The Buzz Williams Factor: Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball #Hokies


Greetings Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball fans.  Gonna be a colder weekend here in the DMV – spring is coming in like a lion (will have some snow here in the DMV).  Hope you all are enjoying the NCAA tournament.

Let’s talk about Virginia Tech men’s basketball (at some point in this post, I’m just going to ramble on and on).  And what a year it was for the Hokies!!  This year, Virginia Tech:

  • Won more conference games that it won in the last three years combined going 10-8 in the league;

  • Defeated the University of Virginia and University of Miami at home;

  • Had a first round bye in the ACC tournament;

  • Won 20 games;

  • Ended the season losing in the 2nd round of the NIT; and

  • Had the runner-up in ACC Coach of the Year voting.

Virginia Tech men’s basketball is in the best place it has been in 20 years.  Virginia Tech only loses one senior in Shane Henry who did not play many minutes.  The team had a balanced scoring attack this year (if one shooter was having a bad night, someone else would pick up the slack).  Every major contributor comes back for the 2016-2017 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.   Let me say that again – every major contributor comes back for the 2016-2017 Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.

What’s more here is that these kids are genuinely good people – they are nice guys.

Why did Virginia Tech have success this soon?

Answer:  Buzz Williams.

There are like 50 A+ basketball coaches in America – and Virginia Tech has one of them.  Buzz Williams remade the roster in quick order when he came to Virginia Tech (the very first thing he had to do was upgrade the talent).  He did that by bringing in two transfers, including Seth Allen and Zach LeDay – and the best players on this team are freshmen and sophomores.

Buzz Williams instilled a sense of toughness in his players that I have not seen in years in Blacksburg (maybe since the Charlie Moir era).  Williams’ players are as mentally and physically tough as any I have seen this year in the ACC (the players are also very well conditioned).  Williams has also stressed the importance of strong character and ethical values with his players.  Williams’ players volunteer their time in the community and with several charities.

So – what does this all mean about Buzz Williams longevity in Blacksburg?

It damn well means that Whit Babcock better be serving up a salary increase for Buzz Williams on Monday, March 21, 2016.  You see, Buzz Williams is a hot commodity.  Buzz Williams is a hell of a coach.  And we need Buzz Williams to stay in Blacksburg.  And you need to pay Buzz Williams to stay as Virginia Tech is one the hardest Power 5 jobs in the ACC (and one of the hardest in the country).

Buzz Williams, though, has set up quite a deal for himself (h/t @mgiannotto).

Perhaps more importantly, Williams crafted a buyout structure that will likely lead to increasing speculation if other schools pursue him as a coach in the future. If Williams leaves in the first year of the contract, he owes Virginia Tech $7 million. That figure drops to $3.5 million in year two and $1.5 million in year three. It drops below $1 million — to $900,000 in year four, $500,000 in year five and $250,000 in year six — after that.

So, if Buzz Williams leaves during year 3, the buyout figure is $1.5 million and drops by exponentially year by year in the contract.  In short, Williams has a declining buyout structure in his contract – and you can expect to hear his name tossed around for every major coaching vacancy (and many have deeper pockets than Virginia Tech for coaching salaries – take Oklahoma State, for example). Williams isn’t a dummy – he lined himself up with a very good contract, which would allow him to explore the market.  Virginia Tech is lucky for now as there aren’t for very many high profile coaching vacancies out there – and I think Buzz Williams is farther down the Oklahoma State list (I think the Pokes would have to make HUGE money offer for Buzz to leave).

I honestly think that Buzz Williams is way ahead of schedule – I thought the Hokies would be in the NIT in 2017 and the NCAA tournament in 2018. I actually think the Hokies have a decent chance to get in the NCAA tournament in 2017.  If you’d asked most of us at the beginning of the year if we’d take a 1st round ACC tournament bye, a 10-8 conference record, and an NIT bid, we’d have run to the bank with that money.

More importantly, the fanbase is now back for Virginia Tech men’s basketball.  The Hokies are not a punchline anymore in the ACC.  The program is now at the point where you can expect that the Hokies have a chance to win every time they are on the court.  And a full Cassell Coliseum.

That’s a long way from where the program was at in the last year of Seth Greenberg’s contract – and the entire James Johnson era.

I am sure that Buzz Williams will have a salary increase on March 21, 2016.

Enjoy the rest of the games – and have a great weekend!!

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