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Sep
03

After Watching The Good, Bad and Ugly, Let's See How Pry Adjusts

I have to admit, I’ve been conflicted all day thinking about last night’s Virginia Tech game.

I mean, I love what I’ve seen of Brent Pry so far. He seems like the right guy for the job and he has consistently hit the right notes in interviews and conversations with the players, fan base and administration.

But there was one concern I had when he was hired, and that was that he had been a career assistant. In talking with several people I know and trust over the years that have been in that situation, they freely admit that becoming the head guy quickly teaches you about all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know, and it can overwhelm you at first.

I became a company president years ago after decades as a sales and marketing executive, and I thought I was ready. But it soon became apparent that while in previous jobs I was only responsible for sales and product, I was now responsible for EVERYTHING. And you soon learned that no matter what you knew about one area of the business, the success of the overall entirely depends on your ability to hold people accountable for the smaller parts.

That was kind of my impression of the Hokies and Pry last night. The defense – Pry’s specialty – was impressive at times. There was a renewed vigor when it came to attacking gaps and – as Frank Beamer used to say – getting after people. The spirit of Virginia Tech defenses past seemed to be out on the field in Norfolk.

But there were also problems with some of the other parts of the team, with penalties heading up the list. Virginia Tech committed 15 penalties for 106 yards, which means the Hokies committed more penalties than Old Dominion completed passes. A large number of penalties has always been thought of among coaches as a sign of sloppiness, lack of mental preparation, you choose the description, but it isn’t good. There will always be more than an average number of penalties in an opener, but not 15.

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4
Aug
10

So Now The ACC's Bold Plan Is To Hire Consultants?

I will admit, I have not been impressed with new ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips since hearing his comments at ACC Media Days last month.

Work in Corporate America long enough and you’ll see certain types of people in charge. Some are leaders, ready to charge the next hill and find a way to get their company to the top. Some are dreamers, not necessarily being all that interested in all the numbers on the profit and loss statement, but always asking “why can’t WE do that?” and pushing the envelope at every turn.

Then there are some that just want to be the person in charge. Many get there because of longevity, as someone left and it was “their turn.” They generally make sure the lights are on and the doors are open, and they serve as an ambassador for their business at meetings with customers and the community, but they don’t really add a lot. If there’s a problem, they talk in terms of studying the problem, maybe even appointing a committee to figure it out.

That’s the vibe Phillips gave off when asked what the ACC would do in the face of the Big Ten poaching UCLA and USC from the PAC-12. He spoke in analytical verbiage, all but said everything was fine, and that the ACC would not be left behind.

About the only thing Phillips didn’t do that day was say the ACC would hire consultants to make sure everything turned out fine.

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1
Aug
03

Rest In Peace, Vin Scully: The Greatest Of All Time

Many times over the last few years, an old friend – the late Wendy Rieger – and I would commiserate over getting old. One of her favorite lines about our advancing in age was saying “it seems like the only thing I’m getting better at is learning how to deal with a sense of loss.”

I could hear her saying those words in my head this morning when I turned on my computer and saw that at the age of 94, Vin Scully had passed away.

To say Scully was the greatest baseball announcer that ever lived is both true, but an incomplete answer. He was much more than a baseball man, or a broadcaster, for that matter. In an age where the strength of an announcer’s voice has been at times more important than his substance, Scully was the full package of a smooth voice combined with a substance that far exceeded the bounds of chalk lines and green grass.

If you grew up in the 50s and 60s like I did, radio announcers held a special standing in your sports world. Every game ever played wasn’t on television so you were dependent on the sounds of a person you’d never meet coming through a tiny transistor radio to paint the pictures of what was going on with your favorite team in a town hundreds of miles away. You grew dependent on that person every night, to the point he eventually became part of the family.

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3
Aug
02

It Was Only A Few Years Ago That Everything Looked So Bright...

I don’t know why, but it seems the universe is punishing me.

Well, the sports universe is.

I came to this conclusion thinking back to 2016. Virginia Tech football had a new coach in Justin Fuente and the Hokies went 10-4, including a big comeback at South Bend to beat Notre Dame, and an even bigger comeback in a bowl game against Arkansas. VT was down 24-0 at halftime and still won.

This new guy could be OK, I thought.

That same year the Washington Redskins were coming off a 9-7 year where they made the playoffs and Kirk Cousins had everybody saying “you like that?” There was a Sunday night in late November where Cousins threw for 375 yards and Washington kicked Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers all over the field.

Things were coming together for this favorite team too.

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1
Jul
04

Work Can Wait: Here's To Wishing Everyone A Happy July 4th

It took 65 years, but I finally replicated the 4th of July cookout I grew up with.

The old man loved his holidays, and food was a big part of it. Christmas would see Southern Italian foods that you wouldn’t get a chance to taste at other times of the year; Thanksgiving was the same basic fare everyone else had, but he’d throw in his own twist with a fruit salad he’d had as a kid that I’ve never had anything similar to since.

Independence Day to him meant a cookout. Didn’t matter if it was 70 degrees or 170 degrees outside, we were grilling. If you didn’t fill every part of the grill with every kind of meat you could get, you weren’t trying. He had a platter that was about the size of a small boat that he would just stack up what he cooked throughout the afternoon, and when everything was done, he’d bring that surfboard of a plate inside, put it in the middle of the table, and we’d all eat.

My memory advises it was always hot, but growing up in Norfolk, there was always a cool breeze blowing, or as my Dad liked to say, in Norfolk if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour. It will change. These were the days before cable television and wall-to-wall sports on TV, so I’d occasionally have a transistor radio with a baseball game on.

The mood was relaxing, the pace was slow, and the smell of smoke and grilled burgers, hot dogs, sausages and chicken ended up being seared in your memory. That was the smell of the 4th of July.

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May
10

If This Is A Dream, Try Your Best Not To Wake Me...

Perhaps it’s just me, but at times I’m having a tough time believing what’s going on with recruiting for the Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team.

It’s nothing bad. Quite the contrary, in fact, to the point I wonder if this is just a dream and I haven’t woken up yet. In my 50-plus years of watching Hokie basketball, there are certain hard truths I’ve learned, and one is that while there will be good years and bad, there will never be a year that blue chips flock to Blacksburg.

The Hokies will be in the dance with many. They’ll be included in the final two with a few. But typically when final decisions are made, most times they’re left at the altar watching the bride drive off into the sunset as a blue blood school makes a late move and sweeps a recruit off their feet. Doesn’t mean the Hokies haven’t had great players come to Blacksburg, but the marquee players among the nation’s recruiting elite tend not to end up in Southwest Virginia.

This year has felt different.

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3
Apr
07

From The Blue Waters Of The Chesapeake, To The Hills Of Tennessee...

The decision will not help gain a single yard, point, or first down for Virginia Tech’s football team this fall.

But when you turn on the radio for the Hokies’ September 2nd game in Norfolk against ODU and hear “From the blue waters of the Chesapeake to the hills of Tennessee, the Virginia Tech Hokies are on the air,” you’ll realize it made football season just a little bit better.

Bill Roth is back.

He will be the radio voice of the Hokies for football only, but he and Mike Burnop will now be back together to call every moment of white lines and green grass at Lane Stadium and beyond.

David Teel broke the news in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, and I have to say, it may be the best news regarding Virginia Tech I’ll hear all month. Roth has been like that favorite, well-worn sweatshirt you wear on game days that just makes you feel comfortable. He was the radio voice in lean times, the radio voice in great times, and over several decades, became part of the family to many older Hokies.

He is also one of the most impressive people I think you’ll ever meet. In life, you get to come across people who are just genuinely good, and Bill is one. Poll 50 people who have had interactions with him, and odds are you’ll get 50 stories about what a good guy he is. He embraced the Hokies and all that Virginia Tech stood for from the very beginning, and has been an incredible ambassador for the school.

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5
Mar
22

If You're Going To Celebrate Winning An ACC Title, Do It Right

An old friend just sent me these with a note that said if you’re going to celebrate winning an ACC Tournament, you might as well do it the right way. Cold drink, good cigar, nice weather, good dog. Doesn’t get much better than this…

 

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1
Mar
20

Former Hokie Target Tyrell Ward Decommits From Xavier

With the season over and everyone turning their attention to recruiting for next season, Virginia Tech fans might want to keep an eye on Tyrell Ward, who announced today he is decommitting from Xavier.

The 6-foot-7 Ward played at DeMatha (in Hyattsville, MD) under current Virginia Tech associate head coach Mike Jones, and is a teammate of Hokie signee Rodney Rice, so there is a clear connection and relationship there. He announced on social media he was decommiting after former head coach Travis Steele parted ways with the program.

“Due to the recent coaching changes at Xavier University, I've decided to ask the university for my release from my NLI (national letter of intent) and will reopen my recruitment,” Ward said in a graphic he posted on Twitter. “100 percent Xavier will still be an option. I'm grateful to Xavier for the love they've shown to me and my family throughout the process.”

The Hokies were among Ward’s final 8 the first time around, as Ward considered LSU, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Indiana, Miami, Xavier, Maryland, and Georgetown before paring it down to just Xavier and the Hokies, then committing to Xavier last July. Less than a year later, half of those schools have made or are in the process of head coaching changes, while Virginia Tech is coming of an ACC Tournament championship and 5 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

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4
Mar
20

Friday's Loss Shouldn't Overshadow One Great Season

One week ago, we all woke up to a glorious Sunday. The Hokies had won the ACC Tournament, an NCAA bid was coming later in the day, and hope was springing eternal.

Then Friday happened.

To say it was disappointing is to put it mildly. “I get so tired of us always losing these big games” said one of my young friends, who is all of 27 years old.

Imagine how I feel, I countered, as I’m close to 40 years older.

“Yeah, but you should be used to it by now,” he replied.

Nobody ever gets used to losing, I answered, and truth is, every team breaks their fans’ hearts. Some just do it slower than others.

I knew how my young friend felt. Heck, we’ve all felt that way one time or another. And yes, the Hokies could have played better Friday, as Texas manhandled them the same way Memphis and Xavier did in earlier losses. The strength of Mike Young’s offense requires an inside presence to draw the defense inward so the ball can be kicked back out and find the open man for a 3-pointer. Teams that play assault and battery defense down low against the Hokies seem to negate the inside threat, so the ball doesn’t come out to wide open players at the 3-point line.

The only two ways I know to combat that is either have an officiating crew who calls a tight game, or have players on your roster just as comfortable hacking and pushing underneath. The first is the luck of the draw. The second is directly related to recruiting a certain type of player Virginia Tech currently doesn’t have.

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4
Mar
14

Tonight We're Going To Party Like It's 1979...

I found myself this morning smiling at a moment from the past, all thanks to Virginia Tech winning the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn this weekend.

It was 1979. I had just recently met the executive assistant in the personnel department at the Roanoke Times over on Campbell Avenue, a wonderful lady named Debbie. I worked as a sportswriter, and up on the 4th floor, my desk was next to our Virginia beat writer, Doug Doughty.

Our desks were in the middle of the room, and up at the front toward the entrance was a glassed-in office, which belonged to the sports editor, Bill Brill. Doughty and Brill were good friends, and Doug had developed a great imitation of Brill, right down to pretending to remove an imaginary cigar from his mouth while spouting off some intense opinion.

Doug wasn’t the only one to do this, as several writers who covered the ACC also had their imitations (John Feinstein of the Washington Post also had an excellent rendition) but Doughty’s was the best, probably because he got to study his subject every single day.

If you’ve ever been in a newsroom, you realize there’s a lot of jovial banter going on, and the sports department probably enjoys such things more than any room in the building. Brill – as everyone knows – had an interesting relationship with Virginia Tech, as while he was an excellent journalist and teacher, he always seemed to find an angle on a Virginia Tech story that really rankled Hokie fans.

On this given day, Brill was sharing out loud how a number of Hokies fans were really fired up about the latest thing he wrote, and as he returned to his office, Doug – without missing a beat – does a perfect imitation of Brill saying “I hate Tech” several times. I guess you had to be there, but the quality of the imitation and the timing of when uttered just made me burst out laughing.

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