Looking back with: Bimbo Coles (Part 2 of 3)

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Correction from last article:  You may recall that in Part 1, I wrote that Bimbo committed to Tech on Saturday, Jan. 25th, 1986, then saw VT beat Memphis State in Blacksburg on Monday, Jan. 27th. That was in error. The Jan. 27th game was in Memphis, and VT lost 83-61.  The following Saturday, on Feb. 1st, one week after Bimbo verbally committed, VT beat Memphis State 76-72. The error occurred because I was looking at a schedule in the Nov. 12, 1985 basketball preview issue of The Hokie Huddler, and it had the home and away dates reversed. The correct schedule is linked here.

Bimbo Coles gave Hokie fans a lot of high-flying highlights in his sophomore season of 1987-88.
Bimbo Coles gave Hokie fans a lot of high-flying highlights in his sophomore season of 1987-88.

At the end of Bimbo Coles’ 1986-87 freshman season, with the Hokie basketball program just having been put on probation for two years, the multi-talented athlete had his plans set to quit hoops and switch to football. Bimbo was an all-state performer in football in high school, and at 6-2, 185, had the size to play corner or safety. A season in the weight room, training for football, would probably have put him over 200 pounds, and with his athleticism, he was an excellent football prospect.

Fate and interim head basketball coach Frankie Allen had other ideas.

“Frankie Allen, I guess he caught wind of it,” Bimbo remembers, “and he called me into the office, and he said, ‘Listen, this is your team. You can do what you want. Please don’t leave. I’m basically giving you the ball.'”

It was a bold promise. Bimbo had finished #4 on the team in scoring the previous season with 10.0 ppg. Overall, three players were returning who had outscored Bimbo in 1986-87: Wally Lancaster (17.1 ppg), Tim Anderson (12.0 ppg), and Roy Brow (10.8 ppg).

But Bimbo had been the second highest scorer in Metro play at 12.7 ppg, and Frankie Allen thought Bimbo could do even better. So he promised to turn the team over to Bimbo, to keep him from changing sports.

“And he did,” Bimbo said. “And I played like I was capable of playing. We went full court, we were man to man, we pressed, we were up tempo, we got the ball up. It was my style of basketball, and he let me play, so I said all right, I’m in.”

Going into the 1987-88 season, almost no one outside of Blacksburg expected Virginia Tech to be any good. In the basketball preview issue of The Hokie Huddler (Vol. 5, #11, Nov. 17, 1987), out of nine preseason Metro Conference predictions listed, six of them picked Virginia Tech to finish last in the seven-team league. Inside Sports and Basketball Digest went against the tide and picked the Hokies to finish third.

But Frankie Allen and Bimbo Coles had some surprises in store for the Metro, and the nation at large. After starting off with a disappointing loss to Middle Tennessee State (an 88-85 OT loss in which Bimbo served notice by scoring 30 points), the Hokies ripped off three straight victories … and then faced the big, bad Georgetown Hoyas in Hampton, Virginia, on Dec. 9, 1987.

Bimbo had 25 points in Tech's Dec. 9, 1987 upset of #14 Georgetown.