepare, to get them to do extra, because this week it’s like they’re in the NFL. It’s all ball, there’s no classes.
Obviously we’re still bound by the twenty hour rule this week, but they’re allowed to do as much as they want on their own. This is the time of the year where they can get in and do extra. They should be living in the training room. If you’ve played a bunch, your body should hurt. You should feel some type of way. So get in there and get your body feeling as best as it can before Saturday.
On the support he’s felt as he’s take over the head coaching job:
Just humbling, just humbling to know that you have that many people come into your life that are great people, positive people and the effect that they’ve had on my life, maybe I’ve had a little effect on their life. It’s just overwhelmingly humbling.