By: Kevin Lucas
Out of all the different coaching hirings that took place this off-season no school struck gold quite as Virginia Tech did. Losing one of the most winningest coaches in school history, Buzz Williams headed southwest back to his home state to be the head men’s basketball coach at Texas A&M. As this move was announced it left the people of Blacksburg, VA and the Virginia Tech faithful lost and confused. Fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance, it felt like the next hokie head men’s basketball coach would be somewhat of a downgrade but that was not the case at all. Matter of fact Whit Babcock, the athletic director at VT, might have made one of the best hirings in school history and who some would say was actually an upgrade.
Babcock didn’t have to travel too far as he found his main man coaching at Wofford College, a small school located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. After spending 13 seasons as the Terriers assistant coach and 17 more as the head coach, this was the moment Mike Young had prepared for his entire coaching career. Originally from Radford, Virginia, Coach Young began his career as an assistant at Emory and Henry then Radford then Wofford where he ultimately took over and got his first head coaching job. At Wofford Coach Young most certainly left his mark, reaching the NCAA tournament five times and making the second round four times. Also, his Terriers won the Southern Conference 5 separate times during his tenure and this past season they knocked off Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tourney and then even more impressively, took John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats all the way down to the last couple of minutes before ultimately losing in the second round to UK. Yet his most impressive stat at Wofford comes off the court as 100 percent of his players who finished their eligibility all graduated from Wofford.
So when Whit Babcock came calling and the VT job opened up, Coach Young was more than prepared for this opportunity because he was used to dealing with turning less into more and getting the absolute best out of his players. On April 7th, 2019, Mike Young was officially named the head men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech. Only days after his hiring he got right to work due to a depleted roster and no coaching staff. Last season VT squad had 3 key seniors graduate, Nickeil Alexander-Walker enters the NBA draft and Kerry Blackshear Jr. enters the grad-transfer portal eventually winding up at the University of Florida, so Coach Young had to scramble a roster together as soon as possible. He was able to retain seven players from last year’s team, most notably Wabissa Bede and sophomore wing and bucket-getter Landers Nolley ll. Sadly he lost Jonathan Kabongo , a sophomore from Canada, to a season-ending injury so Coach Young hit the recruiting trail hard. His main priority though, was hiring a staff that could help him recruit and win games in the ACC and he ended up with a full-fledged African-American staff in Chester Frazier, Antwon Jackson and Christian Webster, all who’ve had success at major universities throughout the country, with Webster returning to VT after working under Buzz Williams for the past 3 years. So with his staff set, they got off to an amazing hot start on the recruiting trail by first landing Alabama State grad-transfer Brandon Johnson, a solid and experienced post player. Then Coach Young was able to land Hunter Catoor a 6’3 freshman shooter who was originally committed to Wofford but made the transition to VT alongside Coach Young.
Coach Webster showed his value immediately as he got Jalen Cone to become a hokie. Cone, a North Carolina native, was originally in the class of 2020 but met the necessary requirements to graduate early and make the jump to VT, where he will probably be the most important and valuable guard on the roster. Nahiem Alleyne is another big-time guard that they picked up with a nice lefty stroke who will pay off major in the next few seasons. Lastly, they were able to pick up John Ojiako, a 6’10 true freshman anchor from Nigeria who gives the Hokies more depth down low in the physical ACC. Coach Young was also able to bring Keve Aluma along with him from Wofford but he will miss the entire 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Fast forward a few months up to this point as the season has just begun, Coach Young coached his first game at Virginia Tech where his squad gutted out a win in the early ACC play as they went to Clemson and beat the Tigers by seven points. Fast forward a few weeks to the Maui Invitational Tournament where Coach Young led his Hokies to his first major upset at Virginia Tech with a win over (at the time) 3rd ranked Michigan State. Mike Young has always been an excellent coach and now that he has a job in college basketball’s best conference he will only make his Hall-Of-Fame resume much better and he will have Virginia Tech as a perennial powerhouse for years to come.