I have to admit, I couldn’t help noticing several moments during Virginia Tech’s big upset of No. 3 Villanova last night and then not think about the contrast between the football and basketball programs.
Those moments illustrated a lesson I hope Virginia Tech’s athletic administration has learned.
The first came late in the game when the Hokies were rallying. Television cameras caught the Virginia Tech bench, where Coach Mike Young was briefing his players on what he wanted done during the timeout. The players were engaged, excited, listening. Young was full of energy, but controlled, as if teaching a class and both coach and player alike were excited about what they were learning.
The second came after the game. Young immediately took the blame for a key play that occurred in the final seconds. Keve Aluma was supposed to miss the second shot of a one-and-one; he tried, but it banked in, so Villanova had one last chance. There were 1.3 seconds left so the odds Villanova could pass the ball inbounds and make a shot were slim to none. The only chance was to run the baseline, slip one of your players in front of the defender while he’s watching the ball, and draw a charge.
That’s what happened to the Hokies’ Justyn Mutts. A foul was called, Villanova made both ends of the one-and-one and the game went into overtime. Asked about it after the game, Young was quick to say “I failed to coach my player [Mutts] on one of the oldest tricks in the book and it almost cost us."
This was not a case of Young using the press to confess his coaching sins to the world. Young is a sharp and experienced coach who is not only good at coaching X’s and O’s, but is just as good managing and motivating people. He knew people might criticize Mutts for that play, and he was having none of it. He immediately drew the arrow toward himself, deflected all criticism from the player and heaped it all on the coach.
Which is what great coaches do.