Tech Talk Live Notes: Kenny Brooks and Mike Young

On Monday, Virginia Tech basketball coaches Kenny Brooks and Mike Young joined Evan Hughes and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live. They discussed the current state of Hokies hoops, reaching the NCAA Tournament, the men winning the ACC Championship, and more.

Kenny Brooks and Aisha Sheppard have finally achieved the goal they set out to accomplish in 2016. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Kenny Brooks

On earning a five-seed in the NCAA tournament, the second-highest seed in program history:

Is it okay to say it should’ve been the third-straight year [we made the tournament]? I want that, we need that. Our kids have worked so hard and yesterday was very special because we want to strive to continue to get better and better and better with our program. We had to crawl before we walked. We went to the WNIT for a couple of years and that was a tremendous experience for us. It taught the program how to win and then we were able to step it up. 

I think the first two years, the COVID year I am talking about, I thought we put ourselves in position to get an at-large bid and probably would have been an eight-seed, nine-seed. Last year we earned a seven-seed and for us to get a five-seed this year just means the program continues to go up on a national stage and the recognition that we’re getting ,whether it’s individual accolades, team accolades, just the recognition in itself. To see Virginia Tech pop across the ticker as a five-seed, it knows we’re going the right direction and we have a great, great, great group of kids who have worked really hard to get us to that point.

On the week off after the ACC Tournament:

Coaches are creatures of habit. We hate change. In the CAA when I was at James Madison, we played the tournament, and much like the men, had like a day before Selection Sunday, Monday whatever you want to call it, and then we had two days of prep and we were ready to play again without a break. Coming here to the ACC the tournament is moved up a week, and it really took a lot of adjustment getting used to because I’m like, ‘what do I do? Do I send them home and that means I don’t have control over them? I don’t know what they’re doing.’ And you just don’t want to give them that break.

This year, it was heaven-sent for us. We needed it. Obviously, it’s well-known, well-documented we had some injuries in the tournament. And if the ACC tournament and the NCAA Tournament were butted up against each other for us, I don’t know if we would have had our two star players be able to play and so for them to be able to get the 10 days off, 11 days off, we came back and we got our hands on the ball and shot a little bit. They did go home, some of them went home and visited with family.

I made them take pictures every day, double-masked so that I knew that they were at least being conscious of being careful because for us COVID is still out there and we have to make sure. But they came back today. We actually had a practice where we had contact. We looked really, really rusty in the beginning but they haven’t done anything in 10 days and by the middle of practice they had picked it up and they started looking like they were in rare form. So it’s been heaven-sent for us to have that break so we can heal some kids up right now.

On how he will remember this team:

I think the thing that I will remember the most is sitting in huddles and looking at their faces and the expression, regardless of whether we were up 20, we were down five, somebody hit a miraculous 3-pointer to send it to overtime; they had the same look on their face. The look was, we are winners and we’re going to win the basketball game, and that just means that you’re growing as a group, growing as a team, growing as a program because it tells you everything.

I’ve been in a situation where you can tell the kids didn’t really believe that they were going to pull something out or be able to fight through adversity. And we did that time and time again. I’ve been asked what’s my favorite win, I don’t know. Anytime you beat anybody in blue, whether it’s Carolina, Virginia, Duke. It’s kind of like my children. All three of my children, they think that they’re my favorite, and we know as parents, you can’t have a favorite, so I can’t have a favorite win. So I love winning, beating all those teams, but it’s just the maturation of this group.

The way that they’ve grown. They know that they’re winners. We walk out on the floor and I love watching them walk out onto the floor. If you guys get a chance, check it out. They walk out on the floor for jump ball to start the game and they look across at the other opponents, and I don’t care if they have five McDonald’s All- Americans, ten McDonald’s All-Americans, we’re like ‘we’re gonna kick your butt.’ And that’s something that you know that you have a special group and they know they can beat anyone.

On the state of Virginia Tech basketball as a whole, men’s and women’s:

I think, and I’m a little biased, that it’s in pretty good hands. It’s because of just the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the sisterhood, the way we pull from them, the way they pull for us, and strength is in numbers, when you have so many people pulling for you. Because it’s the dog days.

We’ve been playing for six months. We’ve been in the gym practicing for six months, and there’s a lot of times we only see each other, whether it’s during a break or whatnot, ups and the downs and we’re the ones that really understand what each other is going through. We watched them go through a situation where they were 2-7 in the ACC. Ironically, we were 2-7 last year in the ACC and we just look at each other and we’re continuously following each other, giving each other advice, just comfort and knowing that you can pull through this.

To watch them, to be able to go through it. I’ll tell you I’m a horrible fan. I can keep my composure as a coach, but this weekend I’m screaming at the TV. I’m pacing back and forth. I’m like, ‘What is wrong with me? What am I doing?’ But they provided so much excitement not only for their program, this university, this community and Hokie Nation in general and it was just a remarkable, remarkable run and I really enjoyed every second of it.

On the team rallying together in the ACC tournament with Elizabeth Kitley and Cayla King sidelined:

I said it before, the looks on their faces is what I really enjoyed the most, because everyone could have counted us out and they would have been rightfully so in doing so when Liz goes down, Cayla’s already out. You’re playing the No. 16 team in the country, a rivalry game, they’re physical and I just kept saying get us to halftime because we didn’t know if Liz was available [or] not available. Get us to halftime.

She tried to play, and I told her, I made a decision that day and against NC State that she wasn’t going to play. She was going to try and I said. ‘No, we have a lot of basketball left to play.’ But then I turned to the rest of the group and I said, ‘Look, I made the decision to protect Elizabeth, but also I have every bit of confidence in you guys that we’re gonna win the basketball game,’ and they never wavered. They never wavered.

We got to do it a different way. We were playing on the fly. And the last second shot that Georgia made, we might as well have been in the backyard. I was like, ‘Hey, you go here and you go there.’ We were making it up and it worked. But that’s just how much resiliency they showed, how much belief they had in each other and in the coaching staff that we could get it done without two of our better players.

Emily Lytle
Emily Lytle’s defense with the absence of Cayla King really important. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC Pool Photography)

On bench players playing big roles in the ACC Tournament and the confidence it gives them:

They’re already confident. They’re good. They know they’re good. But what they’ve done is they’ve come in and sacrificed for the betterment of the team. You know Kayana Traylor – Kayana Traylor averaged 15 points a game for Purdue, was the leading scorer, took the most shots. And when I recruited her she said, ‘I want to be a part of something better. I want to go out and if I have to sacrifice some numbers to be on a better team, to go to the NCAA tournament, I’m willing to do that.’ And so it was just her time. Her number got called.

We needed her to do a little bit more, be a little bit better version of herself. Nothing superhero-ish, but there’s nothing that we didn’t already know about Kayana Traylor. We knew that she could provide whatever we needed. As a matter of fact, before the ACC tournament, she texted me and she says, ‘What do you need me to do for us to win this thing?’ And I just laid out a couple things for her and she had a remarkable tournament where she made all-tournament team, along with Aisha Sheppard and Georgia Amoore. 

So it’s nothing that we haven’t expected, that surprises us. We know that they’re as good, but just when you’re fortunate to have a 6’6” All-American center inside, you want to give her the basketball and they understand that. They know that that’s the path for us to be great. But if I need them to do a little bit extra, they’re more than capable of doing so.

On Aisha Sheppard’s season:

It’s been wonderful and she struggled a little bit this year. I thought she put some pressure on herself to try to just duplicate what she had done last year. She’s been the focus of a lot of defenses. But she came back to have this opportunity right here. She came back and she’s the all-time leading scorer in Virginia Tech women’s basketball history. I told her to hold on to it. It might only last for 365 days because Elizabeth [Kitley] is right behind her, but nonetheless you have it. 

She’s the all-time leading three-point shooter in ACC history, which is remarkable. We’ve done a lot together. She took a blind leap of faith to trust me and my vision for this program, not just for her, but for this program. To see it all come to fruition, it’s a remarkable story for me, it gives me goosebumps because we are here to serve these kids, to make them better, to give them tremendous experiences.

One of the coolest experiences that I’ve ever shared with her – we’ve done many things, wonderful things – when she got recognized for becoming the all-time leading three-point shooter in Virginia Tech history, we were able to walk out on the floor during the men’s game against UVA. And stakes are high, everyone’s locked in, uber-focused on beating UVA and yelling at UVA and doing whatever. We walked out there on that floor in front of ,9000 people and they all chanted her name. Aisha Sheppard. That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, because it’s not about me, obviously, but to see her face light up with the recognition, to know that Hokie Nation loves her, because that kid is a Hokie.

She epitomizes everything that you want in a Hokie, and the way that she serves the community, she served our program, she served Hokie Nation, and she just wants to make everything better than the way that she found it. And it’s not about her and she’s changed our culture, she’s helped change our culture, and I’ll forever be indebted to her, not only for the three-pointers that she’s made, all the points that she’s scored, but she’s helped change the culture in that locker room and now that’s going to propel us and be able to succeed for years and years to come after she’s gone.

On Florida Gulf Coast leading the nation in three-point attempts:

They like to shoot a lot more than we do. If I fall asleep in the middle of this conversation right now, please wake me up, but I was up until four o’clock in the morning watching film and just amazed at how many three-pointers they do shoot. They’re tremendously coached. They’re great at what they do. They know they have to shoot a lot of three-pointers to be successful and they shoot them at a high clip. They keep the opposing coach up at night, because they’re gonna shoot them and if they get hot, they can be really dangerous.

They are a 12-seed, [but] they’re not a 12-seed. If you guys have researched them, they are a top-20 team. They’re 20th in the country. That’s unheard of for a team like that to be a 12-seed, so it’s really not a good matchup for us, but it’s also not a good matchup for them, two contrasting styles. We obviously have inside play, inside presence, they have none, so Elizabeth is going to have to chase around some guards a little bit. But on the other end, they’re going to have to play her inside, so whoever can impose their will is probably going to be the more successful basketball team, but they’re a very good basketball team.

On FGCU starting five guards and potentially defending Tech like North Carolina did:

No, I think they’ll be a little bit different. We’ll have to watch a lot of film of smaller teams in a non-conference schedule, how they played them. They’ll probably put one in front of Elizabeth and one behind her, and we have to get the basketball out quickly. I kept saying to my staff I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, they have shooters here, they’re this and that, they’re this and that.’ And I think one of my assistants says, ‘Coach, relax. We’re really good too.’

And so I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, we are.’ He’s probably up at night right now trying to figure out how he’s going to stop us as well. So we’re not just a one-person show. We have a lot of kids who are capable of stepping up and knocking down shots too and we can make them pay. I just don’t know what poison they’re going to choose. Are they going to take away our three-point shot and let Elizabeth go to work inside or are they going to take her away and try to make us shoot from the three.

On the importance of Georgia Amoore keeping a high level of play going into the tournament:

It’s necessary for us to be successful. She’s such a great kid. She had struggles in the beginning of the year, not because she was playing bad, but she just wanted everyone else to fit in. We had new players and she was so worried about facilitating and making sure everybody else was okay, that she was forgetting about herself. And the one thing that she doesn’t understand, and I hope you guys really understand this too, she’s one of the best point guards in the country, she really is.

We have her for two more, and she will inform me that she has a COVID year, too, so maybe three more years for us. When you have someone like that, it’s the equivalent – Coach [Brent] Pry will tell you – it’s the equivalent of having a really good quarterback. If you have a really good quarterback, you’re gonna be a really good basketball team and the things that she talks to me about, we’re on the same page.

The only time I can’t really understand her, she gets really excited, then her Australian accent really kicks in and I have to tell her, ‘Baby, baby, slow down, slow down.’ Then she starts talking slow, and it is the funniest thing. She has a country twang and it’s like, she fits in, she fits in. When her parents came in, they looked at her, they were like, ‘Who are you? What is that accent that you have now?’ But she’s done a tremendous job for us.

On the crowds that have come out to support the team throughout the year:

They’ve been tremendous. This place, I’ve said it before, we can go to other places and we kind of hear the fans, but when you come here and we get you guys in there and you’re rocking it, you feel the fans. When you feel that electricity, it is definitely a home court advantage. I just want to thank everybody who’s been behind us. Your patience has been wonderful and it allowed us to build a program that you can be proud of.

Now that we can continue to grow because we’ve done things the right way, but it’s because of the support that we’ve gotten from Hokie Nation, and it’s second to none. This place has the best home court advantage, so much so that just randomly I’ll just tell Siri to play Enter Sandman, and I’m singing and it’s just electric the way this place is and the home court advantage that it creates.

What a week for Mike Young. (Liam Sment)

Mike Young

Thanks all Hokie fans. Glad to bring that beautiful trophy back to Blacksburg and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On how many texts he got after the ACC championship victory:

I got back to a couple of people just a minute ago. I had 497 [texts] and that’s true. I feel obligated to get back to a bunch of friends. I had Brad Stevens with the Celtics [reach out], Roy Williams, Brad Brownell, a bunch of great, great buddies in coaching and others.

On fans greeting the team in front of Hahn Hurst following the championship victory:

I wish it was a little bit warmer. I wanted to get out of there as quick as I could because it was so doggone cold, but awfully kind of so many nice folks take time out of their schedule to come over to welcome our team back to campus.

On texting Bruce Arians:

I’ll text coach later tonight. He had another super bowl win, I understand Tom Brady’s coming back for another year. That’s a pretty good win for coach.

On what it means to him to deliver the first ever ACC Tournament Championship to Virginia Tech:

It’s awfully special and I’m not sure that I’ve had enough time yet to decompress and come up with an accurate response to your question. It means a great deal. Not for me personally, it means a great deal for the players that came before our current team that put a lot of effort and blood, sweat and tears into that thing.

The Dale Solomons and the Allan Bristows and Al Young, so many good ones. I can’t tell you how many of those folks have reached out. Marshall Ashford just got to me just a little bit ago. Those guys were my heroes growing up and to see this current team do what they’ve done is great, great fun. I’ll have a better answer for you soon. Just know that it’s awfully special.

On playing Clemson first in the tournament after losing to the tigers only four days prior:

It’s a lot like life. When you think you’re down and out and when things are bleak. We didn’t play very well at Clemson, that was just a little over a week ago, nine days ago. I was mad as a hornet. So upset with how we handled some things down the stretch and now you’re gonna come back and play Clemson again, who was playing good. They had won five-straight and then beat N.C. State. We gotta play them again.

They’re physical and PJ Hall is a really good player in the post. [Darius] Maddox hits a bomb to win the game, a buzzer-beater. Without that, we’re back here doing something other than what we’re doing right now. He gets us out there with a significant win. From that point on, we were really good. We were really, really good against a very good Notre Dame team. And then you’ve got the North Carolina Tar Heels staring you in the face.

We weren’t very good in the first half, we were terrific in the second half. Then I thought maybe, just maybe, the most complete game we’ve played and needed to be against Duke on Saturday. We didn’t defend great in the first half. Went into the half up 42-39. But we were as close to touching something special on both ends of the floor as we’ve been all year in that second half and what a monumental win that was.

On Darius Maddox’s development this year:

I think it says a lot about him as a human being, his character, his upbringing. He’s always been an ultra-talented offensive player, but he didn’t defend at the level that we needed him to defend at. There’s some other little plays that he just wouldn’t embrace and couldn’t quite get his arms around him. But the last six weeks, he’s embraced those things. He’s defending very well.

There’s a 50-50 ball and that – it was Duke – the Duke player has as much chance to get that ball as Darius does and you gotta have those balls. To the floor he goes nose-first and he comes up with a 50-50 ball and he saves it to a teammate. His play has been nothing short of outstanding. One you can rely on, he does it night-in, night-out. Just so proud of him and happy with his progress here over the last several weeks.

On Hunter Cattoor’s performance in the championship game after missing three-straight free throws against Clemson:

We were up comfortably against Clemson. Low and behold, we missed two front ends, one-and-one from really good shooters. And then my boy goes up there with three and he gets the hat trick. He misses all three. I’m like, ‘C’mon man. What are we doing here?’ But it was reminiscent of the night in Florida State. We went to Florida State 2-7 [in the ACC].

Tough time, bleak, dark. And we gotta go play the doggone Seminoles of Florida State who contest every pass and beating [FSU head coach] Leonard Hamilton is like beating Adolph Rupp, it doesn’t happen. He’s that good and their teams are that good. And Hunter makes nine [threes] and Sean Pedulla makes six and we get out of there with a huge win. The rest is history. We’re still writing our history with this team, but that was an enormous shot in the arm for our club. 

Hunter Cattoor had the game of his life on Saturday vs. Duke. (Liam Sment)

On the amount of work assistant coaches have to do during tournaments with scouting opponents:

We pay them well, so it’s kind of its own little world. I’m with the two people that are on the current scout so Clemson the first day. And then there’s two assistants that are watching – well Notre Dame had the double bye, but they all have them all split up. When your number’s called, when North Carolina beats whomever they beat in the quarterfinals – it was Virginia – you turn your attention immediately and you’re with those two assistants and I see the other guys very little.

They’re doing their own thing in preparation for what might be next. Kevin [Giltner] and Ace [Custis] had the Clemson scout and the Notre Dame scout, and then Christian [Webster] and Matt [Olinger] had the North Carolina scout, and then Coach [Mike] Jones and Coach [Ryan] Nadeau had the Duke scout. There’s a lot that goes into it.

It doesn’t mean anything if you can’t communicate it to the team and the team then – it’s no different than football – takes that information and processes it and then executes it moving at a hundred miles an hour trying to guard the likes of Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams [and] Wendell Moore. Our team has been incredible with that sort of thing. This staff has been nothing short of excellent with their preparation and communicating it and teaching it to our team.

On Storm Murphy and getting to play in his home state of Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament:

It’s gonna be really cool. He’s so excited. I was telling somebody earlier today, they were talking about Storm and it wasn’t an easy – he wasn’t just gonna call me and tell me he was coming last year. That was a leap of faith and he has a very close family. He came all the way to South Carolina to go to school. He had a great four years and it would have been easy for him to stay in the Big 10. I don’t know how much Wisconsin recruited him, I’m sure they recruited quite a bit to use his grad transfer year there and that was a concern.

Felt great that he came and boy, I’ll tell you what fellas, over the last third of the season, he’s been really, really good. He was terrific in the tournament this week. When we were struggling, he was struggling, I was struggling. I had a couple of people tell me that the internet warriors were being somewhat unkind to him. I’d like to have a word with a couple of those clowns. It bothered him. He’s a tough nut, now. He’s a tough nut and he hung in there and stayed in the gym and continued to work at it. Got better and better.

I think he had 14 assists and four turnovers in the four games in Brooklyn this weekend. I saw Coach Krzyzewski after the game in the bowels of the Barclays Center and he pulled me aside and we just talked about a couple of things. You know, ‘Love your team.’ And he mentioned Storm by name. He said that kid is as important to your team as any with his energy and just how he sets the table for people and he’s a consummate point guard and he is. 

On facing six-seed Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament:

I think a lot of their head coach. Their head coach is a good friend of mine, Chris Beard. He is exceptional. His first year in Austin. They’re not enormous. They’re big. They’re strong, good looking young people. It’s the NCAA tournament. I don’t care who you play, you’re going to play somebody really, really good and happens to be Texas in the first round.

We’re looking forward to getting to Milwaukee on Wednesday and getting settled in and beginning our preparations, on top of what we’ll do tomorrow and what we did today. It’ll be a lot of fun. Can’t wait to get there, can’t wait to face off against the Longhorns. 

On taking away anything from last year’s opening round loss to Florida:

I don’t say a whole lot about it. We just came out of the ACC Tournament with Notre Dame and all those guys. Our guys understand what’s at stake. Our guys are respectful of the situation and the game. And ultimate respect for Texas. Let’s go play. Let’s go play a good ball game, take care of the ball, defend and rebound as we did for four games in Brooklyn, and let’s see what happens. 

On celebrating the ACC Title with Hokie Nation:

I did go over and have a nice experience with our pep band. Gosh only knows what else I did. This is a reciprocal agreement. What we’ve done for Hokie Nation and how proud our fan base is of the accomplishments of our team. We are appreciative of their contributions, filling that arena night in, night out.

See so many good folks in the grocery store and throughout town and throughout the state when we’re out and about. I love the people here. I love Virginia Tech, and to be able to take our team to Milwaukee and represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Blacksburg and the great people here is really a wonderful experience. 

6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I remember rushing to the freshman game to be able to get a seat for the varsity game later in the evening. Was at the game when Moose Mathews scored like 50 points. War Memorial gym was a nite mare for most teams to play the Tech basketball team. I attended every home game back then.(1955 t0 1959).

  2. Love the references to Dale and Marshall. Those were every bit as special times, maybe more, to us old timers as we have today. To excel without being in the ACC was beautiful. Those guys were money night after night…also Gordy!

  3. wow, Marshall Ashford and Dale Solomon – from when I was going to school – like a famous writer once said: “It’s not even the past.”

  4. Thanks to both coaches for the great seasons you both had. I really enjoyed the 4 games I got to attend in person this year (2 men 2 women) you have made Hokie nation proud. Keep it rolling now in the Tournament .

Comments are closed.