My love of VT sports started in 1986. My best friend and I snuck into Cassell Coliseum while everyone else from F-C High School competed at Rector Field House. 33 years later, those same two seats are mine as a season ticket holder, just behind press row in the rafters. I enjoy Lane Stadium. I LOVE the Cassell and Hokie basketball. So with Joe's permission, I'm going to share some thoughts from the cheap seats behind press row from time to time in forum.
First, attendance. We can revisit the impact of Brent Williams on Virginia Tech basketball in a few years, but there is one really salient point that matters today. The attendance for last night was 8,421. While that's arguably not reflecting butts-in-seats, you can't ignore the fact the crowd was excellent for a Wednesday night, non-conference home game. On November 22, 2014 Virginia Tech lost to Appalachian State 65-63 with a posted attendance of 2,970, and I can tell you – the place was pretty empty. Donation dollars, facilities improvements, and the sale of beer are important to a program. But having a crowd to play for matters, and what we see today is attributable to Buzz and Whit. A big shout out to a flourishing Cassell Guard and the pep band, too – louder, prouder and with serious fathead action.
Second, I'm truly bummed out by the "Ford Trip to the Line". I already own a Ford, my ambulances are Fords... I'm thankful for Ford contributing to the program, but the Smithfield bacon promotion was fun and helped Cassell get rowdy. I just don't see Ford giving away food (leave your lemon jokes here); but how about a $250 scholarship to a member of Cassell Guard when an opponent misses a pair in ACC play? I'll defer comments on the beer sales 'til later in the season and we have a larger sample size.
Third, this team and coach already know who they are even though they struggle with execution at times. With 27 seconds left, the Hokies led 97-64. Nahiem Alleyne pulled in a rebound and kicked it out to Isaiah Wilkins. Wilkins didn't turn out and dribble down the clock, and didn't power slam. Instead, he pulled up and drilled a three-pointer to break the century mark. Cassell went bananas. Coach Young said when he was hired the team was going to shoot threes "until our arms fall off." And they did – all five of Wilkins' buckets were behind the arc. That shot – and the culture it represents – is going to matter.
Which brings me to my fourth point. Coach Young is HOME. I'm sure most of you have heard some of his sound bites; he's personable, accessible, respectful, open, and downright funny at times. The anti-Buzz. He has a "gee-golly-gosh" approach coupled with a masterful understanding of both his team and the game. He quipped after the Clemson game: "I looked over there one time, and bless their hearts, I've got three freshmen playing in their first college game. I thought, 'What am I doing with my life?'" He's open about the team, their challenges, and how he coaches. He literally bounces right out of the locker room to Laaser and Burnop. He's focused, not flippant and clearly enjoys coaching.
More importantly, he truly loves coaching Virginia Tech. I know we'll have some tough moments this year and who knows – maybe the 5-0 start winds up being the high point. What I can say, though – I'm truly looking forward to watching this team from Row BB, behind press row. Come join us if you can.