October 20, 2009
New facility gives Tech a chance to bring in talent, but hard work occurring within it will determine future success

For a basketball coach, the view is like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, peering out at a majestic panorama that is quite simply, spectacular.

Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg need not travel to Arizona to experience the rush of infinite grandeur, or stand on the Canyon’s South Rim to be overcome with wonder and awe.

All Greenberg does is step onto the wide balcony outside his office, the one that overlooks Tech’s new 49,000 square-foot basketball practice facility, to experience a similar rush.

The view from that balcony, with its sparkling steel and glass handrails, is of two freshly stained hardwood courts that reflect the bright lights above, showing off a pair of glistening Tech logos.

As you’ve likely read since the facility opened this past summer, this building has it all. The spacious weight and training rooms, theatre-style team film centers, robotic practice cameras and luxuriously appointed locker rooms that would satisfy the tastes of a Saudi prince.

But as spectacular as this building is, with its murals and artifacts and recessed lighting and logos – Tech spent $400,000 on the graphics for the facility alone – it’s the practice courts that energize the coach.

Because these two courts, where the work and practice sessions occur each day, represent the future of Virginia Tech basketball. It’s on these courts where hard work and tireless preparation and dedication will lead to hardwood success in the Hokies’ future.

The building itself? It won’t win any games.

Having great facilities doesn’t guarantee success. The University of Virginia spent $191 million on its basketball facility, the spectacular John Paul Jones Arena, which opened in 2006. Three years later, after posting a 10-18 record, the school fired its coach.

Similarly, the new facility in Blacksburg won’t guarantee any success. But without it, the Hokies didn’t have a chance.

The old practice court and locker room had the sizzle of … well ... a cinder block.

Built in the 1960s, the old Cassell Coliseum ‘back gym’ was a terrific facility when coach Chuck Noe was designing plays for Lewis Mills. And even in recent times, the court had its moments.

After all, what more does a coach need than a whistle, a ball and couple of 10-foot rims? And a dingy, steamy, window-less gym can serve a purpose after a lackluster performance in a game.

But reality check time: in the facilities arms-race of today’s college sports, and the tough nature of recruiting, those cinder block walls were a tough sell, especially to ACC-caliber players.

In his heart, Greenberg knows he won’t be outworked on the recruiting trail. He knows his teams will practice harder than anyone they play. He has, in his mind, the recipe and the formula it will take to build and maintain a high-level basketball program at Tech.

And it’s on those new practice courts where success is born and why the view from that balcony is awe-inspiring.

The Tech coach may look sharp in his custom suits and designer ties during games, but in reality, he’s at home when he’s at practice wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. This is what he likes doing best – preparing, teaching, practicing.

“Close out with your hands UP,” Greenberg barked and then demonstrated to his freshmen during a recent practice. He’s a teacher. Want to get under Greenberg’s skin? Try to be an on-ball defender with lazy habits.

“Guys, listen up,” he said in rare quiet tones last week. “The reason we do the fundamental drills over and over is so that when we practice, we have good habits. Get in a good stance. Do it right every time.”

The Tech coach lives for practice. He plans each session meticulously as if it were a game.

Now, with two courts, practice time will be more efficient. There are eight goals, thus there is room for post players to work on their individual skills while guards and wings practice shooting. Nobody will be standing around while the rest of the team runs through drills. For the practice-loving coach, this facility is a dream.

The facility and its ‘wow’ factor gives Tech a chance to recruit and develop better players and to put better teams on the court. But in the end, it’s all about the 94-foot hardwood courts where the Hokies will be developing teams for the next 30 or 40 years.

Greenberg can picture a bright future for Virginia Tech basketball in his mind.

And he can see where it will happen – right from the balcony outside his office.

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