It may have been the worst-kept secret in college basketball for the last few months: When Billy Kennedy was out at Texas A&M, Buzz Williams was heading back to Texas and would replace Kennedy in College Station. Williams becomes Texas A&M’s new head coach after taking Virginia Tech to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 this season.
Virginia Tech has stepped up in terms of its commitment to basketball but Buzz Williams did a hell of a job in Blacksburg. Remember, the previous three coaches – Ricky Stokes, Seth Greenberg and James Johnson – went to just a single NCAA Tournament in the previous 15 seasons. Virginia Tech is a football school but Williams got the fans excited about basketball after turning the program.
Whit Babcock – Took over in 2014 and came from Cincinnati, where he was the AD from Oct. 2011 to ’14.
Men’s Basketball Hires: Buzz Williams – Babcock hired Williams in 2014, which obviously was a home run.
TAKE A SWING
Frank Martin, South Carolina – Buzz and Frank are tight, so my guess is Babcock has heard good things about Martin. The question would be whether this is truly enough of a step up for Martin to leave Columbia.
Shaka Smart, Texas – There are some that believe Smart would leave Austin for Blacksburg. I’m not one of them. Texas is giving him another year and I’m just not sold that Blacksburg is one of his preferred destinations.
Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette – Would Virginia Tech pluck another coach from Marquette? Here’s the difference: Williams had worn out his welcome at Marquette; Wojo hasn’t. Marquette has the resources to match anything Virginia Tech throws his way, so I don’t see him leaving Marquette at the end of the day.
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati – Babcock worked with Cronin when he was at Cincinnati but now the question becomes whether Mick can land UCLA. If not, he could wind up in Blacksburg – even if he currently has a better gig.
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall – I’m not sure this is the ideal fit but Willard is certainly a name worth watching. He’s done a hell of a job at Seton Hall but he’s extremely close with his athletic director Pat Lyons – so this seems like a long shot to me.
Mike Young, Wofford – He’s now gone to the NCAA Tournament five times, including earning a No. 7 seed this season and nearly knocking off Kentucky in the second round. Young can coach but the question would be whether he could recruit in the ACC.
Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State – Buzz and Forbes worked together at Texas A&M and Forbes has done a heck of a job at ETSU. The guy can recruit at a high level and is a proven coach at different levels.
Ryan Odom, UMBC – Odom is former Seth Greenberg assistant who actually left to take a similar job at Charlotte. He pulled off the ultimate upset last year when UMBC knocked off No. 1 seed Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Wes Miller, UNC-Greensboro – You’ve got to have him on any list for an ACC opening these days because of what he’s been able to do at UNCG.
Mike Rhoades, VCU – He’s not too far down the road and is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.
John Brannen, Northern Kentucky – The former Alabama assistant has been tremendous at Northern Kentucky, taking a program that recently went through a transition into the DI ranks to the NCAA Tournament twice in the last three years.
James Jones, Yale – He’s obviously had success at a high-academic institution. Jones has turned the program around the last handful of years and Yale has gone toe-to-toe with Harvard. Jones has made a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons.
Matt McMahon, Murray State – He should be a hot name, having taken the Racers to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons and also recruiting a kid named Ja Morant.
Bill Coen, Northeastern – I’m not sure why he doesn’t pop up more because he’s an elite recruiter, especially in terms of identifying under-the-radar guys, and he’s taken Northeastern to a couple of NCAA Tournaments.
LeVelle Moton, NC Central – Check out what Moton has done at Central. The guy can get players and he wins games. Period.
Earl Grant, College of Charleston – Grant inherited a mess and has taken the program to the NCAA Tournament and also to an NIT appearance. He’s won at least 24 games each of the last three seasons.
Mike Young, Wofford – Maybe this is just my heart hoping Young gets a shot at a power conference gig but the bottom line is the guy can coach his ass off. He’d have to pick a staff that can recruit at a high level, but we know he can evaluate and develop guys.
WHO I THINK THEY WILL WIND UP HIRING
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati – He’s been at Cincinnati since 2006 and he has a previous relationship with Babcock. This is obviously predicated on the fact that UCLA doesn’t choose Cronin.