The Will Johnston Story, Part 3


For all parts of this series, click here.

In our final piece with Will Johnston, he talks about the Buzz Williams hiring, what it was like to play under Buzz, and his own future.

Hiring Buzz

Will Johnston had already been through one coaching search as a college basketball player. He went through another before his senior season, and as a result he’s one of a handful of college basketball players who have played for three coaches in four seasons at the same school.

Whit Babcock met with the team to inform them about the process, as well as to consult with them.

“He was asking us how we felt about [James] Johnson,” Will Johnston said. “And asking us what kind of coach we wanted. He said he was already in the hiring process, but he wanted to hear from us what kind of coach we were looking for, and what we thought about keeping David Jackson.”

Obviously the team advocated keeping David Jackson.

“He’s the best strength coach in the country,” Johnston said.

For the second time, Jackson served as Tech’s coach as Whit Babcock searched for James Johnson’s replacement.

“We literally had a strength coach and a trainer. We had open gym every day that week.”

The search didn’t take long. After firing Johnson on Monday, March 17, Babcock had Buzz Williams in the fold quickly. Around 5pm on Friday, March 21, the news leaked out that Williams was heading to Blacksburg. Will Johnston remembers exactly where he was when he heard the news.

“We don’t get to go home much at all, so I was driving home that weekend and I’m in my car,” Johnston said. “I get a text from my little cousin, who is a big sports fan, saying congrats on the new coach. I said ‘Thanks, who’s the coach?’ He said “Buzz Williams.”

Johnston’s head immediately started spinning. Buzz Williams…Buzz Williams…yeah, he knew that name.

“I was thinking ‘Buzz Williams…is that the bald guy at Marquette who’s always sweating and going crazy?’ So yeah, my first thoughts of Buzz were intense, bald and sweaty.”

As Tech fans soon found out, Johnston’s initial thoughts about Buzz turned out to be completely accurate. As the players soon found out, Williams wasn’t the only guy who was going to be sweating.

Buzz Williams
Buzz Williams…”intense, bald and sweaty.”

Playing under Buzz Williams

Johnston had his first contact with his new head coach later that night.

“I get home, and that night I get a text from him saying ‘Hey Will, this is Coach Buzz, I just got your contact information from Whit Babcock. We’re having a meeting tomorrow morning at 8:54am. See you there,'” Johnston recalled. “I was like ‘8:54? That must be a typo.’ But his rule is six minutes early equals being on time. If you are five minutes early to a meeting, you’re late.”

All coaches generally have their quirks. Being early is obviously something that is very important to Williams. Not only was it required for team meetings, but it even extended to road trips as well.

“Say we’re going on a road trip and we’re leaving on the bus,” Johnston said. “He says ‘we’re leaving at 1pm.’ Everybody has to be on the bus at 12:54. If he gets on the bus at 12:55 and you aren’t on the bus, you’re getting left behind no matter who you are.”

Despite the youth of the team this past season, nobody had to go through the embarrassment of being left behind for a big ACC road game.

“Luckily that never happened to anybody this year. It was close a couple of times. I’ve heard in the past they’ve