March 30, 2016
Brooks says timing is right to take Tech women's coaching position
Tech AD Whit Babcock cites Brooks' sustained level of success at JMU as a primary reason for hiring him
Quotes from Brooks News Conference

Tech AD Whit Babcock quotes

Tech women's basketball coach Kenny Brooks quotes

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Whit Babcock first came in contact with Kenny Brooks while playing basketball as a sophomore at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He jokingly said he watched as Brooks scored at least 25 points for nearby Waynesboro High School.

The two of them attended James Madison University at the same time. They played sports at the same time, with Babcock playing baseball and Brooks playing basketball. They both graduated in 1992.

So it came as no surprise that the two became connected once again.

On Monday, Babcock announced Brooks as the new women’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech, and on Wednesday, he introduced Brooks to the media and a throng of fans and athletics department staffers who gathered at the Hahn Hurst Practice Facility. Brooks comes to Tech after spending 14 seasons as the head coach at James Madison and he takes over for Dennis Wolff, who was fired on March 22 following five seasons as the head coach.

Babcock wasted little time in going after the 47-year-old Brooks, who came to Blacksburg this past Friday with his wife, Chrissy, and spent most of the day Friday and Saturday on the school’s campus.

“I told our interview committee, ‘We don’t need to interview this guy. We need to recruit him,’” Babcock said. “It was like an official visit. We needed to recruit him and show him what was best about Virginia Tech. We were sold on Kenny. He was our No. 1 and only candidate.”

“It was going to take something extremely special to pull me away,” Brooks said. “I’ve had many opportunities to go elsewhere and I didn’t look at them because Madison was so special to me.

“The leadership here with Whit and Dr. [Timothy] Sands and the excitement surrounding the programs … it just felt right. Every time I thought about it, it just felt right. It was time. I’m at peace with my decision. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and my family.”

Brooks’ resumé speaks for itself, as he built James Madison into a respected powerhouse. A four-time Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year, he guided the Dukes to 11 straight postseason appearances, including six NCAA Tournament berths.

In 14 seasons, he compiled 13 winning seasons and a record of 337-122 (.756) on his way to being the winningest coach in school history. This past season, JMU went 27-6, including a 17-1 record in CAA play. The Dukes won the regular-season and conference tournament championships and received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to DePaul in the first round.

Primarily for those reasons, Babcock made a hefty financial commitment to lure Brooks to Tech – the new coach will make $500,000 in the first season of a six-year deal, with subsequent $25,000 raises each season.

“The reason we were sold on him was that he was a Virginia native, he’s a winner and has done it with sustained excellence,” Babcock said. “A lot of times, it’s not easy, but it’s easier when you’re climbing the mountain. He climbed the mountain and stayed up there. He’s sustained success. Not many people can do that.

“He’s got Virginia and Mid-Atlantic recruiting ties that are strong. He’s excellent in player development and he’s widely respected in the profession. He reflects and personifies the values that are important to Virginia Tech.”

Brooks inherits a program that has fallen on tough times of late. The Hokies recorded a winning season this past season, going 18-14 overall and advancing to the second round of the WNIT. But Tech’s last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2006.

The program’s struggles in the ACC have been more prominent. The Hokies haven’t won more than five conference games since 2007 and they’ve never recorded a winning league record since joining the ACC for the 2004-05 season.

But Brooks remains undaunted about the challenge ahead. He hopes to model the Tech program after the Syracuse one that is participating in this year’s Final Four. He and Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman are good friends.

“If Syracuse can do it, Virginia Tech can do it,” Brooks said. “Four or five years ago, we beat Syracuse at James Madison. He and I had conversations before I came here, and I asked him, ‘Can I get it done there?’ He didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Absolutely.’ That was exciting to me.

“We’re going to work extremely hard. It’s going to be a fun product to watch. We’re going to have young ladies that are going to represent Virginia Tech to the fullest. I’ve seen a lot of them play and I think the foundation is set. How are we going to get that done? I don’t believe in quick fixes. I don’t believe in sacrificing integrity for quick fixes. We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to start from the ground up. Everything that has happened, we’re going to build upon that and put our finishing touches on it.”

Brooks talked to many people about the Tech job and one of those happened to be Bonnie Henrickson, who called him after Monday’s announcement. Henrickson coached at Tech for seven seasons and guided the Hokies to seven postseason appearances, including five NCAA Tournament appearances, before leaving to go to Kansas. She recently completed her first season as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara.

“She said, ‘Kenny, it’s a wonderful place. You can get it done there. The fan base is excited. They’re itching to get behind that program,’” he said. “Elements like that made me believe that this is a special place. We’re going to get it done.”

Tech loses three seniors off this past season’s squad, but a nice nucleus returns. The Hokies will have four seniors next season, including guard Vanessa Panousis and forward Sidney Cook. Also, underclassmen Regan Magarity and Chanette Hicks return.

Brooks graduated from JMU with a degree in business management after a four-year playing career that included three years of playing for legendary coach Lefty Driesell – someone he considers a mentor. He got into coaching during the 1993-94 season as a part-time assistant at JMU before working four seasons at VMI. He then served as a men’s assistant again at JMU, this time from 1998-2002. In 2002, he made the switch to the women’s program as an assistant and landed the head job on an interim basis in 2002. JMU lifted the interim tag in 2003.

Brooks and wife Chrissy have four children.

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