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Monday, March 10, 2003
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com

Jim Weaver, Bonnie Henrickson, and Frank Beamer were Monday night's guests on the Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Show. The main topic of conversation was the firing of men's basketball coach Ricky Stokes, which had taken place earlier that day. Weaver took up the first hour of the show, Henrickson had a very brief phone appearance, and Beamer occupied the last hour of air time.

Jim Weaver's Segment

Roth asked Weaver to comment on the firing of Stokes, and Weaver said:

"Personally, I am very fond of Ricky Stokes and the Stokes family. I have a great deal of respect for how they conduct themselves personally and professionally. From that perspective, It's the most difficult transition I've had in 36 years of college athletics.

"I've had two very lengthy conversations with our senior administrative staff over the last six weeks, and I mean great lengths, not just short meetings, but two, two and a half, and three hours, trying to get all the input I can get from our people who are on the inside and know the daily process.

"It became crystal clear to me that we had three options left in recruiting, and recruiting is the lifeblood of the program, make no mistake about that. We had an option to give Ricky Stokes a multi-year extension, and that would have put us in good standing with regards to recruiting, and people recruiting against us with regards to the amount of time on his contract. But I couldnít in good faith and in good conscience award a multi-year contract, because I didnít think the program had earned that.

"The second option was to give them a one-year extension. So if Ricky goes out next summer and next fall in the last year of his contract and only has one more year, then all the schools recruiting against us are going to be saying, you know, you only have a guarantee that coach Stokes is going to be the coach for one more year. So that works against us.

"The third option was to allow things to continue status quo, and that would be turning your back on the issue at hand. I have a responsibility to the university to deal with issues as they confront us, and so when I got that clarification in my mind, I knew what had to be done. It's certainly not pleasant, and I give Coach Stokes credit. In my opinion, we have better talent than we've had in the six years I've been at Virginia Tech, and that goes to Ricky Stokes and his staff, and we'll credit them there.

"That's the essence of the decision."

Roth asked what factors about the program had bothered Weaver. Weaver answered that whenever you do an evaluation of a program, you look at the recruiting, administrative, organizational, coaching, public relations, and academic skills of the program. He said that VT was very inconsistent across the board this season. They won four of their last seven games last year, returned four starters, had good summer workouts, did good academic work over the summer, and had high aspirations, particularly for the non-conference schedule. Weaver thought VT would do very well in the non-conference games in particular, and then win 4-6 BE games, but they didn't do that. And, Weaver added, "That inconsistency has got to be the responsibility of the coaching staff."

Stokes' four-year non-conference record was 27-24. Roth asked if that was a main reason for Stokes' firing. Weaver answered that one of the major factors was the inconsistency "this year," and he again referred to the very good offseason and the solid recruiting class coming in, and the expectations he had for the program as a result of that. He said he expected better consistency from a program/coaching staff in its fourth year. He said that had the team gone 8-2 or 9-1 in the early non-conference part of the schedule, they might have gone to the NIT, but they didn't. "We had trouble playing for 40 minutes, had trouble playing smart each week, and that's the responsibility of the coaching staff."

Roth said he was curious why Weaver came to the conclusion to fire Stokes the day of the Villanova game on March 1st, a big win for Tech (88-63). Weaver said it had nothing to do with the win, but everything to do with his assessment of the program after long discussions and much talking and thinking. He again pointed to recruiting being a liability as Stokes' contract wound down and he (Weaver) couldn't grant a long-term extension.

Roth asked, "If Tech had made the Big East tournament, it would have only delayed the inevitable?" Weaver answered, "Correct," and said that a trip to the BE tourney would not have changed things, particularly with regards to recruiting.

Roth asked for details on how Weaver handled the firing. Weaver said he met with Stokes at 1:30 in the afternoon, then met with his staff at 3:30, the team at 4:30, and then the press conference at 4:30.

Weaver said that Stokes was very professional, and that he thought Stokes had an inkling of what was coming. He called Stokes the consummate professional, said that he would get another shot somewhere else, and wished Stokes and his family well. Weaver reiterated that it was a sad day for him personally, but that he felt he had to execute the responsibilities "of the chair I'm sitting in."

Roth asked Weaver what the reaction of the team was to the news. Weaver said he told the team that he was going to try to get a quality coach and quality person, and continue to build the program, but he didn't really answer the question of the players' reactions.

Roth asked for a blueprint for VT's next coach. Weaver said that he would like another "good person like Ricky Stokes," and that VT would try to get someone with head coaching experience. When Stokes was hired, Weaver said he felt Stokes was the right man for the job, particularly because he was responsible for recruiting a lot of good players to Wake Forest. Weaver said he figured at the time that VT was going into the Big East, and he felt Stokes could bring the right players into the program to compete.

Weaver said he spoke at the time (four years ago) with Terry Holland, Mike Tranghese, Rick Barnes (the Texas head coach, where Stokes was an assistant), and he said they agreed with his assessment of the situation and of Ricky.

Roth asked if it was difficult to fire Stokes, since Stokes had been Weaver's first hire of a major coach. Weaver said it was hard because of the personal aspect of things. He complimented Stokes and his staff as quality people who fit in well in the VT athletic department, and for that reason, it was difficult on a personal level. But, he noted, he had to separate the personal aspects from his professional responsibilities. When it became clear what the issue was -- recruiting -- "it had to happen."

Dave in Roanoke called in and thanked Stokes for his class and professionalism and asked what attributes in a new coach are most important to Weaver. Weaver said he wanted someone to represent VT in the manner they have become accustomed to under Stokes. He wants a good bench coach who can recruit strongly, has had some head coaching experience, and cares about the players he is coaching, in all aspects, academically and personally.

Roth noted a column by Roanoke Times reporter Randy King, in which King made the statement that the Big East had committed to VT by letting them in, but had VT made the proper financial commitment to its men's basketball program in return? Roth asked what VT would be willing to pay for a new coach. Weaver said he would not disclose that, because it might vary depending upon the prospect. He said VT's new coach would not be the highest-paid, nor the lowest-paid coach in the Big East. He noted that VT's financial situation is very different (read: better) now than it was back in 1999. Attendance was a factor in Bobby Hussey's firing in 1999, but not an issue in Stokes' firing.

Bill in Roanoke called in and said he was a huge Tech basketball fan, bigger than football. He noted that Weaver had created a Director of Football Operations (John Ballein) position shortly after he started at VT, and Bill asked if a similar position would be created for basketball. Weaver noted that there are five people on the basketball staff for 13 players, and he thinks VT has ample personnel to do the job.

Roth asked Weaver what realistic expectations are for the team. Weaver responded that VT wants every one of their teams to be in the top five in the Big East. From there, any given team can work its way towards a BE championship and a national championship.

Roth cited the ongoing scandals at Georgia, St. Bonaventure, and Fresno State, saying that many schools were turning the sport into a mess. Weaver said (1) it wasn't worth it; (2) it won't be done at VT; and (3) you don't have to do it (to win).

Demetrius in Kilmarnick called in and asked a two-part question: (1) given Stokes' professionalism, is it possible he could get another job in the VT athletic department; and (2) if he goes for a head coaching job elsewhere, what kind of reference will Weaver give?

Weaver said he would be honest and forthright in helping Stokes and his staff. He said he would tell any future Stokes employers of the situation that he, Weaver, was in as an AD with regards to not being able to give Stokes a long-term contract extension in good faith, but that by not granting an extension, recruiting would be compromised. He said that's why the decision was made.

With regards to a position in the VT athletic department, Weaver said he and Stokes did not talk about it, but that he, Weaver, would be willing to talk about it. He feels that Stokes would rather coach, though, and finding a position for him in the athletic department that was commensurate with his coaching salary would be difficult to impossible.

Weaver said he would like to have a replacement for Stokes in a couple of weeks.

Bob in Roanoke called and noted that it was rare for a school to have high success in both football and basketball, and asked why that was. Weaver disagreed with the premise and noted Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, UCLA, and Tennessee as schools that have been able to do both. Weaver said that VT has never had great, consistent basketball tradition, and that's what they're trying to build. He noted that Bonnie Henrickson has elevated the women's program to six 20-win seasons in a row, and he wants to be able to do that kind of thing in men's basketball.

Charles in Roanoke called and asked if VT would do a "Pete Gillen-type" long-term deal. He also asked if Weaver was considering Hokie alums as possible coaches. Weaver said he did not want to throw names out and conduct the search in the media, and he also said that he would not grant a long contract to someone who had not proven themselves at VT.

Roth asked Weaver what he had learned from having gone through this process before. Weaver said that procedurally or "process-wise," he had not had a problem with how he had done it the last time, so he would have to think before answering the question. Roth asked if VT was an entry-level job, and Weaver flatly said, "No, it's not."

Cindy in Charlottesville called and talked about how VT had shown patience with Frank Beamer in giving him many years to build the football program, and she hoped that VT would show that same patience to the new coach in letting him build a basketball program. She also wondered if the success of the football team was putting pressure on basketball to be successful. Weaver said that the patience shown to Beamer had not gone unnoticed in his consideration of what to do about Stokes, and he had studied the situation.

He said that football and basketball programs were very different in recruiting. Football recruits redshirt and get acclimated slowly, whereas basketball recruiting is very different philosophically. He noted the maximum of 5 basketball recruits allowed in one year and 8 recruits in two years rule as an example (not sure how that relates). He said that therefore the two situations were different, and you couldn't really apply what had been done with regards to Beamer to the Stokes situation.

Mike in Richmond called and asked about the profile of the new coach, and what would attract a new coach to VT. Weaver said that academics, the Big East, and VT's "college community" would be attractive. He reiterated that he wanted a good person, a good recruiter, a good representative of the university, and someone concerned with academics. He said, in short, that he wanted a "Bonnie Henrickson for the men's side."

Weaver said there will not be a search committee, and that he will work with the school president in making the new hire. He said that he will likely talk to Terry Holland and Mike Tranghese again, but he refused to name anyone else that he would talk to. Weaver has told the media not to call him and ask questions, that he will inform them when he has made a hire.

Roth closed out Weaver's segment by complimenting Ricky Stokes and thanking him publicly, saying to Weaver, "No offense, but I would rather have him here talking about getting ready to make a trip to the Big East Tournament." Weaver agreed.

Frank Beamer's Segment

Roth and Beamer talked about Kevin Jones changing his number from 7 to 25, and Roth asked why he did it. Beamer said that KJ wore it in high school and wanted to get back to it. Roth asked, "Who's going to wear #7?" Beamer said, "I don't know." Roth asked, "Marcus?" and Beamer said, "I donít know. You'd have to ask [equipment manager] Lester Karlin about that one."

Six a.m. winter workouts have started. Beamer said it's mentally and physically tough, and that kids who get through it can feel good about themselves. He said it creates togetherness. Veterans know what it's about, but it's a "shock" to the newcomers.

There are six 6 a.m. workouts, Monday-Wednesday-Friday for the next two weeks, and then spring practice starts on the following Saturday (March 22nd).

Chuck in Blacksburg called and jokingly asked if there was any way a student could get a walk-on position. "I've been playing racquetball and drinking less beer," Chuck said. After a few yuks and some Keith Short references, Beamer said that walk-on tryouts are held at the beginning of every semester. Roth then said he thought that "Chuck" was Keith short calling in and joking around.

Barek in Blacksburg was next, and he asked about uniform changes. The team will have maroon pants available next year, but other than that, Beamer knows of no changes. Beamer doesn't know how the maroon pants are going to be utilized, saying that they'll figure that out later. He doesn't think the white pants will be totally phased out (no mention of home or road use for the maroon pants).

Beamer said there will be good competition for nearly every spot on the team, not just this spring, but in the fall, as well. He said that makes everyone improve, which is a key in absorbing injuries, an area in which the team was weak last year.

Position changes: James Anderson has moved to Whip linebacker. He played DE in high school, and Beamer feels that "having everything to one side" is a plus for him. He's very athletic and smart, and trying to react in both directions from his middle linebacker spot decreased his efficiency.

DeAngelo Hall will be tried at wide receiver in an ongoing effort to find more receiving threats other than Ernest Wilford. His first priority is still defense, but he will start out the spring working full-time at wide receiver. He needs to know the whole offense in order to be an effective WR, Beamer noted.

DL's moving to OL: Jason Murphy, Andrew Fleck, and Brandon Frye. Beamer thinks Murphy is the one who has the best chance to be a good OL.

Cedric Humes will work at both fullback and tailback, and this spring will be big for him.

Roth said that VT is in the top 10 in some of the preseason polls for next year. Beamer said that Miami and Pitt will probably be picked ahead of VT next fall. He is pleased that VT is rated highly, but there's a danger in believing the rankings and taking it easy.

Brandon in Blacksburg was up next, and he asked about Justin Hamilton. Beamer hopes to play him a lot, and he said that the spring is important for him. He said Hamilton is tall, fast, smart, and he looked good in the first 6 a.m. workout. He has good running skills with the ball, Beamer noted.

In response to a question from Roth, Beamer said that UNC transfer defensive tackle Isaac Montgomery is working hard at both football and academics, and he could turn out to be a solid player for Tech. The Hokies recruited Isaac out of high school, but he was set on going to UNC, but it just didn't work out for him there, and the Hokies were glad to get another shot at him.

Roth asked where the true freshmen will fit in next fall. Beamer said Adibi and Hall will definitely be linebackers, and Mike Brown will most likely be a defensive end. He noted that WR Josh Hyman has received praise from guys who played against him and with him in high school. Beamer noted that Keith Burnell "is back" and spoke highly of Hyman, whom he played against in high school.

The QB position came up, and Beamer didn't really say anything about it. It will be a great competition, etc. He said, "I'll tell you what, Bryan Randall is doing everything right right now."

Tech Notes

The Tech women's basketball team, playing their third game in three days, had UConn down 7 in the first half Monday and were down by 2 at half time in eventually losing 71-54. The Hokies finished 21-9, and their first and second round victories over WVU and BC have ensured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament -- barring something criminal by the selection committee -- with the hopes for a seed in the 5 through 7 range.

Next Monday is the last Hokie Hotline show of the academic year.

Monday was Day 1,246 of Tech's continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup. As always, you can grab your Commonwealth Cup T-shirt (shown at right -- click the picture to order yours for $16.95).

- Will

          

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