In this week’s coaching conversation, Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss his offensive and defensive philosophy, and how to be yourself.
Mike Young was named 2020-21 ACC Coach of the Year as the Hokies made the NCAA Tournament. Under his watch in 2020-21, led Tech to being 4-0 versus the AP’s Top 25, with the four wins being tied for the most ranked wins in a season in school history. Virginia Tech was picked 11th in the ACC’s preseason media poll last fall but returned to national relevance in Young’s second season at the school. The Hokies beat Villanova, Clemson, Duke and Virginia, among others.
Mike Young teams have made the NCAA Tournament in six of the last 11 seasons, including being the fastest Virginia Tech coach to make The Dance. Tech’s third-place finish was the Hokies’ highest finish in the ACC standings since Seth Greenberg’s Hokies tied for third place in 2010. The Hokies landed the No. 3 seed for the ACC Tournament — their best seed in that event since Greenberg’s Hokies were the No. 3 seed in 2007.
The Radford, Virginia native joined the Hokies after a record-setting 17-year tenure as the head coach at Wofford. The Terriers posted a 30-5 overall record in 2018-19, including a perfect 18-0 mark in Southern Conference play, and registered a convincing 84-68 win over Seton Hall in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
The 2019 Sporting News Coach of the Year, Young built the Terriers into one of the Southern Conference’s preeminent programs and a perennial NCAA Tournament participant. He guided Wofford to five NCAA Tournament berths over the past 10 seasons and five Southern Conference championships. In addition to the on-court success of his teams, 100 percent of Young’s student-athletes at Wofford who completed their eligibility graduated.
Producing high-caliber players, Mike Young helped groom the NCAA’s leader for most 3-pointers made in a career in Fletcher Magee with 509, a two-time SoCon Player of the Year at Wofford. Over his career, Young has developed three AP All-America selections, four SoCon Player of the Year and 34 all-conference selections.
Mike Young compiled a 299-244 (.551) overall record at Wofford and earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors four times (2010, 2014, 2015 and 2019). Under his guidance, the Terriers registered an impressive list of nonconference wins, including ones over the likes of Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, NC State, Purdue, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Xavier and Wake Forest. Arguably the most compelling nonconference victory of his tenure at Wofford came on Dec. 20, 2017 when the Terriers faced then-No. 5 North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and registered a 79-75 victory over head coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels.
Mike Young Quotes:
“The game evolves, you better evolve as a coach . . but continue to do it with really good kids and guys that enjoy being in the gym. That’s still a really enjoyable place for me to be.”
“We are going to spend some part of our practice every day in transition defense, I think that is a critical part of the game . . There are so many good guards across the country . . that really create havoc in transition just by lowering their head and driving the ball. [There is] a daily emphasis on toughness and being where you’re supposed to be . . finishing every possession with a solid checkout and pursuing the ball.”
“Everything matters. Every cut relates to that particular action. You may or may not be in the action, but your execution of the false action is every bit as important.”
“’It’s not so much how many things you run but the breadth of the actions that you run.’ When you get right down to it, we’re only running three, four, maybe five things but there are a number of spin-offs from those actions with different people involved with different ways to mask what we’re trying to get to.”
“If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. If your team isn’t good with it, you put it on the chopping block and you move along. We’re going to have enough things that give our team a shot night in and night out, so let’s not be pig-headed and try to make something work because it looks good on paper, or our staff really likes it.”
“We do spend quite a considerable amount of time, in the summer and . . going into our first game with . . a motion segment or two every day. I will put the ball in different places on the floor with 12 seconds on the shot clock, eight seconds on the shot clock, and we’ve got to play out of it.”
“This is not an equal opportunity offense; never has been never will be. We’re going to learn to play to the things we do well. They [the players] all do something well, some of them do a lot of things well. Your best player is going to get the most shots. It’s just the way it is.”
“You can’t turn the ball over in basketball and expect to win. You’ve got to get a crack, or hopefully two or three shots at the basket every time down. If you’re not, you’re putting yourself in a real bind to win that particular game.”
“Screening. We’re adamant . . we do not screen air, we’re going to put a body on you. And we’re going to do it with everybody on the floor.”
“I don’t like to script in transition. I like for that to be free flowing. I’m going to try something this year with this team so that we can run anywhere [in transition].”
“Just get a little bit better every day, and especially those post players, pull up a chair and enjoy their development. It’s not going to happen all at once, it’s going to take some time. But if you got the right kid, and he’s about the right stuff, really neat things will happen.”
“They [the players] have got to want to come here [to practice], ready to go at it. We’re not going to go long, an hour and 15, hour and a half. They’ve got to be engaged. They’ve got to be willing to come down an hour and a half early and work on their game. We don’t spend a lot of time with skill development during our practice. That’s our time. You’ve got to be willing to spend time after practice to get shots up with our managers and with our staff.”
“I do think our players have a great time playing for us and still trying to get better every day but having a heck of a lot of fun doing it.”
Mike Young Breakdown:
1:30 – Two-Way Teaching and Offense
3:30 – Interior Defense
6:30 – Guard Your Yard
9:00 – Offense vs. Defense
12:00 – Types of Sets
17:30 – Trial and Error
19:00 – Evaluation in the Recruiting Process
22:00 – Improvement from First Year to Second Year
25:00 – Reads and Decision
28:00 – Short Clock Situations
32:00 – Empowering the Weak Side
36:00 – Modern Spacing
39:00 – Masking Actions
43:00 – How He Treats Players
48:00 – Be Yourself
Mike Young Links from the Podcast:
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