Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Finding a new coach can be tough

This week's edition of Q&A-Mac is brought to you by coaching searches: always tons of fun, unless ...

Q: Unless what?

A: Unless you're talking about Virginia Tech basketball.

Q: What do you mean?

A: Hiring a new coach is all about imagining the possibilities. It's about envisioning the program blossoming into something it's never been, cutting down nets in some far-away city in a few years with your home run hire snipping the final strand.

Q: You can't envision that with Tech?

A: I can't, for two reasons. One, I don't think many people have a lot of faith in the judgment of athletic director Jim Weaver right now given the clumsy way the Seth Greenberg era ended. And two, the financial commitment to Tech basketball isn't such that the Hokies are going to lure some huge name with a ton of options.

Q: So you're saying the Hokies won't get a good coach?

A: Oh, no. They could. But it'll require some risk-taking. And Tech fans should be prepared: The first word out of their mouths when they hear the name of their new sideline leader likely will be, "Who?"

Q: What would you look for in a coach?

A: Somebody young, energetic, charismatic. Someone who has demonstrated Xs-and-Os upside and recruiting prowess even if he doesn't have a lengthy track record. Tony Bennett was 39 when UVa hired him. While we're years away from judging that choice adequately, so far, so good in Charlottesville.

Q: Yeah, but are the Hokies going to pay their coach $1.7million per year like UVa did with Bennett?

A: Almost assuredly no. That's why they probably should go the assistant route. Given Tech's resources and commitment level, the Hokies are going to have to sacrifice something in their quest for the right guy. Relinquish head-coaching experience as a requirement, and the pool broadens big time.

Think of it like baseball: Some teams have the clout to lure free-agent stars; others must build through the draft and shrewd talent evaluation. Tech is the basketball version of the latter. Grab the up-and-comer, not the retread, and then cross your fingers.

Q: What surprised you about the NFL Draft?

A: That the league has made no attempt to gentrify that Radio City Music Hall crowd. Still rowdier than a day care center the day after Halloween. Actually respect the league for allowing that tradition to continue.

Q: How about the actual football part?

A: That Miami running back Lamar Miller fell to the fourth round. He always impressed me. Could be a steal of a hometown pick for the Dolphins.

Q: How will David Wilson fit in the Big Apple?

A: Man, that guy would be comfortable anywhere. The football situation couldn't be much better for him than it is with the Giants. He's on a great team that is committed to getting better at the running attack than it was during last year's Super Bowl season, but Wilson doesn't have to be the lead guy right away.

Q: Best comment on the blog this week?

A: Let's look at two that demonstrate well the duality of Weaver.

First, from Zman: "Weaver may have his issues, but his era has brought us out of the athletic darkness that existed during my time as a student."

And then, from Other John: "I guess we'll see what happens, but I don't have much faith in Jim Weaver's ability to handle the next steps well at all, given how poorly he's handled everything to this point. It's just shameful. Step aside and let someone else run the athletic department before you finish running it the rest of the way into the ground."

Q: Which do you agree with?

A: That's just it: Those two points aren't mutually exclusive, but a great basketball hire tips the balance to Zman's argument. A bad one underscores O.J.'s take.

The answer will be unveiled at the podium in the coming days.

No pressure, Mr. Weaver.

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