I saw the train coming. I stood on the tracks, and let it run me over anyways. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was fun as hell. Buzz Williams was never long for Blacksburg. He was on his way out of town as soon as he arrived. That was the deal, everyone knew it, and would make it again.
Buzz Williams to Texas A&M is 'Done': Sources
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 30, 2019
Sources: Texas A&M is expected to offer Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams a multi-year deal worth a minimum of $3.5 million dollars annually to be its next head basketball coach. Aggies have no secondary candidate.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 30, 2019
(Feel free to caveat everything written here with the word 'reportedly' if that makes you feel any better. It won't.)
There were reported flirtations with Ohio State and rumored overtures with other programs. Hell, it was reported that the door was open at Texas A&M since last season. His brand was more 'Buzz' than 'Hokies', and that's all fine. Williams did two things really well:
- He won basketball games.
- He made Virginia Tech basketball fun.
Virginia Tech fans gravitated to the quirky Texan because he was authentic and transparent as hell. He engaged and embraced the fanbase through long-winded press conference answers that blew around and past the original question; a preacher in sneakers. Plus he has social media chops that would make any social maven envious. He knew how to tightly manage his program, but not shut out those in maroon and orange, a delicate dance for sure. He laid out a vision for the program, stuck to the narrative, and wrote the script in realtime. And the most impressive thing, as an outsider he got Virginia Tech's culture. The program was uniquely his own, but it was built with a blue-collar attitude and a sincere appreciation for its supporters. I have no doubt he could've been a lifer in Blacksburg, the 'Beamer of basketball'. That's why this all hurts the soul, but that train wasn't stopping, merely speeding through with a bang.
I sipped complementary Pappy Van Winkle out of a plastic cup in a bar within spitting distance of Capital One Arena. Oh, and the Hokies were there to play in the Sweet 16. Those are words I never envisioned writing. In five short seasons Williams elevated the program to reach a level of success unseen before. There is a foundation, at the very least in perception alone, for his successor to build on.
The game itself was everything that makes sports great. It was competitive, had you on the edge of your seat the entire 40 minutes, and went down to the wire. Tech had its chances to tie/win at the end, and the final inbounds play was a flex of Williams' Xs and Os acumen.
That should break your heart forever. (And sports should do that from time-to-time, because otherwise, what's the point.) Those are the final frames of the Williams era. And that sucks. Not because of how it ended, but because it's over. However, that image won't define this group, three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, marquee wins, and a Sweet 16 banner will.
That team was so damn fun to watch and it feels like the end of The Sandlot. You just want the games to go on forever, but piece by piece it's fading away. Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, and Ty Outlaw should never have to buy a drink in Blacksburg again. They came to Tech to build a program, and did just that.
I'm sure Whit Babcock will win the press conference with his hire. That's what he does. However, that doesn't guarantee success. The sure-thing, the one who won and made it fun, unfortunately, is headed home.