Mike Young looked around Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum and said he’s “so thrilled to be home.”
“My love for ball originated in this building many years ago,” Young said Monday at a news conference introducing him as Virginia Tech’s new basketball coach. Rattling off a list of former players he watched growing up, and pointing toward an NIT banner hanging from the rafters, he added: “I remember it like it was yesterday.”
The news conference came five days after Buzz Williams resigned to take the men’s basketball job at Texas A&M. Young, who grew up just 15 miles from Blacksburg in Radford, Virginia, said the Virginia Tech job is the realization of a dream that was decades in the making for him, since he attended Hokies games with his father as a kid.
“So help me goodness, I have felt this building shake on a number of occasions,” Young said.
Young, 55, accepted the job over the weekend, ending a 30-year stay at Wofford, the last 17 as head coach. He guided the Terriers to a 299-244 record and five NCAA Tournament appearances. This season the Terriers went 30-5 , climbed to No. 19 in the Top 25 and beat Seton Hall 84-68 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They lost in the next round to Kentucky.
Young received a five-year contract that totals $11.5 million in salary, starting at $2 million per year for the first two seasons and then gradually increasing. Bonuses in the deal include a $250,000 payout for winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title.
He inherits a Virginia Tech program that has been to a school-record three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and that advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing 75-73 to overall No. 1 seed Duke. The Hokies won a program record 26 games, but will lose most of their nucleus.
Three seniors — Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw — completed their eligibility and sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker announced on Sunday that he is forgoing his last two seasons of eligibility to make himself available for the NBA draft.
Another three players have entered their names in the NCAA transfer portal, said a person familiar with the decision. The person said the players are Landers Nolley II, Wabissa Bede and Chris Clarke. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the players nor the school have announced the moves.
Nolley was prized freshman who did not play this season after failing to get NCAA clearance. Bede, a sophomore guard, started 26 games this season and Clarke was the team’s leading rebounder last year but didn’t play this year after being suspended for violations of team rules.
The status of Kerry Blackshear Jr. is also unclear, He was second on the team with a 14.9 scoring average and led the Hokies with 7.5 rebounds per game. He has graduated but has an additional year of eligibility.
Young understands players will leave, saying it is just part of college basketball these days.
“You understand it. You accept it for what it is. You don’t like it, but you’ve got to pick up and do the best you can with what you have,” Young said of the growing trend of players transferring. “The guys that are here . I know those guys enjoyed Virginia Tech.”
Hokies athletic director Whit Babcock said he and Young discussed his movement from the mid-major level to what Young called the best league in the world, and Young agreed that he’s taking a step up in competition. He also agreed with Babcock’s assessment that Young feels like he has something to prove because he’ll need to make what worked at Wofford translate to the college game’s highest level..
“We’ve won a lot of games at a great level, and we’ve beaten the North Carolinas and Purdue and all these people,” Young said. “This is a different animal and I do feel a real sense of a challenge and something to prove, and that will be my intention every day, to build toward that.”
Young met briefly with the players for the first time just before the new conference and said he was “impressed with their eye contact and body language.” He added that he is eager to get the formalities over with “and get out on the court with them.”
Babcock said he had no “short list” for possible replacements when he learned Williams was being courted by the Aggies in his native Texas. He described the coaching search as wide-ranging and involving discussions with a great number of people in the industry.
But, he added, “we only sat in front of one guy, and that was coach Young.”