Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dribbles and bits with Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff

As someone who covered Virginia Tech's football team for two years while living in the Hampton Roads area, I'm quite familiar with the challenges on that long ride from Blacksburg - the boredom, the poor scenery, the shaky cell phone connections. So we weren't surprised when we lost the cell signal twice in a five-minute span during a chat with new Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff as the Hokies bus made its way through Charlottesville on the eve of Friday's season opener at Old Dominion.

We eventually got much better reception. And thankfully, Wolff was equally receptive to a few questions:

When (Tech director of athletics) Jim Weaver approached you about taking over the women's program, you gave the idea a lot of thought. Since you've come aboard, has there been a moment, in practice, watching film etc., where you've gone, "boy, am I glad I took this job?"

I guess the way I would answer that is, there hasn't been a moment where I've regretted taking this job, where I've gone, "what have I gotten myself into," or "this isn't what I was expecting." Each day has been a full day where I've enjoyed coaching the kids, where it's been a lot of fun, but also very challenging.

We often hear people that move from coaching men to coaching women say, "basketball is basketball." Now that you're one of those people, is that what you say?

I think the easy answer is yes; I don't know if there's a dramatic difference. The meat and potatoes are the same. Now obviously there are differences in the makeup of men and women, and we've had some situations where, with the help of my coaching staff, we've worked through things differently than you would with a men's team. But all in all, the bulk of coaching a women's college basketball team is very similar, almost parallel, to what you would do with a men's team.

What's the biggest challenge facing this year's Hokies?

Lack of depth. We have nine scholarship players, and only three backcourt players that have played in a college basketball game. We'll be challenged to stay out of foul trouble and limit fatigue, and with that comes the challenge of finding ways to score.

What gives you the most optimism?

The willingness of the kids to embrace the new coaching staff, and their daily competitiveness.

What player(s) has been the star of the preseason?

Monet Tellier and Aerial Wilson have both been everything we might have hoped for, and then some. They've worked hard every day, looked good in our two scrimmages.... They've both carried themselves in an ACC manner.

Who are the leaders?

That's a hard question to answer, because this is the kind of group that's still looking for an identity, looking for leaders. So for now, a lot of that is going to have to come from the coaching staff.

Porschia Hadley missed most of last season with an ACL tear. How has she looked this preseason?

Porschia will start, and she's worked hard...and then Brittni Montgomery is also coming off a knee problem and she's been a little more in-and-out when it starts to swell. We have five post players for two spots and we'll be rotating them all so we're in pretty good shape there. It's in the backcourt where we're painfully thin.

What impression would you like Hokies fans to take away from Cassell Coliseum after watching this team play?

We talk about three things - play hard, play smart and play together. My hope is that people see all three, but I'm not naive enough to think you're going to get all three every night. I think if we get two of three, I'll walk away feeling pretty good win or lose.

Finally, you spent 15 years at Boston University, so you must have a pretty good feel for that area. So how do you explain the Red Sox collapse in September?

I'm a Yankee fan, so I'll explain it this way - if you're going to drink in the dugout, you don't deserve to win.

Click here to read the thoughts of Wolff's coaching adversary Friday night, Old Dominion's Karen Barefoot.

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