Mike Young Represents Whit Babcock’s Biggest Gamble at Virginia Tech Thus Far

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.

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.

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?

10 thoughts on “Mike Young Represents Whit Babcock’s Biggest Gamble at Virginia Tech Thus Far”

  1. Virginia Tech’s fanbase is realistic. I think this was a surprising hire but not necessarily a risky one. I think other coaches mentioned in your article were not going to be in Blacksburg long if given the opportunity. Whit wanted someone who brings stability long term and who can build a strong program that more often than not plays in the NCAA Tournament with the occasional deep run. I think Coach Young can pull that off in Blacksburg. What would have been risky would have been another Flash-In-The-Pan using Virginia Tech as a stepping stone. That gets old despite the short term success it might bring…

    1. I see your point. But I thought Tech would have been able to bring in someone with a better resume. Perhaps I thought wrong.

  2. Why says Willard of Seton Hall and Odom of UMBC turned down Whit? It is more likely that Whit spoke with them and decided not to offer.

  3. What’s your source on Odom and Willard? I’ve seen nothing that indicates they were offered except speculation on message boards. Don’t fall into the fake news trap!

  4. I have to admit my biggest comfort comes with Whit’s proven record of hiring the right person at the right time. I don’t agree that the salary is too high. The job he is asked to perform pays an amount close to this, that is the salary range, not what he was making before. He is in the middle of the pack and is got the job. I agree he would have probably taken less, but is that really the message we want to send to potential recruits? Also the quality assistants that he will need wouldn’t even consider coming here if they too are going to be lowballed IMHO.
    I’d be surprised if Whit actually offered the job to more than one of the other coaches mentioned. It seems that Cronin was headed to UCLA anyway, and in actuality no one really knows how the interview went except the people in that room.
    I can’t help but thinking what the fan bases reaction would have been to “Murray St. Beamer” being hired to replace “VT Beamer”……..and yes I know it is a different sport. I will always enjoy the year that Buzz was here, but he chose to move on and it appears to me that we have a coach that knows how to do the job and wants to be wearing the VT logo very much.

  5. People seemed concern in part because Coach Young is coming from a small school. Charlie Moir coached at Roanoke College before going to Virginia Tech, and he did rather well and as I recalled filled up Cassell for most games. Time will tell with Coach Young, but just because he came from a small college does not mean he will not succeed in Blacksburg.

  6. I don’t know how this is going to turn out although I will be supportive. I’m old enough to remember however when VT pursued in the mid-80s (to follow your line of thought above) Bobby Ross, a highly respected college coach at Maryland to come to Tech to replace Bill Dooley. A lot of fans were hoping for the hire. Ross of course turned us down but recommended a former assistant, some guy name Beamer to our AD at that time. The AD hired Beamer, a native of SW Va and VT alumnus; and a lot of people were disappointed. We didn’t have all the chat boards and social media then but it would have blown up by getting Beamer, not Ross. The rest as they say is history. Not saying it will necessarily turn out the same way but what’s done is done. Let’s support CMY!

  7. I’m glad to see the boards here aren’t filled with negative responses as seen on other sites. Personally, I like this hire. Mike Young is extremely appreciative of his opportunity and is well aware of the history of the program. He has a length of experience coming into this job that has probably never been seen before by Va Tech. I would expect this to translate into an energized Coach Young doing everything in his power to put the best team he can onto the basketball court. My biggest concern is that the cupboard is probably the barest that it’s ever been, so it could be a rough road to start out with. However, I wouldn’t expect the program to drop off into mediocrity.

    Besides, part of the excitement of sports is that there are no certainties. It’s only when a team is able to push to excel and achieve more than was expected of them that brings such a thrill to the fans.

  8. I don’t get it. What’s the point of hiring a guy who isn’t going to ‘school jump’ if he’s not gonna win? Whit has to know this was a huge gamble, especially when you consider the contract. It’s sort of like one of those moments in movies where the main character chooses to trust someone and everyone else tells them it’s a bad idea. One of those moments where someone says “you better be right about this..” Cause if he’s wrong not only will we once again be looking for another coach we’ll also be looking for a new AD. I hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case but if this goes badly I doubt he’ll survive. With that said, I really hope Coach Young proves me wrong and has a lot of success. If he does I will gladly be eating my share of crow. Go Hokies!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.