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While Hokies fans are sitting back and celebrating their good fortune in the hiring of DeMatha Coach Mike Jones as associate head coach at Virginia Tech, perhaps we should all pause and raise a glass to the person who probably made all this happen.
To your good health, Oliver Purnell.
If the connection isn’t clear, let’s take a look at the career of one Oliver Purnell. He started as a player at Old Dominion so long ago, I cheered for him while in high school. When he finished as a player in Norfolk in 1975, he was a graduate assistant at ODU for two years. He moved up to being an assistant at ODU from 1977 to 1985, then became an assistant under Lefty Driesell at Maryland for 3 years before getting his first head coaching job.
The position was at Radford, and when he assembled his staff in 1988, one of his assistants was a local guy named Mike Young. The two would work together during the 1988-89 season before Young would leave for Wofford.
Purnell would leave Radford too, heading back to be the head coach at Old Dominion from 1991 to 1994. One of his best players on those ODU teams was….Mike Jones.
So there’s no doubt in my mind Young went to his old coach at Radford and asked what he thought of Jones. There’s little doubt either that Jones went back to his old coach and said “what do you know about this guy named Young?”
Purnell is the common denominator. And it would seem Purnell said great things about both to the respective parties, giving Young and Jones a basis to trust each other. Which probably led to today’s hiring.
So when I first saw Oliver play at ODU when I was a junior at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, I knew he was capable of great things for a long time.
He proved me right again today.