Buying Buzz: is the Hokie head coach worth his price tag?
After news broke Tuesday night of Billy Kennedy’s expected removal as head coach of the Texas A&M basketball program, speculation of his replacement ran wild on message boards across the web. Names such as Fred Hoiberg, Chris Beard, and even Bob Huggins were thrown around until Houston Chronicle reporter Brent Zwerenerman claimed that current Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams is expected to be a front runner for the newly vacant position.
Although Williams’ name has been connected to the job for some time, considering his ties to Texas A&M and the Lone Star state in general, there are some hurdles athletic director Scott Woodward would have to jump through in order to lure him away from Blacksburg. Not only has Williams guided the Hokies to a 23-7 record heading into the NCAA tournament, but he’s also in the 5th year of his contract that is slated to carry him through the 2023 season. With nearly 11 million remaining on his current deal, the Aggies will have to back up the money truck if they want him roaming the Reed Arena sideline this November.
For comparison's sake, Bily Kennedy’s deal (which was ranked as the 42nd most lucrative contract in college basketball) paid him $2.5 million a season. You also have to consider that logic says hiring Williams away from Va. Tech will require a raise in salary. When you factor in that he was already making $2.75 million ($250 thousand more than Kennedy), hindsight says the athletic department will likely throw anywhere from $3-3.5 mil at Buzz in an attempt to sign the highly valued head coach. Needless to say, the Aggies would be looking at significantly increasing their basketball budget compared to the university’s previous financial commitment.
Whether signing Williams to a contract of that magnitude (which would make him the third highest-paid coach in the conference) is worth the cost is up for debate. However, you can’t argue with the man’s resume’. A member of the Gillispie coaching tree, Buzz has taken teams to the NCAA tournament 8 out of his 12 years as a coach. During his tenure at Marquette, the 46-year-old led the Golden Eagles to two Sweet 16’s and an appearance to the Elite 8.
In Blacksburg, Williams quickly turned around an ailing program that was 2-16 in conference play prior to his arrival. In his 5-years with the Hokies, Virginia Tech has made three runs to the NCAA tournament and tacked on another appearance in the NIT. This season, they’ve defeated three ranked opponents (including #3 ranked Duke) and set a program record for conference wins with 12.
Williams is also a Texan by birth and had several career stops in the Lonestar state, including stints at Ut-Arlington, Texas A&M-Kingsville, and Texas A&M. Those Texas ties made him a proven recruiter in his first stint with the Aggies, where he played a major role in the signing of players like Bryan Davis, Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland, and even Deandre Jordan.
With a .621 winning percentage over the last 12 seasons, Williams is without a doubt a home run hire for the Aggies. With his prior connections to the state, elite pedigree and proven track record, Scott Woodward could have the Ag’s slated as the winners of the coaching carousel if they can successfully convince Buzz to trade in his Maroon and Orange gear for Maroon and White at the end of this season.