When Whit Babcock settled on hiring Buzz Williams in 2014, Babcock was fulfilling two main objectives — ignite a lackadaisical basketball fanbase and bring in a mercenary head coach who could get the program to a competitive level.
This time around, things are different. Babcock’s two main objectives in this year’s coaching search, as I see them, were finding a coach who can build upon Williams’ recent success and a coach who could maintain the fanbase’s current level of excitement.
Babcock announced on Sunday that he had found his man, hiring Wofford’s Mike Young to serve as Virginia Tech’s new men’s basketball coach. Babcock praised Young for his “proven leadership” and his “propensity as a recruiter, a teacher and an innovative coach.”
Young’s resume is as follows —two years as an assistant at Emory and Henry, one season as an assistant at Radford and 13 seasons as an assistant at Wofford before assuming the head coaching role prior to the start of the 2002-03 season. Over his 17 seasons as Wofford’s head coach, Young’s Terriers went 299-244 (.551 winnning percentage). Young led his group to the NCAA Tournament on five different occasions, reaching the second round four times.
This past season was especially good for Young and his group, as Wofford finished 30-5 and 18-0 in the Southern Conference. Wofford knocked off Seton Hall in the opening round before falling to Kentucky in this year’s tournament. Young was named the 2019 Sporting News Coach of the Year.
“Hard decision to leave Wofford? You’d better believe it,” Young told GoUpstate.com. “But I’m not getting any younger and these jobs are hard to come by — really hard to come by. When I was completely honest with myself, there was no way I could say no to this.”
The Radford, Va. native is going home with this move. Young also called the Virginia Tech job a “pipe dream” for him when he was a kid, saying he used to go to Cassell Coliseum with his father.
For Young, it doesn’t get any better than this. He’s coaching in one of the best basketball conferences in the country at a program that has made the NCAA Tournament three seasons in a row. This is the big time.
But for Virginia Tech, it’s hard to see how Young was the best option available. After being snubbed by Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and UMBC coach Ryan Odom, the public perception is that Virginia Tech is settling for their third choice, at-best. Who knows if guys like Mick Cronin or Steve Wojciechowski were ahead of Young too.
There’s an obvious chance Young will turn out to be a productive coach in Blacksburg, but he’ll be practically be starting from scratch. Here’s a look at what Young is working with for next season…
- G Isaiah Wilkins — Played in 34 games, almost exclusively off the bench, and averaged 4.7 points per game.
- G Jonathan Kabongo — Played 102 minutes over 21 games last season.
- G Brendan Palmer — Played in four games last season.
- F PJ Horne — Rising junior with plenty of playing experience but inconsistent production. Averaged 3.9 points per game over his career.
- G Tyrece Radford — Did not play in a single game last season.
- F Kerry Blackshear Jr. — After his best season yet, Blackshear could declare for the NBA Draft or decide to transfer and play immediately since he’s graduated. I doubt he’ll be playing for Tech next year.
Tech has three freshmen left in the 2019 class — Emanuel Miller, Andre Gordon and Yavuz Gultekin. Time will tell if any of these guys make it to Blacksburg.
Outside of taking a bunch of JUCO transfers and graduate transfers, Young is coming into bare cupboard situation.
Here are the thoughts of two media personalities familiar with the program, one of whom is my former employer.
I like this hire. Mike Young knows how to build. And Buzz left the cupboard empty, so Young is starting from scratch – something he knows well how to do. https://t.co/jCvlWUFRwy
— Kyle Bailey (@KyleBaileyWFNZ) April 8, 2019
Sources tell me that the attraction to Mike Young is that he is a “system coach” who will get more out of less. My own take: recruiting is the questionable part of this hire, and Young and Whit Babcock will need a plan to address that.
— Will Stewart (@WillStewartTSL) April 8, 2019
Nobody truly knows whether or not this hire is going to work. But out of all of Whit Babcock’s hires as Virginia Tech’s Director of Athletics, this is the most questionable. Young’s contract terms were disseminated on Monday when he was introduced, and the details are below.
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) April 8, 2019
Perhaps I’m ignorant of the market value, but a guy from the Southern Conference shouldn’t be making an average of $2.3 million each year in his first deal with an ACC program.
If Young is going to find success in Blacksburg, it won’t be next season, given the roster. But Young will need to show signs of progress early on before the fanbase turns on him. From the looks of it, the fanbase is already disappointed and I can’t blame them.
Virginia Tech won’t have to worry about Young jumping ship to another school. He’s going to bleed maroon and orange. But his ability to endear himself to the fanbase will only take him so far. He’ll need to win games in one of the toughest conferences in America, and there’s little guarantee he can do it. Young is no doubt a good guy, but can he win games?