BLACKSBURG – To get an indication of how seriously Buzz Williams takes his new job, one only needs to know that he keeps most of his clothes in his office closet at the Hahn Hurst Practice Center, and most of his showers get taken in the adjoining bathroom.
Members of his staff have followed suit, too. It’s nothing to walk into the facility late at night and see a few of them sleeping on couches, trying to catch sleep that eludes Williams, as the new men’s basketball coach relentlessly and passionately pursues his task of rebuilding the Virginia Tech program.
For Williams, this is normal.
“I don’t have a lot of hobbies,” he admitted to various media members during a 35-minute question-and-answer session at the media center in Cassell Coliseum. “I’m not very good at anything that’s happening outside the small world that I live in, and I just assume that everyone that lives in my world is the same way. If you sleep on the floor or on the couch, I just kind of think, ‘Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?’ Or if you were any good, you wouldn’t be sleeping. That’s kind of how I process it.”
Then he added, jokingly, “I know that’s really demented. I try not to say those things.”
It has been a whirlwind for Williams, who was hired roughly four months ago by Tech AD Whit Babcock. He has been doing everything – literally, at once.
He put together a staff. He traveled around the country in pursuit of talent. He shepherded prospects and their families around campus for official visits and even those on unofficial visits, selling them on the opportunity that Tech presents. He worked out Tech’s current players, developing them and motivating them toward the pursuit of something great. He shunned vacation because a foundation for success first needed to be put in place.
The foundation currently consists of 11 scholarship players – nine who can play this upcoming season. Two of the 11 must sit out after transferring to Tech. Of the nine, five will be first-year players.
So Williams knows he faces a challenge – and he welcomes it. Challenges also present opportunities.
“I’m not scared of it,” he said of the challenge. “We’ve got a long way to go. But I’m very aware of it, and I want to make sure our guys understand that what we’re doing now is just the price of admission. That doesn’t mean it’s good enough. It means it’s good enough to go to the circus. It doesn’t mean it’s good enough to buy popcorn and peanuts.
“I’m not opposed to the talent we have. It just has to get better. I’d be somewhat out of my mind if I told you, ‘Yeah, it’s good enough.’ We have finished in last place in each of the last three years. If I’m not saying we need to get better, then Whit probably hired the wrong guy.”
Williams likes what he has in Devin Wilson, a point guard who started all 31 games last season as a freshman and made both of the All-ACC Freshman teams. He said the Malik Mueller spent a portion of the summer in his native Germany playing for the Germany National Team. He also likes what he has seen out of Adam Smith, who missed much of last season with an injury.
“He’s got an edge about him – and I relate best to those guys,” Williams said, unsurprisingly.
Williams said he hasn’t watched a single frame of film from any Tech game last season. He wanted a clear mind when evaluating the returning players, and he got a glimpse of their skill sets during summer workouts.
But those workouts allowed him to evaluate some things much more important to him – their attitudes and commitments to the program.
“The camaraderie and chemistry and character of the kids who have been here over the summer has been refreshing to me,” he said. “Considering the volatility of what these guys have been through throughout their career. They’re working extremely hard. They genuinely love one another. They’ve accepted and embraced everything we’ve tried to do.”
Williams has found that those players reflect the same attitude, work ethic and value system within the community of Blacksburg. He had never been to Blacksburg before coming down for the press conference announcing his hiring last March, and he admitted he hasn’t been around town that much because of the time constraints related to his job.
But he’s got the best barometer when he comes to gauging the friendliness of a community – his family. And what his kids are telling him only has reaffirmed his decision to dedicate himself to Virginia Tech.
“The people, regardless of title or where they’re employed, have been phenomenally – phenomenally – good-natured, kind, and mannerly,” Williams said. “It’s been a great example to my four children because my four kids are like, ‘Wow, those people are just such nice people.’ I’m like, ‘That’s good.’ That’s good as a parent. That’s good as a coach.
“I appreciate that. I appreciate good people. It seems like this place is full of good people.”
Williams may meet a few of them this weekend. He plans on taking the weekend off and spending it with his wife, saying it would “be good for his soul.”
Rest assured, though, the Virginia Tech basketball program won’t be far from his thoughts.
“I’m just wired that way and somewhat built that way,” he said. “When you come into a situation, you want to do the best you can in as many ways as possible.
“It’s like what your grandmother used to say, ‘Don’t chase two rabbits. You won’t catch either one. Just chase one.’ I’m not very good at that lesson. It’s not being haphazard or scatterbrained. I just think that every facet, every component, is vital. I don’t think you lose for one reason. There are multiple reasons. I think it’s the same thing with winning.”
Tech opens the season in early November, still three months away. Yet for Williams, there isn’t a day to be wasted.
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