Crushing an opening press conference to announce your hire doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win a lot of football games in the near future. But Brent Pry put on a performance this morning that certainly won a lot of people over.
He was smooth, even – dare I say – debonair. I’ve never read so many comments on social media about a coach’s “great hair.” He came across as sincere, likeable, approachable…and very much wanting to be in Blacksburg.
He invoked the great names of Hokie football past, from Frank Beamer to Bud Foster, and hit all the right notes, at times even being emotional and showing a vulnerable side. I’ve often said when you look at the great coaches, the one common trait they have is they care. It’s not something you can fake either, as either you do or you don’t.
Brent Pry convinced a lot of people he cares.
I’m a former sales guy who has been involved in a turnaround situation before, so I was looking for two traits: One was that recruiting, which is very much like sales, isn’t as much a matter of personality, but moreso a case of working your backside off. It’s not just the person you’re selling, it’s knowing about their friends, their family, the important dates in their lives, their favorite sports teams, etc, because that knowledge builds familiarity and leads to a strong relationship.
So when Pry said of recruiting that it’s details, details, details…even to the point of not only knowing a prospects coach and friends, but even knowing the guy in the barbershop who cuts his hair, I found myself thinking “he gets it.”
Turnaround situations – which sadly Hokie football is now one - are even trickier. You’re expected to come in and reverse the fortunes of a company, yet you are constantly hindered by people who somehow think you will magically turn everything around while still doing things the way things always have been done. It’s why many companies hire turnaround specialists who tear everything upside down for a year, then leave. They addressed the problems, but burned bridges in the process and can’t now take the company to the next step.
To do this, you need to walk the thin line of being a change agent while still being “one of us” and Pry showed he gets that too. He was up at the crack of dawn meeting with the Corp of Cadets; seated in the front row at the press conference was Beamer, Foster, JC Price and those who can help him negotiate a tough situation or two because of their standing in Hokie Nation. There was a great picture taken of him with basketball coach Mike Young, who I believe ultimately will be a tremendous blessing to Pry.
Young, after all, just accomplished the same task after Buzz Williams left for Texas and did it while leaving the cupboard bare for the next guy. Young built everything back in a very short time because he knew what he was doing, he gained the friendship and approval of those behind the scenes who made things happen, and he never stopped giving off the vibe that he not only wanted to be here, he WAS a Hokie.
Pry came across the same way, but there will be issues at first. In all companies, there always is. But you can see he and Young will become like brothers. They’re both cut from the same cloth, they both have similar values, and they both want to win. One will help the other.
There were other things said today, not the least of them being a few million dollars more for coaches and support staff. There appears to be money to attract a top-notch offensive coordinator, and the increase in money for support staff could conceivably allow for the hiring of a very experienced recruiting analyst who knows the state extremely well. Someone like a coach whose name rhymes with Bryan Stinespring.
Winning press conferences do not necessarily win you football games or championships. But you only get one chance at a first impression, and to say there were a few people watching who were initially skeptical of the hire would be an understatement. One of your first tasks is to win them over and create the vibe “we know what we’re doing here” or the long uphill climb becomes more difficult.
Pry accomplished that today. In extremely impressive fashion.
Looks to be a very good hire. I look forward to Virginia Tech football returning to its tough, blue collar mind set on the field; the days when teams actually were intimidated when playing at Lane Stadium. Like that of Mike Young, I believe Brent Pry sees Virginia Tech as a long term destination as opposed to a stepping stone for bigger opportunities.
CBP is certainly pointing all the indicator dials in the right direction. Personality and willingness to engage will take him a long way, while we are waiting on the end result of "W's".