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Monday, February 5, 2001
by JKHokie

Tonightís Hokie Hotline crew hit the road and did the show from Miami as the Hokies are being hosted by the Hurricanes Tuesday night at 7 PM. Tonightís guests included womenís basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson, voice of the Hurricanes Marc Vandermeer, and menís basketball coach Ricky Stokes. Joining Bill Roth on the mic tonight was former Virginia Tech tight end and analyst, Mike Burnop.

Womenís Basketball

Hokies head coach Bonnie Henrickson was the first guest on tonightís show as she made a call from Blacksburg to chat with Bill and Mike. The main topic of discussion was, of course, the upcoming game with the Lady Huskies of Connecticut. Big news out of UConn. as the Huskies have lost their leading scorer for the game with the Hokies on Wednesday and probably the year. All-American forward Svetlana Abrosimova (no, that is not misspelled) was injured during the second half loss to Tennessee on February 1st. The injury, described as a ligament tear in the seniorís left foot, will require surgery and will keep her sidelined for the remainder of the season. She was averaging 14.1 points a game.

While this unfortunate mishap may play to the Hokies advantage, Coach Henrickson realizes that this is a talented team and one they must play their best against to defeat.

Bill Roth asked Coach Henrickson the keys to victory. "We canít let our offense be their offense," said Henrickson. She pointed out that Connecticutís play is very opportunistic and that the Hokies canít afford to give the game away with mistakes such as traveling or three-second violations. As long as the Lady Hokies play smart and keep the #3 team in the country off the boards, the feeling is that they will be fine.

The conversation a short one as Coach Henrickson had to get back to practice, "Although they probably donít want me toÖ", she joked.

Game time for the VT/UConn. matchup is 7:00 PM Wednesday and is at the Cassell.

Mike Burnop takes a call

For those of you who, like me, donít know, Mike Burnop is not only the color man for Bill Roth on Hokie sports broadcasts, but he is also a former tight end for Virginia Tech. On this evening, Bill Roth poked a little fun at his partner and an informed caller gave this familiar voice a little of the spotlight.

David from Lynchburg called with several questions. The first of which was, "Are you the same Mike Burnop that played tight-end back in í72?" Burnop informed all of those that were listening that he was indeed that same Hokie and played a season with former Hokie great, Don Strock. The caller then asked Burnop what his thoughts were on all the dropped passes suffered by Tech receivers this past season and if he had ever been approached to coach that very area of Virginia Tech football.

Burnop answered that while he caught some of the harder throwers in college and at camp in the NFL (Strock at VT and Joe Ferguson of the Buffalo Bills), he believed that Vick put a little bit more mustard on the ball than most, owing that was the reason for the dropped passes. Burnop also mused that he hoped he could have caught one pass from Vick before he left for the NFL.

Roth then also asked if Burnop still owned the Hokiesí single-season record for catches, which he stated that he did. Roth opined that was fairly amazing considering some of the receivers that have graced Lane Stadium such as Antonio Freeman and Andre Davis.

Caller of the evening, Gary in Danville

Gary called in with a question that became a thread throughout the remainder of the show. He queried why donít the Big East Menís and Womenís Tournament have everyone play at the end of the season, with the top two teams receiving a bye. Roth commented that the perception is that the cellar dwellers donít deserve an invitation to the tourney. He also added that if all fourteen teams in the league did play, the first day of the tournament would be a logistical nightmare. Gary felt that leaving teams out hurt the league and Roth concurred that the teams that didnít get tournament exposure would suffer. Burnop offered that the lower seeds could play at the higher seeds home court if all we allowed to participate, but also stated thatís what the regular season is for.

Then came the real twist in the discussion. Roth, playing devilís advocate, assumed that a season or two down the road four teams finished the season with in-conference records of 6-10 and that all four teams are tied for fourth in their division. One of those teams, by tie-breaker, would not play in the Big East Tournament. He stated that the objections would start and then maybe the Big East would see the problem of leaving someone home.

Voice of the Hurricanes, Marc Vendermeer

Next, Mike and Bill brought on a man who could shed some light, not only on the Hokiesí next opponent on the hardwood, but also their opponent on the gridiron for the Big East championship next season. Marc Vandermeer spoke about the importance of the menís game on Tuesday night and talked candidly about the departure of former head football coach Butch Davis and new head football coach Larry Coker.

The first segment dealt with Miamiís play after the loss to Tech in Blacksburg and the importance of Tuesday nightís game to both teams. Vandermeer felt Miami has played well of late(they are 3-3 since the Tech defeat), and there was no denying the importance of the game. Which ever team lost, would be in a serious bind to make the Big East tourney, and the discussion turned back to Gary the Callerís earlier question. Vandermeer didnít like the idea of a teams missing the tournament. He stated that it hurt recruiting and it was a poor way for a team to end the season after so much hard work all year. He did support the idea of a "play-in game" in the future and offered that the loser of the Hokie-Cane game would have too much ground to make up to make the tourney at Madison Square Garden (March 7th-11th). When Roth brought up his "four team tie" scenario, Vandermeer again stated it was unfortunate to leave someone home, but he also offered that the logistics of the first day of a fourteen team tournament would mean the first game starting at 6 am and the final game ending past midnight.

The conversation then turned to Miamiís outstanding freshman forward, Darius Rice. Rice, who scored the majority of Miamiís point total against the Hokies at the Cassell on their first meeting, is also the nephew of football great Jerry Rice. Rice, who scores 14.6 points a game, has been rumored to be an early candidate for the NBA. Roth asked Vandermeer about his assessment of Rice. Vandermeer offered that while Rice is a good shooter, he needs to work on his defense, rebounding, and needs to "grow into his body." His opinion is that Rice will remain at Miami next season.

Butch Davis and Larry Coker

The broadcast then turned to a subject that is of interest to every Hokie: Miamiís head football coaching situation. Roth asked Vandermeer about the perception of former head coach Butch Davis by the local media. Vandermeer offered that some reporters ripped Davis and felt he used the media as a bargaining tool. Vandermeer personally felt Davis should have chosen his words more carefully. "Saying you are staying is one thing. But saying you can write it down, take it to the bank, etc. is something else." Vandermeer also observed that Davis always had NFL aspirations (i.e. he used NFL terminology during press conferences), but he was surprised he went to the Browns. He did, however, wish Davis all the best and thought Cane supporters should do likewise.

Roth then questioned Vandermeer about new Caneís head coach, Larry Coker. Vandermeer thought Coker, while not the first preference (Miami Dolphin head coach Dave Wannstedt and Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez were both courted), was an excellent choice for several reasons. He felt that the Canes would pack more offensive firepower in 2001 and observed this was a good addition to a football team has long been known for winning with a punishing defense. He stated the Coker selection made sense for keeping the prospects that Davis had recruited and he was a great guy to be around. The topic then turned to assistants, and Vandermeer stated that former Hurricane Steve Walsh might be brought in to start his coaching career in some offensive fashion.

Roth then asked about former Hurricane defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who is the new head coach at Rutgers. Roth asked Vandermeer if Schiano is "kicking himself" for not staying longer and maybe aligning himself for the head job at Miami. Vandermeer pointed out that when Schiano left, Davis had given all intentions of remaining with the Canes. He did state that Schiano might have an uphill battle at Rutgers by adding, "(at Rutgers)its hard to get it going, and its hard to keep it going."

In an eerie parallel to our own coaching situation, Roth asked Vandermeer if relations had been strained between Davis and AD Paul Dee. Vandermeer stated that things probably didnít turn sour until the terms of separation, or contract buyout, entered their final phases. To put it simply, Dee wanted Davis to pay heavily for leaving, while Davis wanted a light buyout clause.

Vandermeerís segment ended on a note that will delight Hokie football fans everywhere. When asked about the state of the Big East football conference, Vandermeer stated that it was in great shape and very underrated. He then observed that Virginia Tech moved the conference to the forefront while Miami had been on probation.

"Virginia Tech picked up the banner for the Big East beautifully," offered Vandermeer.

Virginia Tech head basketball coach Ricky Stokes

Roth started the final segment of the show by again addressing the importance of tomorrow nightís game. Plain and simple, a Hokie loss puts Miami with four conference wins and leaves Tech with only two at this late juncture in the season. A win gives the Hokies their first road Big East win and a better shot at making the trip to New York in early March.

The first question to Coach Stokes was how the team responded to the early morning practice before leaving for Miami. Coach stated that while he wouldnít like to do it every morning like Coach Chaney at Temple, the change was good. Stokes pointed out that the team was hungry, which was an interesting choice of words considering that the team was eating dinner at the time of the show.

The conversation then turned to the UConn. game. The contest was a loss, but the Hokies led the Huskies in the second half and the game was highlighted by a tremendous sledgehammer dunk by Freshman Bryant Matthews which has been highlighted on ESPNís SportsCenter. Coach Stokes said it was nice to have that clip air on ESPN although, "Öwe see that in practice everyday." Coach also had some interesting observations on how that game affected the psyche of the team. He stated that playing in that environment and leading a team like Connecticut was a great opportunity to grow up and learn. He also stated that seeing the National Championship banner (1999) hanging in the rafters during the shoot-around was helpful, pointing out thatís what they are working forÖthatís what they want hanging in the Cassell some day. Roth added that the UConn. series has the ingredients to develop into a good rivalry. Coach Stokes agreed but added that the key is to finally win one of those games.

Both Roth and Burnop asked Coach Stokes about Darius Rice, Miamiís stellar Freshman forward who scored 31 against the Hokies on Jan.10th, and the Hokiesí keys to sweeping the Canes. Stokes stated that Rice is a terrific player and the Hokies would have to do a better job on him this game vs. the game at Tech. He also stated that Rice is a great shooter and that they will have to put bodies on him. The team will have to keep turnovers to a minimum and make some shots. Roth asked Coach about the lack of a large crowd at the game (the Canes average about 2,000 per game in an arena that seats 15,000). Stokes added that even with 100 people in the stands, both teams know what this game means and expects them to "get after it."

Roth then asked Coach Stokes about who the freshman of the year in the Big East might be. Stokes surmised that there are a lot of good players in the league and that there is still half a season to go before anything is decided. He did point out that Hokie freshman Carlos Dixon (11.4 ppg/3.0 apg/3.7 rpg) is having a great rookie year. Coach also stated that all the freshman are playing well and that they will only get better.

This brought up an interesting observation by Roth. He pointed out that the whole unit, including the football players now playing basketball, have only been a whole unit for about a full month. The feeling is that with the heavy travel schedule almost over ("When they havenít been in class, theyíve been in airports." offered Burnop), more exposure to Big East play, and more time together as a concise unit will allow this team to continue to gel. Coach Stokes feels that this team is about to hit its stride. In other words, this teamís best basketball is ahead of it.

Gary the Callerís question was again posed to Coach Stokes. He stated that the team had to play well and observed, "Who wouldnít want to go play in the tourney in New York?" Roth went a little further in his example this time giving that "a team could have a losing conference record, an overall winning record, go to the NIT, but miss the conference championship."

The final call of the evening was from Jack in Bristol. Jack had several questions that started with the type of player the Hokies will be recruiting next year to mesh with the current bevy of young players. Coach Stokes stated that the league is so physical that they need some big guys to play well. I believe Coach also said they would look for more front court help.

Jack then asked the status of troubled player Dennis Mims. Coach Stokes was direct and brief in his answer. "He is suspended indefinitely and that is the way it is going to be."

Jackís third question had to do with the decision the Big East made when it came to making divisions and why they broke a natural rivalry and took WVU out of the Hokies' division. Coach Stokes observed that some rivalries stay in tact and some do not. He did think the four crossover games each season do allow for some good alternatives. He pointed to Notre Dame and Georgetown as examples and said he would welcome the same four inter-division games next season.

Jackís final question dealt with improvements to the Cassell. Coach Stokes said AD Jim Weaver has done a great job by installing the new video board, adding new speakers, improving concessions, painting the hardwood, and hanging Big East banners.

All three gentlemen chipped in and pointed out renovations that the fans donít see such as remodeling of the menís and womenís locker rooms are also complete or are in the works. The seats will also be redone after the final game next season. Earlier in the show, the topic was mentioned concerning the tough places to play in college basketball. Some of the schools mentioned were UConn., St. Johnís, and Villanova. However, all went so far as to say that the Cassell is the toughest place to play and commented that the forty-year-old Cassell is a great venue.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Next weekís Hotline will be back in Blacksburg at the Gobblertown Tavern. It is the yearly recruiting show, so be there if you can!
  • The men play at 7 PM Tuesday, and the women play at 7 PM on Wednesday. The men return to the Cassell on Saturday to take on BC at 2 PM. The ladies next game is Sunday at 2 PM and they host Pitt.
  • Signing day is upon us kidsÖhold your breathe!
  • Thanks to Apex Hokie, FE4Hokie, Atlee Hokie, and Will for their helpÖ

-- JKHokie

          

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