A hell of a press rally … er, pep conference

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Buzz Williams and wife Corey entered Cassell to loud applause.
Buzz Williams and his wife Corey entered Cassell to loud applause.

As expected, Whit Babcock and Buzz Williams won the press conference Monday night.

This event, half pep rally and half press conference, accomplished its mission. It got the fans involved, it generated excitement, and it gave the new basketball coach a forum in which he was at his best.

The public was invited, and pizza and t-shirts were given away. Somewhere on the order of 2,000 fans showed up (I’m guessing, as I had my back to them most of the time) to welcome Buzz Williams to Virginia Tech, and they were treated to a show that included the pep band, cheerleaders, HighTechs, music that included “Enter Sandman,” and a handful of former Virginia Tech basketball players, including retired-jersey-honorees Bimbo Coles and Ace Custis.

Really, trying to take it all in was a head-turning, neck-craning experience. Whit Babcock spoke first and drew applause when he, a baseball player in his college days, said he always liked to hit a leadoff home run. He also graciously thanked former coach James Johnson (which drew a nice round of applause) and former athletic director Jim Weaver for setting the table and making his home run hire possible.

But the star of the show was new head coach Buzz Williams, who entered Cassell to a huge roar, and proceeded to enthrall the crowd with an arsenal of charm weapons.

Buzz was spirited, leading the mostly-student crowd with “Let’s Go …!” to which they responded loudly “… HOKIES!”

He was funny, telling everyone he had petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Custis and Coles, and at one point he broke off his answer to a question to yell, “Hey … where you going?” at a handful of students who were leaving early, no doubt on their way to a 7 o’clock class. (Night classes? I’m so glad I went to school in the 80s.) “They must not have liked that last answer,” Buzz decided out loud.

Buzz thanked his wife, always the smart move. He thanked his athletic director. He smartly refused to utter even a slightly disparaging word about his previous employer, Marquette, dodging a question about why he would leave there … to come here.

Buzz was genuine, saying that he gets emotional when he talks about his “journey” through the coaching ranks, which started with a $1200 loan that he spent on a suit and tie, and a plane ticket to Charlotte for the 1994 Final Four, where he spent three days handing out copies of his resume, as thin as it was, in the lobby of the Adam’s Mark Hotel.

“I stood in the Adam’s Mark for 72 consecutive hours in Charlotte passing out colored construction papers of my resume, which basically said I was a manager and could sweep the floor and wash the jocks, at an NAIA school.”

He was honest, admitting that he couldn’t answer the question of what qualities he possessed which made him a good candidate to rebuild the Virginia Tech program, which has fallen so far. “I hope I can,” he said. “I’ve yet to prove that.”

Buzz Williams was smooth and very much in control, never once referring to notes or a prepared statement. Virginia Tech challenged him with an introduction that was more sideshow than press conference, more celebration than serious, and he aced it. He is a showman of the highest order, but his record also says he’s something else: a darn good coach.

So now it begins. A whirlwind courtship that started, by Whit Babcock’s account, the night of Thursday March 20th and was done by the night of Friday, March 21st, has been consummated, and now the honeymoon is underway.

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28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I just happened to watch the VT Indoor Practice Facility video through the Andy Bitter article. Definitely interesting- I recommend checking it out. Even more interesting, though, was the Nippert Stadium (U Cinn) expansion video- it was pretty cool, and it reminded me of the appearance of Krypton and the theme music from the latest Superman movie, and with a cameo of our very own AD Whit Babcock!

    And then it struck me- giving that any stadium expansion project takes years to develop and fundraise for, its pretty likely that our new AD was instrumental in making that happen at his old school, and when the time comes for any Lane expansion, he would have already overseen the development of something similar with the Nippert project. BTW, that stadium is going to be pretty amazing- its not just capacity these days- we could have a stadium where luxury and entertainment and can far beyond the those most elite, private boxes. Just a thought.

  2. Hearing the crowd with Buzz chant Lets Go! Hokies! gives me chills. Excited about this hire. Heard guys on college sports radio on XM say that the hire of Buzz was one that VT hit out of the park. Hopefully they give him all 7 years if it’s still a rough start, which no reason for it not to be. Not like we can get much worse. Hope we give him plenty of time to build the team and program and get us to some tournaments. For once in my Hokie life I am excited about VT Basketball. Too bad it’s at the end of the season and I have to wait all season to see anything. Exciting times though.

  3. I am interested in seeing what Coach Williams can accomplish over the next six months in terms of bringing in any 4* or 5* recruits, if that is possible within his first year.

    I am also interested in knowing more about the Spring football public scrimmages. With the arrival of the new coaches, I thought we moved to closed scrimmages- was this change a result of a new marketing / promo effort (a la new AD)?

    Good luck to the VT Basketball and Football teams! I can’t wait to see the results of these investments!!

  4. I like the tone and direction. Next we need results on the floor, or as Whit states more balls in the basket then the other team. I look forward to an upward progression as much as I disliked the decline.

  5. I live in Florida so I am not going to be able to be in the Burg very often for the rejuvination of the basketball program, but I hope like heck that the thousands of students, alumni, staff and VT followers in general will CRAM Cassell for every event and game starting NOW.

    Who knows how things will go, but the changes that the complainers and supporters alike have been calling for are being made….from what I can see so far….expectations are being exceeded, not just “met”….So….I implore those of you who can be in the Cassell will BE in the Cassell to support the program(s) even before we start turning heads with the results that seem likely but are not assured.
    Buy season tickets…show the Cameron Crazies, etc that VT belongs on the stage….join the Hokie Club, go back to the football games if you have stopped going.
    Enjoy the ride, not just the result.

    Go HOKIES!!

    1. The unfortunate part is that there is now a LONG lull in VT men’s basketball until the 2014-15 season begins. It’ll be interesting to see what other things Whit and Buzz do in the interim to generate more (pun intended) “buzz” about the men’s program and get the Cassell more full than it should be coming off such a disappointing season. And like Buzz said in the press rally, don’t expect a huge change in one year. I like his point that we should always be thinking about, and trying to achieve, just a little bit more than what we think we are capable of. If we can do that, then we can eventually achieve notoriety for Cassell Coliseum that starts to put us in the same conversation as Cameron Indoor Stadium.

  6. May I be the first to offer up Coach Buzz’s name as successor to Frank Beamer(?)!!

    TIC. Just hoping this much excitement can be generated then as it is now, even if “only” 2,000 showed up.

    And I’m old enough to remember Al McGuire saying, as Coach Buzz referenced, that to be successful we need to fill those last few seats up in the nose bleed section. It would have been nice to have a full house last night, but I’d rather have a full house when we tip it off in November.

  7. If all this energy can be brought back to the Cassell next fall when the team gets down to work, then it was all worth it. I feel good about what we saw last night from both the AD, and the Coach. I just hope this will spill over into Lane stadium this fall to help sell out each game again. I hope the Basketball problem was some of the reason for the attendance in football.
    I feel Frank was trying to correct the football teams problems, and now that the basketball team has taken steps to do the same.

    This was some display by the athletic Dept. !!!GO HOKIES!!!

  8. Will I hate to break it to you, but we were at Tech pretty much the same time and I had night classes. Not many but a few.

    1. I was there apparently after you guys, and I don’t remember any night classes. About the worst I could remember is some of the classes that would run 4:00-4:50 for a MWF or a 3:30-4:45 T-Th class. I remember some of the high number classes (graduate level) with some late times, but I never had an undergrad that went past 4:45 or 4:50.

  9. Great press conference. I’m excited about Buzz but I am even more excited about Whit. I feel our athletic department is in good hands. Seeing what Whit has done in such a short period of time makes me excited about what he will do in the future. Next up, Spring Game! Hope we continue to see Marketing as part of our athletic mission.

  10. Seems a bit sad that we could only muster a turnout of 2000 even with FREE Pizza. I’m sure that’s gotta be concerning.

    1. I was there and the crowd was more in the 3,000+ range. Very loud and high energy bunch too…Only time any kids left was at the end or near. And that was about five or six in a group. Like Will said.

    2. I agree. With 30K students (just the Greeks could have nearly filled the place), several thousand faculty and staff, townies and Roanoke nearby, that is really disheartening. The ones that showed I give credit to….they were loud and enthusiastic!

      1. Yeah, in my day ’77-’81, the kids were always looking for a “happening” and no doubt would have had a larger crowd. We were so starved for recognition. Different today for sure.

    3. Are you serious? Please tell me I’m missing some sarcasm. Getting 2,000+ people into a stadium to welcome the coach of a team that has been dead last in the conference for 3 years is a disappointment? That’s concerning? It’s a Monday event at 6pm and definitely not a big enough deal for every single student and townie to attend (let’s face it, we’re not quite a basketball school yet). I was there, and it was awesome. The atmosphere was great, the Q&A was great, the free food was, of course, great. Buzz and Whit seemed like genuine, likable guys and stuck around for an hour or so to shake every hand, answer every question (Whit was happy to have a 5 minute or so conversation about students in the Hokie Club) and take every picture. I really don’t see what more you could reasonably expect.

  11. Agree with you Will! Both Whit and Coach Buzz have re-energized our basketball program and I’m excited for what lies ahead. I hope to see to The Cassell filled to the rafters and Tech playing quality basketball in the future. I’m equally excited about the players that Coach Buzz will be able to recruit. GO HOKIES!!!!!

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