Thursday, March 31, 2016
A chat with Va. Tech's Kenny Brooks on his new start, his old roots, cost-of-attendance allowances and a whole new world
We talked with new Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks (it's going to take some time to get used to writing that) about his Hokie future and Dukes past.
Here's what the Dukes alum had to say about his new gig in Blacksburg that has us wishing the 2016-17 season would hurry up and get here!
A disdain for the word "mid-major," Brooks never used that term to describe his Dukes. But he admitted challenges are mounting for non-Power 5 programs: "I was blessed, keeping assistant coaches who were making probably half of what their counterparts are making in the BCS. My coaches are every bit as good as the Power 5."
On the cost-of-attendance allowances that allow athletes to receive the full cost of attendance when attending college. Cost of attendance is determined by financial aid officers at each school. For the 2015-16 school year at Virginia Tech, athletes received $3,280 in-state and $3,680 out-of-state paid twice a semester for on-campus students and three times a semester for off-campus students. JMU does not offer cost-of-attendance allowances.
"Madison not offering cost of attendance. That was a tremendous red flag for me. Without cost of attendance in the next few years, there's no way you're going to get the Jazmon Gwathmeys or the Precious Halls or the Angela Mickens' of the world to be able to come to a place like that because it's such an enticing factor. One of the first things recruits are asking is, 'Do you offer that cost-of-attendance thing?' Here in the next few years, there's going to be a divide between the haves and have nots."
On the pressures of being in a one-bid conference: "Last summer I sat in the coaches meetings in the CAA and I got a shock. Anucha Browne came to speak about scheduling and how to schedule up and things of that nature and she pulled up our resume and said, 'I was hoping and praying you guys were going to win because you probably would not have gotten to the NCAA tournament with a record of 29-3.' She said, 'You guys didn't beat any Top 25 teams.' We did. We beat UCLA, but when we beat them, we knocked them out of the Top 25. When she said that, I lost a lot of hope in what the NCAA considers mid majors. To go 29-4, some people think that's an easy year, that you don't have any stress. But it's more stress because every game matters. If you go to William and Mary and you lose there, if you play Hofstra and Hofstra is playing extremely well, that one game can erase so much good you've done. Then you have to win the tournament and we all know what can happen in the tournament."
While at JMU, Brooks often lamented the difficulty of attracting Power 5 schools to Harrisonburg. As Hokies coach now, he will be the one receiving calls from the non-Power 5 seeking a home-and-home with Virginia Tech: "My sense of responsibility is to my program. We won't dodge. We're going to try to put together a schedule that's conducive to us getting where we want to get to. We already have a daunting schedule. We want to challenge ourselves and get some good RPI games. There will be a little sentiment toward the mid major, but not at the expense of our program."
But don't rule out . . . "Maybe I'll go to JMU and open up that new building when it comes!"
Rooting interest in Final Four: "I want Syracuse to win because of my friendship with (coach) Q (Quentin Hillsman) and they're fellow ACC."
On his new beginning: "The welcome mat was unbelievable. The infusion of energy with my coming here was tremendous. I was with (my daughter) Gabby last night and she said, 'So Daddy, you've got Duke?' And I said, 'Yes.' And she said, 'And North Carolina?' And I said 'Yes.' And she says, 'Who else? Notre Dame?'
"That's what I've been looking for. When you've gone 60-3 the last three years in the CAA, you're always looking at it as a competitor and you want to challenge yourself. What better way to challenge yourself than to go to the best league in the country. I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot and be a different coach five years from now going against the Muffet McGraws. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope we can make some noise on the national scene."
Meant to be a Hokie: "The very first game I ever coached was here at Cassell. The very first practice I ever conducted was on the floor at Cassell. I remember those fans. I told them today I remember they were yelling at me. I watched what Bonnie Henrickson had here and I talked with Bonnie a few days ago. She was very excited about my coming here and the possibilities. This place, it's wonderful. Everyone says, 'You're going to love it here,' and I can see why. When I'm in town in Harrisonburg, there's JMU gear, UVA gear and Virginia Tech gear. In Blacksburg the only thing you see is Virginia Tech gear. It's a very loyal following and very supportive and the only team they support is Virginia Tech."
On his first meeting with the Hokies: "I'm going to go in with a clean slate. The ones who work hard, I'll welcome. The ones who don't want to work hard, it's probably not the place for them. I met with them today. I told them when a new coach comes in, there's this misnomer that there's a difference between his kids and the previous staff's kids. I told them they're all my kids."
On telling his JMU team he was leaving: "It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. From the outside looking in, yes, we lost Jazmon Gwathmey, Muff Mickens, Ashley Perez, so they might think this was a really good time. But what people don't realize was this was the most cohesive group I've ever had. This group overachieved because they believed in each other.
"When I went in to tell them, I'm looking into eyes of kids who did everything I asked them to do. They were stunned. They shed a tear. And they all got up, one by one, and walked out. None of them said anything to me. I was taken aback because I didn't know what they were thinking. It really hurt because these are my girls. One by one, they all texted me and said, 'Coach, we love you. We understand. You deserve this opportunity.' Each and every one of them told me I deserved this opportunity. When they told me that, it broke me down. They assured me they were hurt, but they understood."
Always a Duke: "It wasn't just my job; it's my school. I'm going to root for JMU and all things JMU just like anyone else in the Duke club, anyone else who is singing the "Start Wearing Purple Song." That stuff is ingrained in me. You can't just wipe it away because you change your address. I never would want to. I'll always root for JMU. Ten years from now, I won't know the kids personally and I'll still root for JMU. Hopefully they won't get upset if they see me on campus at a football game. I hope they understand I am an alum, and I will continue to bleed purple because of all my experiences there."