On Monday, Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Mike Young and football coach Brent Pry hopped on Tech Talk Live.
Young discussed his team’s thrashing of St. Bonaventure on Friday and the upcoming ACC schedule. In his first appearance on the show, Pry recapped the last few weeks as the head of the Hokies, how his staff is filling out and more.
On the St. Bonaventure game:
What [Hunter] Cattoor’s done, we’ve talked about it on the show, what Cattoor’s doing for us defensively has been quite impressive. I don’t think [Jaren] Holmes scored and the [Jalen] Adaway kid, 33. Justyn Mutts, Keve Aluma, David N’Guessan did a nice job with him. He made an insignificant three point basket late in the game. The offensive end we were good.
The ball moved, it didn’t stick inside out. We didn’t think they had an answer for Mutts and Aluma in the post, they did not. Aluma gets a couple down, now they want to send somebody to get him. Ball comes back on the perimeter and Cattoor was five-of-five from three as you’re aware. [Nahiem] Alleyne was much better. Storm Murphy had his best game offensively for us. [Sean] Pedulla was good. Darius Maddox again was good.
On fixing the offensive problems:
I was texting with Mr. [Whit] Babcock after the game and that was my very point. When the ball goes in the basket, it makes it an awfully easy game. It can be a tractor pull if that thing’s not going in the basket. Good to to see them with their ears back and really playing purposeful – everybody that stepped on the floor contributed. John [Ojiako] gave us good minutes, 5-6 from the foul line. So good night for the Hokies. We needed it.
That was a really good opponent. They did not play well at home against Northern Iowa and Northern Iowa was terrific. I was really, really nervous going into that game. I think a lot of their coach Mark Schmidt. They’ve got a good outfit. Picked to win the Atlantic-10. They will go on and have a really nice year, but awfully proud of our team.
On taking better shots against St. Bonaventure than in past games:
I don’t know how to pinpoint it. I know the ball wasn’t on the floor as much. The ball wasn’t getting stuck on one side of the floor. The ball was touching two and three sides into the post. Mutts had a couple of really nice pierces of the middle of the lane and he’s throwing it around and Storm had a big shot opposite of St. Bonaventure’s bench in the first half. Cattoor went into the post and Aluma put it back up top. That’s what it’s supposed to look like and we have ventured away from that a couple of different points in the season. Nice to see them get back to things that work around here.
On St. Bonaventure not forcing any backcourt pressure:
It’s what you do. You’re not going to alter what you do. UVA – that’s not what they do. You adhere to what you do and they’re playing five guys, that’s what they’ve got.
On the Hokie fans in Charlotte:
It was great and they’re everywhere throughout the building. I love going down there. Love that town. Love that building. Our team won our first championship, league championship in 2010. That was a great night, beat App. State. We may want to play more games down there. Pretty good luck in that building.
Is the team where you want it to be after the first twelve games?
Yeah, I think so. A tip-in away from being 9-2 with Xavier. That win at Maryland. That win on neutral [court] with St. Bonaventure. At Navy is going to be a good win for this team, for our team as we move ahead. Those are good wins. Those are challenging and significant wins for us. 8-3 in the non-league portion of it. Could be a little bit better, could be a little bit worse.
So, here we are. Who was it? Dennis Green said you are who your record says you are. We’re 8-4 and we’ve got 19 head knockers left in league play – nine at home, ten on the road. So, let’s get into it and get after it.
On bench guys getting solid minutes:
I put them in there with about 14 [minutes] to play in the second half. Never in a million years did I think that I would stick with them to the six minute mark. I got to that point and I kinda wanted to leave Aluma over there. Just thought it was so beneficial to John [Ojiako] to have those minutes. He’s not in good enough shape to play beyond that so we had to move Aluma back for a click, but I thought it was encouraging. I thought it was great for the health and development of this team, to have the opportunity to do that.
On Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr:
He was on our scouting report last year, but we didn’t spend a lot of time on Wendell. I will say this, I know him. He is really a special young person, highly-touted coming out of high school and has struggled and had a hard time. To that young man’s credit, he stayed the course, he hung in there, continued to believe in that coaching staff and himself as a basketball player and he put the licks in.
He is having a really, really good year to this point for those guys. He’s averaging 18 [points] a game. He’s catching it and shooting it very well from three. He can get to the rim and jerk the doggone backboard down with his athleticism. A presence defensively. He’s really a problem, he’s a problem. He’s a really good player for them.
On Justyn Mutts revving up the crowd on the floor:
He’s crazy in a wonderful way. He means so much to me. He means so much to our team. He is a leader in a lot of categories. He is an emotional leader, because he wants to pull folks along. He had a really, really good ballgame for us and I think he shot one time and that bothers me. He’s become such a good passer and such a willing passer, but golly day the guy is so creative and so crafty around the basket. But he’s one of those guys [who’s mentality is] just win the ball game. What do you need me to do to win the ballgame? He’s doing that for us.
I continue to harp on him. I haven’t said a word to him about a shot he’s taken this year, so it’s nothing coming from me that I’m discouraging. I’m not, I’m encouraging him. He’s so dynamic and athletic around the rim, and he’s got the ability to step out and make multiple three point shots. The work he did again, as I said earlier, on 33, Adaway I think was his name, as well as 21, the big kid [Osunniyi], was exceptional. He was as important as any player we had in our locker room and getting us out of there with a win.
How much will the hostile non-conference environments help them prepare for ACC environments:
We’re going to face some adversity and we gotta respond better than we did at Dayton. We go back to Maryland, we’re down seven on two occasions, they have the ball and we stiffen and we do our job and get stops and we chip away and finally get out of there with a significant win. We were as good as we’ve been all year at Navy back in November. Maybe a little bit better against St. Bonaventure this past weekend. I’m not playing with babies. I’m playing with men that have been around. With the exception of Pedulla, that’s the only rookie, first-year guy that we’re playing with.
We’ve been around. We’ve been in a lot of tough environments. Wednesday’s going to be – we all know what that’s going to be like. We gotta respond when Duke goes on a 6-0 run. We gotta respond when Wendell Moore hits a big three. We gotta respond when Mark Williams jumps over the backboard and dunks one and that place goes bananas. Look one another in the eye, figure it out, make the next play the best play and get going.
On the importance of keeping Duke out of transition:
If they’re scoring in transition, they really do a nice job of throwing the ball up ahead to [Jeremy] Roach and to Trevor Keels. [Pablo] Banchero can make a pull up three in transition. Certainly Wendell. They’ve got a couple others that are – AJ Griffin’s playing pretty good basketball for them. If they’re scoring in transition, if the things going over the top to Mark Williams, that can’t happen. Our team has been pretty doggone good throughout, in that regard and certainly will be a humongous point of emphasis over the next 48 hours before we play.
On approaching the Christmas break:
I just really dislike how our league schedule shapes up here. I’ve told you before, I’m not real sure the reason. I think there are five teams in the league that every third year you play a December 22nd game or December 21st and then you come back and you play the 28th or the 29th. We’re the 22nd so we’ve got the 29th. It’s brutal. It’s such a long year and I have always given our team off four or five days, and I just think it’s so healthy to get them home and around their families and they come back and they’re excited and recharged and ready to jump into league play. I’ve got at least three.
Now David N’Guessan and John [Ojiako], it’s going to be difficult for them in less than 72 hours to get to Nigeria and the Netherlands and get them back for practice at 3 o’clock on the 26th. But I’ve got probably half my team that will come back after the Duke game and they’ll be here for Christmas and I hate that, I mean I hate it. To wake up Christmas morning and not be around your family, but they just don’t want to bother with the knocking and banging of getting to Florida or wherever they might be going. It’s what we’ve got and we’ll deal with it. [With] the league schedule, I guess everybody plays the 28th or the 29th, but very few of us play the 22nd. We’re one of the lucky few this year.
On the team’s academic success this past semester:
I don’t want to say something that’s not true. I think we had the highest grade point average in the department. Every student was over a 3.0. I think it speaks to their character, it speaks to their work habits. And certainly Alise [Svihla], who I can’t imagine there being an academic counselor out there better than her. She keeps them on task and she does a remarkable job. Our guys do the lion’s share of it and quite proud of them.
On this being Mike Krzyzewski’s final year:
I’m happy for him. He’s healthy and he’s got a lot of good living left to do. I’ll tell you this fellas, I’m not doing this stuff when I’m 73, 74 years old. You can mark that down, not a chance. He’s been great to me. He’s been great for college basketball. We went there in 2015. He’s a basketball man, has been great for the game, not only because of his coaching, but really and truly he has been the voice of college basketball for a long, long time now. That is a void that will need to be filled. I look forward to seeing him. He’s always very gracious. He’s always just a class gentleman. Look forward to going in there one last time with him peering at me down the sideline and locking horns and seeing what comes of it.
Has he had time to settle in Blacksburg?
Not at all. My to-do list just keeps growing. I go in in the morning at six and you work your tail off all day until about now and then you look at your to-do list and it didn’t change. We’re chipping away at it. Lots of pats on the back right now, we’re taking them all. The welcome has been outstanding. Everybody’s just been so friendly. When you make a jump like this, when you leave a great opportunity in a great place and a great person like James [Franklin] and you dive and you say man this is what we need to do, it feels so right – until you get in it, you don’t really know.
It’s been outstanding. We absolutely made the right decision. Amy and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My 11 and 13-year-old, they go back and forth. My sophomore that’s a student at Penn State, we’re working on him daily. The cheerleaders did a great job. They all followed him on Instagram, so he’s excited about that. He’s got like 25 followers and 10 of them are Virginia Tech cheerleaders.
What are the next priorities for you?
Honestly, finishing out the staff, which if I take a call, it’s because the o-line coach is committing. We’ve been working hard at that because you’ve got so many things you want to do. You’re just torn and you’re split in so many ways. You want to recruit. Your own roster needs attention. All these guys want to meet the new coach and spend time with him and know about their futures. Then you’re trying to hire a staff and you’re trying to take care of your family. You’re trying to [do] donor talks and all these things.
You’re pulled in a lot of different directions, but getting a staff in place, where they can help manage this, and I’m not just talking about the ten coaches, but that’s your chief of staff, that’s your operations, that’s everybody, recruiting, all the support staff that makes this thing go; getting all that in place. As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not going to be hasty. If I don’t feel like it’s the right hire and the right person, I’m not going to do it. We’ve been diligent there and it’s coming together. That’s a work in progress.
On the roster’s biggest needs:
I think initially, right now, in that freshman class, in this signee class out of high school, because now you talk about the portal, you talk about your signee class. We still need to add a few skill kids. I think that’s going to be what would make me feel better about it. I feel good about it. When you sign ten linemen in a class – we never did that at Penn State – when you sign ten linemen, that’s where it starts and things gotta be right. You can’t just bring a lineman in and start him as a freshman and feel great about it. You’d rather have those guys have a chance to develop and bringing those ten guys in gives us a chance to do that.
A bunch of them are kind of two-way guys. Are they d-line or o-line? Which I love, that they have traits and qualities on both sides. But we need to add a couple of perimeter guys to round out that class. I think we’ll be able to do that. We’ve already got some official visits set and a couple of guys that we want to reel in. We obviously have to do our work in the portal. That’s where the day starts, to be honest. Who’s in the portal? Right now, there are 79 quarterbacks in the portal. I mean, you need a full time person just to manage the portal. We’re embracing it. There’s parts of it I agree with. There’s parts of it that I don’t like, but we gotta embrace it. It’s here and it’s here to stay.
On the young guys on the roster:
I’m excited about the talent. We would go out and catch practice from the sideline and try and stay out of their way, but it was important for us. We could watch film, which we’ve done, but at the same time to see them live is a great opportunity for us. Coach Price is out there with the mega mic and barking out orders. It’s been good. There’s a bunch of good young guys on this team that have a chance, that I’m excited to work with and develop and get them to their potential.
They belong to us now. It’s a clean slate. Let’s go. If you were unhappy about something, you don’t have to be anymore. We got some ways we want to do things and what we’re going to be about and a vision and a plan and a process and some guys aren’t going to be happy with it, and if they’re not, that’s okay. I want guys to be here that are right for this place and what we want to be and who we want to be, and if it’s not for them, then I wish them well.
On the plan for the team after the bowl game:
We started working on a calendar and the things we want to do. I’m a big believer in that winter workout. I think that you go nice and early and you make it really tough. You find out a lot about these kids, what they’re made of. I think when you go through that shared adversity, that really shapes your team. We want to be tough, mentally and physically. I think that’s an important piece to it.
But also, I think it’ll be time for us, as the head coach and position coaches, to get individual meetings with these guys, whether it’s in the office or it’s grabbing a sandwich, where they get the chance to know us and we get the chance to know them a little bit better. We gotta build these relationships. This is a tough time for all these guys. They don’t know us. They know right now what they see on the tv or on the radio and it’s gotta be way deeper than that. We gotta work at building their trust and figuring out what they’re all about.
It’s going to be fun, like I love that part of it, that’s why I’m in it, the relationships with these kids and helping them reach all their dreams and reach their potential and get a great degree and have a great football experience and then go off and do great things. The relationship will really get going. I’ve had some guys come up and we’ve had some guys [who are like] ‘should I declare? Should I not? Portal? Should I not?’ I mean, we’ve had some of that going on, so I’ve had some meetings with guys, but really digging in and meeting with everybody. It’ll be my plan, over those first couple of weeks, to meet with everybody on the football team.
On the identity of his coaching staff:
Just like for me, about the fit here at Tech, I want these guys to be thrilled to be Hokies. I want to hire men and women that are going to feel great and excited, like I am, about being here. That’s important to me. And then secondly, they’re going to treat, not just our football players, but treat people the right way. And embrace this community. Embrace these high school coaches and our footprint. Embrace the former players. Just like Coach [Frank] Beamer had done it for years and years and years. That’s how I grew up on it. That’s what I believe in and we’re going to do it that way.
On the call from Governor Glenn Youngkin:
I got a heads up that Governor Youngkin wanted to call. I was kind of like, ‘okay, is this for real?’ Well, they set it up and they said between 4-5. I literally put my phone on the desk and was waiting. I mean, it’s the governor. So at about 4:15 he calls. Full of energy and excitement and I had to kind of take a minute to make sure it wasn’t a robo-call. It was kind of like a [high] pitch. Then he got kind of personal. He talked about his basketball experience at Rice and asked about the family and I like what he said.
He said, ‘What’s good for Virginia Tech is what’s good for Virginia, the state of Virginia.’ But then he said, ‘What’s good for Virginia is good for the state of Virginia,’ as in UVA. I was like, ‘You lost me at that one a little bit.’ He was good. I didn’t realize he comes to some games. He’s been to a couple games at Lane Stadium. He said he’s coming next year. It was my first phone call from the governor. I called James Franklin. I said, ‘James, the governor ever called you?’ He said, ‘Nah.’ I said, ‘Well.’
On the roles of different coaches:
Shawn [Quinn] is going to work on defense and coach our SAM’s [linebackers] and our nickels [nickelbacks]. Stu [Holt] is going to coach our running backs and be the special teams coordinator.