Buzzketball Loses a Coach, Gains a Recruit, Left With More Questions

As Isaac Chew bolts for Aggieland, is it simply a coaching move or the sign of something larger?

[Mark Umansky]

Two big events happened to Virginia Tech basketball over the course of a week. One grabbed headlines and flew as an example of an advancing program. The other was a blip of breaking news covered by a few tweets and a series of 300-word newspaper blurbs.

In the first week of May, Buzz Williams' staff received a commitment from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a highly regarded 4-star guard in the 2017 class. If he stays, he is Buzzketball's biggest get to date. Though Chris Clarke and Ahmed Hill were also well touted prepsters, Alexander-Walker is the face of a new era of basketball in Blacksburg.

Coaches early in their tenure have convinced many-a four- and five-star product to follow them. Promise of culture change and early playing time are easy to pitch, and readily digestible by 17- and 18-year-olds who want to make a difference right away. What, you think new Mississippi State coach Ben Howland's been selling academics and the bumping Starkville nightlife? New is sexy, you can always talk yourself into it.

But after their first two seasons, these snake oil salesmen need some sort of result. No one's going to play for a terrible team at a football school if things look like they can't change. It's here, a few years in, where a program can tell if a head coach is going to stick. It's the difference between Brian Gregory and Jim Larranaga. Gregory brought in a wave of talent to Atlanta right away, yet as it became clear his Yellow Jackets plateaued quickly, he was never able to bring in those kind of difference makers again.

In contrast, Larranaga took over a tumultuous situation from predecessor Frank Haith. His Hurricanes went on a run in year two, won both the regular season title and the ACC tournament, and has attracted a higher caliber player ever since.

So while Hokie Nation was blown away by Williams and company pulling in the top player in the commonwealth last recruiting cycle (Clarke), they face a bigger challenge in the upcoming (2017) class. To show enough to keep getting good prospects in the door after two years of improvement. Has the program made incredible strides since the spring of 2014? Absolutely. But was it enough to pull in the kind of talent required to make the next leap? That remains unclear.

Alexander-Walker may not be the best person in his class by the time signing day comes along, but his pledge signifies Buzz's turnaround in Blacksburg resonates with recruits.

"It's not what you'd call a prestigious school — It's not a Duke, it's not a Kentucky," Alexander-Walker told the Roanoke Times. "But it's something you can build on, leave your mark. It's going to give me a great chance to come in as a freshman and do great things."

Though not a surprise to people closely following Hokie hoops, it's a pleasant relief to see it confirmed by someone outside Hokie Nation's bubble.

We've watched the Buzzketball era so closely, it's second nature to think everyone sees the program just like us. But it's understandable if someone doesn't want to run the risk of committing to a school whose biggest accomplishment during the last half decade was making it to the second round of the NIT. Alexander-Walker did, and by doing so shows confidence in the viability of Tech's future.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. A few days after the team's big signing, they announced the departure of lead assistant Isaac Chew to the same position at Texas A&M. The coach's exit drew an interesting reaction from fans, who fell into one of two camps.

The first understood Chew's decision, and saw it as an upgrade in both salary (assumed) and in profile (A&M is a better job than Tech). I'd count myself in this camp. To me it made all the sense in the world for him to bolt, especially to a school with SEC cash coming off a regular season title. And as a person who's primarily lived in the middle of the country his whole life —he's from Chicago, and coached at Murray State and Missouri before joining Williams at Marquette — it's a return to an area he's familiar with.

The second camp, however, was puzzled by the choice. In general, they question the decision to leave the ACC for a "lateral move" in an inferior league, money be damned. There's problem in this logic for many reasons, with the biggest being an overvaluation of the way Virginia Tech stacks up versus other teams across the country.

Chew's travel to College Station is absolutely a step up, and anyone who can't see it as such is far too engrained within Buzzketball. And it's not just because of a raise. In fact, money may be less of a factor than many assume.

Yes, A&M has deep pockets. Remember when they gave tweet master Aaron Moorehead a nearly $100,000 bump? It may not be great on morale, or quarterbacks, but it certainly pays to be a SEC punching bag and I'd assume they gave Chew a nice check.

But Buzz currently has $725,000 allotted in his assistant pool, which isn't chump change. And yes, Texas has no state income tax and cost of living is lower, but Tech still has a sizeable amount to dole out to the guys on their bench.

Instead, this move goes beyond money. There are serious things going against the Hokies in a fight for their former assistant. And while Tech has improved greatly as a program, losing Chew illustrates just how much Williams and his staff have to deal with in the bigger picture:

Location: College Station is 90 minutes from Houston, two hours from Dallas and three from San Antonio. Simply put, it's in an amazing spot to reel in talent. Blacksburg, on the other hand, is at least three hours from any basketball hub (Charlotte, Washington D.C., Richmond) and not the easiest place to get to. It may seem inconsequential, but that matters. Williams and his staff will never, I repeat never, luck into a prep star in their backyard, because they don't really have one. Assistants log more miles on the road, and have to consistently effort to get kids on campus. A player in D.C. or Baltimore could visit Maryland any Saturday he wanted, and a guy in North Carolina could borrow hair gel from Mark Gottfried at the drop of an iMessage. To get to Tech? They and their families have to make plans, buy a hotel room and burn a whole weekend.

It's not like every school is located in an urban hot bed, Syracuse might as well be in Siberia and has anyone who doesn't live there actually been to Kansas? But the difference between their situations and the Hokies' plays to my other point.

Results: Virginia Tech basketball hasn't won anything yet. Texas A&M got to the Sweet 16 this season and saw two assistants get head coaching gigs. This isn't to put down the team's progress —it's amazing what's taken place in just two years— but compared to places where NCAA Tournament appearances are commonplace? It's far inferior.

If you're a coach or player, you know there are a lot of places where winning comes easier than Tech. You need to be more creative and passionate to get and keep people there. Buzz knows it, which is what makes him so damn good. It's how he brought Chew to Blacksburg in the first place, and how guys like Alexander-Walker end up in orange and maroon sweats.

But as simple as the rebuild seems, it's been anything but. And each win comes as a testament to the effort put in by every person under Cassell Coliseum's roof.

Chew leaving isn't as big a deal as it seems on the surface. Sure, he was a good recruiter who followed Williams from Marquette, but it's not like they'd been coaching together for a decade. Assistants bounce around, and Buzz expected this (on a Tech Talk Live in February, he guessed Chew would be a head coach in 2016-17).

But the move is a microcosm of exactly what kind of odds are against the ascension of Virginia Tech basketball. It's still not a great job, with very visible limitations today. And while we can all celebrate each win, each big time recruit, there's always a reminder that Buzzketball still has a long way to go.

Comments

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seriously, thank you for this reality check. a lot of us drink the Hokie Kool-Aid and articles like this are great at keeping us level-headed and rational.

For real though, I was riding a bit high on the success of this season and thinking we were the cream of the crop. I still need someone to knock me off my high horse though for football....fuente-foster looks way too good to be true on paper...

I disagree. aTm may have know net but what is their history in ball and he is going to a conference that got fewer teams into the overall tournament than the acc got into the sweet 16. IMO if it's not Kentucky or Florida and maybe Arkansas I wouldn't say any team in the sec is much better than we are. I'm sure Chew has his reasons and maybe being that close to Dallas and Houston may be helpful but we're less than 3 hours to CLT and 4 to DC and what 5 to the tidewater area that has put out some incredible talent. So I will continue to look at the world through o&m goggles.

Correy

Agreed. The SEC is a much inferior basketball conference overall outside of Kentucky. If he wants a raise or just likes that part of the country I understand but to say it is a much better job is overstated. When has A&M really won anything meaningful

28-9 last year, tied for first in the SEC with...Kentucky.

This is true. However, though they might have been tied with Kentucky, they were no Kentucky.

Also, I think one can make the argument that the ACC is a better basketball conference.

The ACC is the better basketball conference, no question. But Buzz (and Chew) have fought tooth and nail over the last two years to just reach the middle of the pack in the ACC. Chew walks into Texas A&M at the top of a Power 5 conference. There's something to be said for that.

What it seems to say is that is TAM is committed to taking their program to the next level.
This looks a lot like VT taking Fuentes from Memphis to me. Not judging, just an observation.

But, while I'm at it...How awesome would it be if Buzz decides to do the the "Frank thing"/"Coach K thing" and just settle down and create a freaking monster BBall program? He will make millions at VT, and, OK, maybe a few million more if he moves on....but damn...the chance to become statue type guy, adored by all, with grandchildren (and then some) proudly telling tales...that has a value, I would think...

Buzz...I'm talking to you. Be the ball.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A gif is worth a million.

bump

“I remember Lee Corso's car didn't get out of the parking lot.” ~CFB

I................LIKE IT!!!!

Long live Rasche Hall

Sure, but look at where the program was when they arrived.

VT made great strides under Greenberg, but the program slid into irrelevance when Weaver inexplicably fired him. Buzz and Chew rebuilt the program from scratch in two years to get to the middle of the ACC.

So while you can make the case that A&M is the better job, I think Buzz and Chew had a decent shot at clawing to the top quarter of the ACC in a relatively short time frame, and maybe Buzz still does. It's all about recruiting and coaching.

It's difficult to compare opportunities, but VT with the right (and committed) coach isn't a bad one. They play some of the best teams in the NCAA. Every year.

when Weaver inexplicably fired him.

Really??

The timing of the firing was definitely inexplicable

VT finished tied for last in the ACC in Seth's last season.

Poor handling of the change, but Seth had topped out and VT was already sliding.

That's one year. And no one in the SEC did anything in the tourney

And I'm pretty sure the ACC held half the spots in the elite 8 and final four (although, based on the brackets the ACC were guaranteed to make half the final 4 once the elite 8 was settled). ACC isn't just a better BBall conference, year-over-year they perform better in the tourney (except UVA who always loses to a lower seed)

UVA.... the Washington Capitals of college basketball....

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

You must really hate the Capitals. /s

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Let's go Penguins!

Gonna miss Chew but I totally get why he would leave right now if that's the best thing for him. Dude was a great recruiter on the AAU circuit. Side question: today is the last day for recruiting for this year. Anyone heard anything on any incoming signees?

I found TKP after two rails from TOTS then walking back to my apartment and re-watching the 2012 Sugar Bowl. I woke up the next day with this username.

Yeah, so...
Alexander-Walker has already signed, right?
...right?

A picture is worth a thousand words. A gif is worth a million.

You gotta start somewhere. As long as we have Buzz or someone with the pedigree of Buzz leading the ship, everything else will eventually fall into place. Its a process that won't complete overnight, and we might have some missteps along the way, but as long as those don't start to pile up, we'll continue trending upwards, and eventually we'll have the resources we'll need to be the kind of program we want to be.

We started as quite literally the laughing stock of both the ACC and the Commonwealth. We are on the verge of being legitimately relevant. I try not to focus too much on where we have been and where we currently are, because where we are going is what truly matters.

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

"Tweet master Aaron Moorehead"

....Nice.

We did end up losing out on Evan Maxwell. Quality big men being a limited quantity this transfer window got him an offer from Kansas so off to the Jayhawks he went.

I heard from other sources that we slow played Maxwell and that we never gave an official offer. He may not have been a Buzz type guy.

Nice article but what this really points out was how little the previous AD did to move this program. It is not far fetched to say that Weaver set the program back 10 years with his firing and hiring of a couple coaches. And I don't buy that B-burg is way out of the way. Look at the recruits that Greenberg had before he was chopped. What you need is a commetment from the AD, the coach and the entire university. It will take a little time and we are ahead of schedule in my book.

You can not change geography. Recruits and coaches have to travel to get to urban areas.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Recruits don't give a shit about travel if it means they get to play for a winner

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

Their parents driving them on a visit might especially without the history of programs like KU, SU etc. it also means it takes assistants more time to go see potential kids in Richmond, 757, DC, NOVA, Charlotte.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I mean, this argument holds up water if kids are funnelling into the programs the closest in vicinity to where they live and go to high school. I would say this is true for less than 10% for all Division 1 athletes.

Top recruits go to places where they will win and be best prepared for play at the NBA level. The worst kids will go to wherever they were offered a scholarship. For everyone in between, they'll go to where they are in the best situation to contribute. I'm sure for some of them, vicinity is a part of it, but its not a large portion.

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

This ^^ If you showed me some sort of chart that proved a large percentage of High School kids decided to play close to home (within a couple of hours), I'd buy the geography thing. I think it is part of the puzzle that needs to be put together by any coach in Blacksburg, but it isn't insurmountable.

Is it basketball season yet?

I mean I'm sure this was the case 20 years ago before the explosion of the internet when it became much easier to keep in touch with home from a school a couple states away and every game wasn't available to watch either over the air or online, but its just not true anymore. If it was, our football program wouldn't have the talent deficiency and trouble in recruiting the 757 that it currently does.

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

The upper echelon of recruits will obviously go wherever they want. They not only travel for official visits, but all year around with their AAU teams. But what about everyone else? What about the kids that Tech will realistically sign, especially over the next few years? They're good, maybe even great, but aren't McDonald's All-Americans.

Guys go where they know, and the more visits they take the better they know a program. It's absurd to say someone would only go to a school close to home, but aren't they more likely to go somewhere they've visited 5 times instead of 1?

In Virginia's current top-20 players, 2 are uncommitted, 6 have gone long distance and 12 have stayed within 5 hours of home.

Tech's problem is the simple act of dragging someone out to visit on their own dime. If you were a high school junior would you rather: A. Use a whole weekend to visit Blacksburg B. Use 5 hours of your Saturday to visit somewhere close, like a Baltimore kid visiting UMD, and then have the rest of your weekend to chill C. Go somewhere cooler that's about the same distance as Tech (ie a kid in Fairfax going to Villanova/Philly or NCST/Raleigh instead).

It's definitely not a death sentence, because Buzz has obviously gotten kids there. But it's something that makes the job more difficult.

I guess I am an odd person then. In high school during spring break, I drove from New England to check out Virginia Tech to see if it was the kind of school where I might want to go to college.

C. Go somewhere cooler that's about the same distance as Tech (ie a kid in Fairfax going to Villanova/Philly or NCST/Raleigh instead).

Define cooler

Yes, you can't change geography, but B Gregory was in the heart of Atlanta and he couldn't get the recruits either. Hypothecially, if Coach K was at VT, we would not have any problem recruiting anybody. The bigger point is, you have to win. If you win they will come, sort of speak.

We still bring back everyone (minus hudson) and buzz and signed the best player in Canada? I'm good.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

AND ANOTHER LEDAY!!! (even though he has to sit a year, but still!!!)

Williams and his staff will never, I repeat never, luck into a prep star in their backyard, because they don't really have one.

Agree with you and I'm in the same camp with you regarding Chew's decision. But just to play devil's advocate, Dell Curry was from Grottoes, Va. and Ralph Sampson (absolutely should've had him, he had us in the top 3) was from Harrisonburg...pretty much Tech's backyard...so there's major talent in the backyard. But I know what you were meaning and I agree.

Long live Rasche Hall

Roanoke has put out some pros. Talent level has dropped a bit, but once a decade players are in the area. Lynch, Redick, Daniels.

Always choose joy.

I would also add Staples to that list from Roanoke, though he went to Oak Hill after the '92 PH State Championship.

#TeamPeanutButter - because your cakes, pies, cookies, and ice creams are better with it!

Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, Moses Malone, Alonzo Morning, JR Reid

Holy shit! You trying to kill me?!!?

BUZZKETBALL LOSES A COACH?

I thought we lost Buzz!

Williams and his staff will never, I repeat never, luck into a prep star in their backyard, because they don't really have one.

Oak Hill?

Sean

Not to mention Hargrave Military Acadamy in Chatham, VA (2 hours from Blacksburg). They have a long list of NBA alumni, including Montrezl Harrell, PJ Hairston, Terry Rozier, David West, Josh Howard, etc...

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

the guys at Hargrave are rarely from Virginia, and often play either their senior year (Harrell, Hairston, West) or a post-grad year (Rozier, Howard, etc...). They have other plans the minute they walk through the door. For instance Josh Howard was from Winston-Salem. Spoiler alert: he went to Wake Forest.

Ditto for Oak Hill's top recruits. Harry Giles - this year's #1 recruit nationally - is also from Winston-Salem. Spoiler alert: he went to Duke (and Wake Forest was in his final 4).

The point stands: this staff will just about never fall into a 4 or 5-star kid from Roanoke. J.J. Redick is the exception, not the rule.

On the other hand, a school like Maryland can cherry-pick WCAC talent from 30 minutes away. Melo Trimble (O'Connell), the Grant brothers (Dematha), Kris Jenkins (Gonzaga), Marcus Derrickson, Franklin Howard and V.J. King (PVI)...the list goes on and on.

Players do not go to Oak Hill with predetermined commitments to their hometown schools. I'm not buying that.

RVA Hokie. Class of 2011.

Yeah, I've always thought prep schools were a good way for kids to get more national exposure. This usually leads to more big time offers.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

This usually leads to more big time offers.

Exactly. When these 4 or 5-star kids get more big-time offers, they take them. That means we're not getting Oak Hill's best players. In turn, that means Oak Hill being some kind of geographic pipeline for highly-touted recruits is somewhat of a pipe dream (for now).

I never said that...But, to counter, we're still not going to "luck into" any of Oak Hill's best players simply because they're playing a few hours away. We're not yet on the radar for the top guys there. Maybe soon, but not yet.

This started out as a geographical discussion, so I'll try to take it back there. The advantage of being around the WCAC hotbed for schools like Georgetown and Maryland is undeniable. Back when Georgetown was good in the late 2000's, their core back court of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman played at St. John's and Dematha respectively. Jason Clark played at O'Connell. Mark Turgeon is a regular at WCAC games during Maryland's own season. Then, just like that, Melo Trimble commits and Maryland is suddenly a top-10 team again. That's a massive advantage.

EDIT: When I said "Ditto for Oak Hill's top recruits", I meant they're rarely from Virginia.

While this may be true, players also dont go to Oak Hill thinking "Man if only this will get me to Virginia Tech next year" for the most part. Oak Hill is regularly in the top five schools in the country, have at least a half dozen games nationally televised each year at a minimum. Buzz and company had to work their tails off to get Khadim Sy to commit to them this year and Khadim only managed to get about a quarters worth of playing time as a senior at Oak Hill this year. He still managed to average 9.8 PPG in 14 MPG of play. He is an exception though.

This years Oak Hill seniors

Harry Giles - Duke (Ranked 1st)
Joe Hampton - Penn State (Ranked 256th)
Mario Kegler - Mississippi State (Ranked 52nd)
Braxton Key - Alabama (Ranked 57th)
Rodney Miller - Miami (Ranked 153rd)
Khadim Sy - Virginia Tech (Ranked 250th)

Only shocker to me in there was Braxton Key going to Alabama when he had offers from Kansas and Texas.

That definitely happens, but if Buzz can turn us into a consistent top 25/tourney team, more local prep school players will definitely have us on their list.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

Wow. Talk about a glass-half-empty kind of article.

In the future we'll make sure just to blow sunshine and rainbows up your ass.

Did HOAT grow a horn?

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

removed due to #drunkposting

A picture is worth a thousand words. A gif is worth a million.

Agree, there's a way to deliver bad news and this ain't it.

removed

A picture is worth a thousand words. A gif is worth a million.

What bad news are you referring to?

In all the fawning over A&M and highlighting the advantages of working at A&M instead of VT, I think the author left out a big personal draw for Coach Chew that ultimately was what tilted the scales in A&M's favor.

Coach Kennedy gave Chew his first D1 coaching job at Murray State in 2007. Coach Chew feels a lot of loyalty to him and not just any "better job" would have drawn him away from Blacksburg & Coach Williams.

Good point, well said.

VTCC '86 Delta Company, Hokie in Peru, Former Naval Aviator, Former FBISA, Forever married to my VT87 girl. Go VT!

I was wondering when someone would mention this. That is a big part of this story.

Excellent article Brian!...one of the best I have read on here.

I don't know if you've ever heard of Kansas City (the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals play their home games there), but it's only about a 35-40 minute drive to The Univ of Kansas from Kansas City. Less if you're in the KC suburbs west of the city...

Truly a great article, good analysis and even tempered. Also, good to get the recruit, and great to NOT hear any talks of Buzz leaving. By the silence on this (Buzz possibly leaving), is it a done deal that he's sure to come back?

In the future we'll make sure just to blow sunshine and rainbows up your ass.

When Buzz decided to coach at VT, he said he believed in the potential of the program. He also said it wouldn't be easy to achieve his goals. In two years VT has gone from last place in the ACC to the middle of the pack. So I'm still pretty optimistic about the future of the program. Buzz is only in year two of a complete makeover. Yes, it's hard to change the perception of an athletic program, for the reasons mentioned in the article. Success is the only factor that will change the perception.

Sure there aren't guarantees, but because VT hasn't made the tournament in two years, this is a failed experiment? I'd say that as long as VT is recruiting at this level and improving, the game is still on. I haven't seen any indication that Buzz Williams' skills or initiative are lacking. We are right to expect progress, and we've seen progress. VT beat UVa in basketball, made it to the middle of the ACC, and made it to the NIT tournament. That's progress. Sure, it's not the sweet sixteen, but look at where he started. While Buzz owes us progress, we owe him more than two years to get there. I even expect some setbacks along the way. it's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

As far as Chew's motivations, once you stop believing what he actually said on the matter, any speculation is as valid as any other. One reason it's difficult to get to the top in college sports is that other teams are always going to try to buy your successful coaches. Oklahoma hired our baseball coach. North Carolina tried to hire Beamer. Texas A&M tried to hire Bud Foster. Texas A&M hired Chew. VT hired Fuente.

So no, I don't need sunshine and rainbows blown up my ass. But likewise, when I read a "sky is falling" every time there is a bit of bad news or speculation about the program, there's a chance I might weigh in with an alternate perspective. Don't get me wrong, the article brings up some good points. I just found it a bit on the "glass half empty" end of the spectrum.

I'm still betting on Buzz. Even against the long odds.

when I read a "sky is falling" every time there is a bit of bad news or speculation about the program

beyond hyperbolic

besides this article and the Buzzwatch article there has not been anything close to a constant negativity, or sky is falling bent, to Basketball articles. And in both cases it isn't even as you say. lets examine...

I haven't seen any indication that Buzz Williams' skills or initiative are lacking. We are right to expect progress, and we've seen progress. VT beat UVa in basketball, made it to the middle of the ACC, and made it to the NIT tournament. That's progress. Sure, it's not the sweet sixteen, but look at where he started. While Buzz owes us progress, we owe him more than two years to get there. I even expect some setbacks along the way. it's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

Brian said nothing of the sort. This is what he actually said:

Virginia Tech basketball hasn't won anything yet. Texas A&M got to the Sweet 16 this season and saw two assistants get head coaching gigs. This isn't to put down the team's progress —it's amazing what's taken place in just two years— but compared to places where NCAA Tournament appearances are commonplace? It's far inferior.

that's factual. your interpretation is that he is being negative. my interpretation is that you didn't actually read what he wrote.

and

Chew leaving isn't as big a deal as it seems on the surface.

yep, total debbie downer

besides this article and the Buzzwatch article there has not been anything close to a constant negativity, or sky is falling bent, to Basketball articles.

yes, those are the articles I'm referring to.

This is more what I'm talking about:

"Buzzketball Loses a Coach, Gains a Recruit, Left With More Questions
As Isaac Chew bolts for Aggieland, is it simply a coaching move or the sign of something larger?"

If Chew leaving isn't as big a deal as it seems on the surface, then how does him leaving raise a more questions about the program? I get the idea of a provocative tag line, but that negativity is sprinkled throughout the article as well, just a little more heavily than I would have liked.

When he's says VT's program is "far inferior", I don't think he's really accurately assessing the current program, or the progress the VT program has made. I think he's taking the current state of the program at face value. If the current trajectory continues as I'd expect, I anticipate VT will make the tournament in the next few years.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate what Marcolini was trying to do here, and I agree with much of what he said. I just think that for me, it came off a bit more negative than it needed to. For me, Buzz is on track, and Chew leaving isn't a show-stopper. It doesn't offset the continued bonny recruiting news. It seems to me that some are just holding their breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Nobody here can climb into Chew's head and understand what he values, so IMHO trying to compare Texas A&M basketball to VT basketball doesnt' seem to me to be that valuable an exercise. Yes, Texas A&M is the better program. For now. Is it the better opportunity? One's a blue chip stock and one is a growth stock. The relative value is subjective.

And my apologies to Brian if offense was taken. I really didn't mean it as a slam, though it clearly came off that way for some. I can see that he tried to be even-handed, and like I said he makes some good points. It's just that for me, the article comes off as more on the pessimistic side. I could go line-by-line and pick out examples if I had to, but I fail to see the utility in that.

As for the snark and the downvoting, this is a discussion board, right? Or do we all have to agree?

Great post. You said it much better than I could have.

Love the disagreement, man. It's what this thing is supposed to be about. We disagree, and that's cool, but let me just say this:

Your son wants to grow up to play in the NBA. He's currently in middle school, and maybe just had a random bad game or lost his starting spot (equivalent of losing Chew). Something like that is not the end of the world, in terms of his long-term goal it's relatively easy to overcome. But it's foolish to not recognize that you and your wife are both under 5'10" (again: hypotheical, I don't creepily know how tall you are) and that limits his current ceiling as a young hoopster.

Now are those genes the end of the dream? Absolutely not! But isn't it both pragmatic and necessary to recognize the limitations on the road ahead, especially in order to address them? I wrote this less about TAMU, and more about VT. We all love the progress the program has made, but in the bigger picture view it still can't compete with many other schools out there today.

Can it change? Absolutely. This isn't a "climb under your desk and wait for the bomb to drop" piece, but in my opinion Chew's departure does highlight legitimate problems that the fan base can forget while thinking about the progress already made.

Oh, I mostly agree with this. I just think that the critical elements of an athletic program are structural, not genetic. The history isn't what's important, it's the critical elements that are in place. The history might help sell the story better, but that's about it.

If you can attract a top coach (who in turn can attract and teach recruits), and you've got financial, facilities, and community support, you can transform a program. Those are the structural things that need to come together, and I think that's happening at VT. VT has the benefit of being in the ACC, which is huge, as it ensures that VT is playing with the best teams in the country. VT athletics also has what I consider to be elite and committed leadership in both Buzz and Whit. The next two years should be pretty interesting, so let's enjoy the ride.

Thanks for writing the article, and for weighing in on my comment.

Is it an awkward tagline? perhaps. Is it a negative one? No.

Again that is your interpretation. From reading the article it is clear to me that he is talking about program trajectory, specifically the path programs seem to take after year two where it either sticks or it doesn't. An introspective on whether Chew leaving is foreboding or simply part of the business. These are the questions. Neither negative.

you seem to be at conflict with yourself regarding TAMU:

When he's says VT's program is "far inferior", I don't think he's really accurately assessing the current program, or the progress the VT program has made. I think he's taking the current state of the program at face value. If the current trajectory continues as I'd expect, I anticipate VT will make the tournament in the next few years

Yes, Texas A&M is the better program. For now.

Is it the better opportunity? One's a blue chip stock and one is a growth stock. The relative value is subjective.

It either is or is not better. It cannot be better, but all relative, and inaccurately assessed. By your words it is better. You are talking about VT's trajectory of a program, which is the entire point of the article. Let's try unwind the misinterpretation.

Factually, they made the Sweet 16 and we the NIT. They are the better team.
Subjectively, you are saying that VT's trajectory is up but you didn't say if TAMU's is as well. So even if VT's is going up so could TAMU's, and since at face value they are better (Sweet16) it is subjectively the better team.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you. VT is on the rise. But taking issue with a statement of being "far inferior" as overly negative is missing the entire point of the article. Which again is about the 2 year fork in the road and the questions that arise programs at that fork. Again, factually, TAMU went to Sweet16 and VT the NIT, so it is the inferior team. I believe it won't always be but it is now.

Nobody here can climb into Chew's head and understand what he values, so IMHO trying to compare Texas A&M basketball to VT basketball doesnt' seem to me to be that valuable an exercise.

This is the same "why bother?" level of comment as "coaches know best". Yes, nobody (including you) can climb into Chew's head. But this is an OpEd piece on the state of the program, where he is specifically taking a stance on whether Chew leaving is or is not a big deal. And again, in his opinion, as he plainly stated:

Chew leaving isn't as big a deal as it seems on the surface.

If you are going to limit the content that is written only to your liking then what's the point dude? Personally I love these type of articles because I appreciate the difference in outlook, which is kind of the point around here. Provide different substantive points of view. I don't need him to write only how I want him to, and you shouldn't either.

Finally, your words:

For me, Buzz is on track, and Chew leaving isn't a show-stopper. It doesn't offset the continued bonny recruiting news. It seems to me that some are just holding their breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

this is exactly what the article is saying. Just written with facts and context to support his point of view.

We all agree (you, me and Brian) that Chew leaving is not the end of the world, and it shouldn't detract from the positive recruiting news we are getting. And as Brian highlighted some fans are indeed "holding the breath waiting for the shoe to drop" and that he believes it is wrong to do so. Yet, VT has a LONG way to go to being a TAMU level program and being at the 2 year fork begs questions as to which fork VT is ultimately going down.

I will point out that "better program right now" isn't the same as "better opportunity". Better opportunity is completely subjective, and is indeed relative to the coach. So no problem at all with any of the logic there.

If we're all in agreement, then that's awesome. I thought the tone of the article was a bit more negative than necessary and I pointed it out. Feel free to disagree, but this certainly isn't World War III territory.

What a crap Debbie downer post. Really, you wasted board space posting a bunch of negativity about a school you probably say you support. One of the worst and most negative threads I have ever seen in all my time on TKP.

Life's short, If you dont do it, somebody else will.

Really, you wasted board space posting a bunch of negativity about a school you probably say you support.

Lol.

Agreed. No need to have any type of realism or objective evaluation.

Bring on the 2017 Natty baby! The ACC wont know what hit em!

Am I doing it right?

/s

Using /s is for cowards.

First of all, I didn't "waste board space" because I'm asked to write on the front page of this website. I didn't post it on a message board. I wrote an article. Thanks.

Also, if you can't handle the simple realities of a challenge, I don't know what to tell you. Things can be challenging and also improving. If you want to close your eyes and pretend Buzz can waltz in to Blacksburg, wave a magic wand and magically fix things, go for it.

I choose to come from the thought process of recognizing the obstacles in the path of success, and being even more pleased when they're worked around/eradicated. Also, again to the "crap Debbie downer post," I also said that they just signed the most important recruit to date. That's a very positive thing.

I would up vote repeatedly if I could.
Thank you for a realistic perspective of the progress AND challenges. I found the article interesting and thought provoking.

I have been a lurker for a long time, but I felt the need today to make my first comment on this post and say that I truely appreciate all the time and effort that is put into everything The Key Play offers. The article was wonderful and provided a great perspective.
Thank you!

We need more people like you around here. High five!

I found TKP after two rails from TOTS then walking back to my apartment and re-watching the 2012 Sugar Bowl. I woke up the next day with this username.

while many of us can be accused of wasting board space (heck some of us make it our life's goal), I doubt that can be said about any of the front page content. All high quality as far as I'm concerned.

Or maybe you just meant to reply to a specific comment and missed the "reply >>" button

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

is this sarcasm? downvote for now

anytime you want to do the research and provide an article, feel free. Until then, even if you don't agree, respect the time and effort it takes to create.

And pro tip: when complaining about content you should write a post that has more substance to it than whining.

Are you serious? You cray!

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Brian, this is a fantastic article and is a very fair evaluation of a team/program that has a lot of promise but still faces significant challenges.

I don't really follow hardcore VT basketball (went to VCU) but because of what's written on TKP I've found myself following it more and more. Thanks for the article.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Wait so you're not a Hokie....

Oh God, here we go.

via GIPHY

I'm just assuming he forgot the /s.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I got this, Fireman.

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

That gif is for one use and one use only.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Really excellent realist and pragmatic piece. Great analysis and insight. Thanks Brian!

And this is another example of when keeping it real went wrong.

Arya: Lots of people don't like keeping it real

The Hound: click here because potential nsfw

no actual offense intended to anyone, I've just been wanting to use this gif for a long time

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

To those people saying the article was a "Debbie downer" are putting me down. Y'all need to learn how to recognize that we have challenges to overcome, as do any program, and this article just highlights ours in a clean, concise way. Also, TKP is putting out some awesome shit for y'all to read that is extremely detailed FOR FREE. Remember that before you start rambling about something without a good reason. Gotta join the TKP club soon!

Nailed it

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

For the record, as the person who posted the highly controversial Debbie Downer gif, I DO realize that.

I posted what I intended as a lighthearted way to express my disagreement with what I felt was an overly negative tone, and got royally blasted by the community for it, so I guess it came across as highly critical of the author's efforts. Gif commentary is a blunt instrument.

My differences in opinion with the article were minor relative to the overall sentiment. I think we're all in agreement that the climb is going to get steeper from here for VT basketball, and that we need to temper expectations, which I believe was the main point of the article. Sadly, the firestorm over this hijacked the thread commentary, which I regret.

I'll try and be more careful with my gif selection in the future. One man's "light hearted" is another man's "snarling dogbite" in gif commentary land.

I enjoyed this article. It's definitely the reality of the situation. One line stood out to me from the rest:

Texas A&M got to the Sweet 16 this season and saw two assistants get head coaching gigs.

From Chew's perspective, that right there is encouraging and inspiring to see for an aspiring head coach. If he stays in Blacksburg and if/when Buzzketball takes its first steps deep into the dance then the credit from the public's/media's eye will go solely to Buzz.

Chew's placing himself in a position with a program already established where he can showcase his ability to coach at a high level and receive credit for it. As much as Buzz would deflect the credit to his staff, Chew just probably felt he would get lost in the mix if he stuck around in Blacksburg any longer. In addition to previously said reasons, can't blame the guy. Gotta get yours.

Party Positive.

If other schools are poaching your coaches, chances are you're hiring good coaches. I'll take that, and trust Buzz/Whit to hire another good one.

Agreed. Be thankful that Buzz has made us part of the food chain.