When it rains, it pours.
It was announced Friday evening that Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams jumped ship for Virginia Tech, thus leaving the Marquette basketball program in shambles.
It can be argued that no other NCAA team has had a season like the Golden Eagles. Five days removed from the realization Marquette wouldn’t be in a post-season tournament, Buzz signs a seven year deal with the Hokies worth $18 million. He was earning $2.8 million a year at Marquette and will be get less ($2.5 million/year) with Virginia Tech.
I am shocked by this move. It was unexpected, especially after Buzz had turned down offers from Southern Methodist and Oklahoma in years past. Every season ends with speculation that Buzz will leave for another program, but it never ends up happening. I assumed the only job he would even consider is in his home state of Texas. Boy was I wrong.
As my brother put it, this isn’t a punch to the stomach, but a kick to the groin. The move goes against anything Buzz claims to be. In 2010, Buzz said he’ll “be here [Marquette] as long as they’ll have me here.” Prior to 2013, Marquette was on the verge of becoming an elite basketball program. Buzz was constructing something special in Milwaukee. Four and five star recruits were picking to go to Marquette over powerhouses, the future was looking very bright.
It wasn’t about the money, so why? Why would Buzz leave a program where he’d developed such strong ties with the community? Why the hell would he go to Virginia Tech of all places?
The answer may sound silly, but it’s simple…he was bored.
The realignment of the Big East set Marquette back. The Big East is no longer a top basketball conference and it will take more than a few years for it to come anywhere close to what it once was. You have to imagine this was going through Buzz’s head when mulling offers from other schools. He was waiting for the right opportunity to leave and a 17-15 season apparently was the right time for him.
On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast Conference is consistently one of the best in the country. It’s been a coaching mecca for quite some time and Buzz wanted the opportunity to become part of it. He joins the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams (among others)…not too bad of company.
Buzz likes the tough task of revitalizing a program and transforming it into one that is feared. You can call him greedy, you can call him pessimistic but Buzz just wants a little more of the spotlight. As much as it pains me to say it, at Marquette he was always known as the second-best coach in Wisconsin (behind Bo Ryan). Now he heads to Virginia, where the competition for headlines is between the Hokies and the surprisingly good Virginia Cavaliers. He will get greater recognition for his accomplishments than he did in Milwaukee.
Marquette fans should be used to this. Just six seasons after Tom Crean bolted for Indiana, Buzz leaves in similar fashion. Buzz’s departure could lead to players transferring (like Nick Williams did when Crean left) or future players decommitting (like Tyshawn Taylor when Crean left).
Buzz leaving is like pressing the reset button on the entire program and starting over from scratch.
With an interim president, athletic director and now vacant head coaching spot, Marquette their work cut out for them. They can’t afford to hire a bad candidate and have to take their time in making a decision; the fate of the program is at stake.
Its about time we face the brutal, honest truth: The head coaching position at a Marquette is a steppingstone for coaches with other motives.
Even with the school spending the second-most in the nation, Marquette can’t find a guy that will stay for a good chunk of time.
Early candidates to take the vacant job are former Marquette player Brian Brian Wardle, former Pittsburgh and UCLA coach Ben Howland and there’s always Shaka Smart. Though I doubt Smart would coach for a team in the Big East when there’s other major conferences with teams in need of his services. I could see Marquette hiring internally and give an assistant the job like they did with Buzz, but it’s too early to tell.
In his seven years at Marquette, Buzz has done a lot of good. From one Elite 8 and two Sweet Sixteen appearances to Buzz’s Bunch, he has done a ton for the basketball program.
Buzz’s outlook on life and words of wisdom will be missed; his antics on the sideline even more.