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With Buzz Williams Moving On, Who’s Next At Virginia Tech?

It’s a key hire for the Hokies

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NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Virginia Tech
Feb 18, 2019; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Mascot of the Virginia Tech Hokies, HokieBird, performs during the game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Cassell Coliseum. 
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

It came as no surprise to anyone that Buzz Williams moved on. He’ll be announced at Texas A&M Thursday.

Williams has made it clear that he would rather get out before he wears out his welcome and that’s a general philosophy (pay attention A&M).

Whatever you think of his exit or for that matter his performance at Tech both as coach and ambassador (we didn’t realize that he was to an extent unpopular with the local media), he has unquestionably improved Virginia Tech.

In fact, he’s put the program at an all-time high. It doesn't really register at Duke, UNC and several other ACC programs that are NCAA regulars, but three straight NCAA appearances is the high water mark for Virginia Tech.

And honestly, if Whit Babcock handles the hire well, there’s no reason why it can’t continue.

The Roanoke paper lists these guys as likely candidates:

  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
  • Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Shaka Smart, Texas
  • Bobby Hurley, Arizona State
  • Mark Turgeon, Maryland
  • Thad Matta, ex-Ohio State coach
  • Ed Cooley, Providence
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Mike Young, Wofford
  • Mike Rhoades, VCU
  • Ryan Odom, UMBC
  • Russell Turner, UC Irvine
  • Eric Musselman, Nevada
  • Mike Jones, Radford
  • Matt McMahon, Murray State
  • Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro
  • Steve Forbes, East Tenn. State
  • Ritchie McKay, Liberty

There are some intriguing names on here but first let’s consider what Virginia Tech is and isn’t.

It’s not yet a basketball school and may never be. And if Babcock wants to sell tickets, he’ll need to have an exciting product. So in our mind that rules out Cronin, even though he used to work for Babcock at Cincinnati. His teams are successful but boring and don’t do much in March.

We’d also cut Mark Turgeon and Ritchie McKay. If Turgeon can’t succeed at Maryland, why would you expect him to do better at Virginia Tech? And while McKay has done well at Liberty, he’s a former Virginia assistant and that might not go over well and we’re not sure he’d fit our preference for an exciting style.

We’d also be reluctant to hire Frank Martin. He’s just never been our cup of tea.

Wojo would probably be good if he felt like moving. Marshall might be ready to after some struggles at Wichita State but he’s always had a problem because...well he has a reputation as a bit of a jerk and someone who’s arrogant. Not good subordinate material.

Willard? Sure, as long as he doesn't have any issues. He’s clearly a solid coach. One report has already linked him to the job so we’ll see.

Smart’s reputation has taken a hit at Texas. Still he might be ready for a reboot and his style is fun. People would come out to see him and we’re sure he’d like to rebuild his reputation.

Would Hurley leave ASU? Possibly. The PAC-12 is a train wreck, thanks partly to Commissioner Larry Scott. He’d be great wherever he goes. Hurley is a winner and like Wojo is an ACC guy.

As you may know, Thad Matta has a serious back problem which has limited his mobility and made him miserable. He’s been out for a while but if he’s gotten healthier we’d hire him in a heartbeat. Sharp guy, good recruiter, excellent strategist. His health is the only issue.

Ed Cooley? Possibly.

From the smaller schools and conferences, Eric Musselman seems like a bad fit. He’s mostly a Western guy and just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

Ryan Odom is a rising star and you’d have to consider him, along with McMahon, Miller and probably Forbes.

Mike Young had a brilliant season at Wofford and he’s a great coach but does Tech want to go younger? It’s a concern.

Of the three remaining guys on the list, they all either are local guys or guys who have coached locally.

Russell Turner is a hometown guy and just had a brilliant season at Irvine. He was a Warriors assistant too. He might jump after the season he just had. When will he be hotter?

Mike Jones is a local guy who has done well at Radford but not like some other guys on the list. We’d see him as a long shot.

  • Mike Rhoades could be a great fit. He’s done well at VCU, he was outstanding at Randolph-Macon and left Rice after a 23-win season which, for Rice, is really good. He also knows the recruiting ground in Virginia and especially from Fredricksburg to DC. You could do a lot worse than having that as a base. But he hasn’t limited himself to Virginia and has recruited nationally. He seems like someone worth looking into more closely.
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