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I’ve long since given up worrying about which player is arriving or which player is leaving when it comes to Virginia Tech athletics. I’ll wait until the particular sport starts its season, and then worry about who is on the field or court at that time.
But today, Virginia Tech’s basketball program lost associate head coach Chester Frazier to Illinois.
THAT, I'm worried about.
The move makes a lot of sense for Frazier, and it is a very amicable parting. Frazier played at Illinois a decade or so ago, so he's getting a chance to go home. No one can begrudge that, and everyone associated with the program is happy for him.
But Frazier filled one huge void when Mike Young was hired as head coach, and he made the transition so seamless, you could make the case that Frazier has been as important as Young in turning the Hokie basketball program.
If you remember back when Young was hired, the biggest concern was recruiting. Could Young, an older coach, connect with younger recruits and get them to come to Blacksburg, people who look a lot like me wondered. Young almost immediately hired Frazier, and I remember being extremely impressed because the hire was not a fellow assistant he had a history with that would make Young more comfortable in his new surroundings.
Instead, it was a coach who had the specific skills Young needed. Frazier is a lot of things, but he first and foremost appears to be a great salesman. His fingerprints are all over just about every one of the key recruits the Hokies have landed, and he’s liked by just about everyone. He's from Baltimore and knew the Hokies' recruiting footprint well. He and Young have a great chemistry between them, and it was my personal hope Frazier would end up as a head coach in waiting, ascending to Young’s job when the time came for a change.
Virginia Tech has already signed a number of players to fill specific needs for next season, such as Storm Murphy at the point, and size in 7-foot transfer center Michael Durr and 6-8 wing Jalen Haynes, so if Frazier has to leave, now is the perfect time.
It’s also a better time to find a suitable replacement than when Frazier was hired, because frankly, it’s now a better job. When Frazier was hired, it was a basketball program where the previous coach had left the cupboard bare, half the team was in the transfer portal, and there were only 4 players even on the roster. On paper, that team was headed for a last-place finish given the struggle it was going to have just to fill out the roster.
Two years later, that team is coming off a 15-7 season where the team finished as the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament, was ranked as high as 15th in the AP poll and made the NCAA Tournament. Add to that a cupboard now stocked with depth, and the job has a heck of lot more appeal than when Young first became head coach.
But while that may be so, the Hokies still need to hit a home run and find an assistant who is an excellent recruiter, which is my concern. Really good sales people are just not walking up and down the street looking for work. They never are. You can find a lot of coaches who are quite competent with the X’s and O’s, but far fewer that are good at strategy AND good at romancing players and parents to want to become part of your program.
To his credit, Mike Young has been excellent at identifying exactly what he needs, then going out and getting it. He hit a home run once, finding lightning in a bottle when he immediately hired Frazier two years ago.
Now he has to do it again.