“Whatever’s in the bottle, when it’s tipped over, will come out,” Buzz Williams lectured his basketball pupils in 2010. “When it’s tipped over, whatever is in you will come out. That will be your character being revealed.”
One of the lasting phrases Buzz instilled into the Marquette lexicon during his tenure was that of character revealed. As explained above, it was the idea that times of difficulties reveal your true self.
So you can’t fault me for bursting with laughter reading Gary Parrish’s account of why Buzz left Marquette for Virginia Tech. When Buzz’ bottle was truly tipped over for the first time in Milwaukee after a disappointing season 2013-’14, we got to see what he was made of.
It wasn’t pretty.
Here are some of the offending passages:
He had made five NCAA Tournaments (in his first six seasons), advanced to the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight once before the age 40, and most young coaches would become intoxicated with that level of success. Not Williams, though. He instead identified it as the bar set, and then he assembled “facts and data” in an attempt to determine whether it was reasonable to expect to maintain that level of success in a less-attractive Big East while playing league games off of ESPN and on Fox Sports 1. He concluded that it probably wasn’t. And what would happen if he didn’t? Answer: Williams would fall out of favor with his own fans the same way Ben Howland once did at UCLA, the same way most coaches who stay too long at any basketball-centric school eventually do. Consequently, Williams determined it was wiser to jump while he was still ahead, and though his contract at Virginia Tech is technically for less money on a per-year basis, it’s a seven-year deal with an automatic rollover clause that will never allow it to be less than a five-year deal, meaning the security provided makes it a better deal for a man openly planning for the day he’s fired.
Beyond that, the bar he set at Marquette no longer exists.
He has a fresh contract and fans with fresh sets of expectations.
Sometimes the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker decide throwing a pitch becomes too hard, so they quit. At least, that’s what Parrish’s account would suggest. It was too hard to maintain success at Marquette.
But think about that again, Buzz Williams, the man so driven to attain success in his field that he swept floors for a year and took out a student loan to buy a suit, business cards and a ticket to the Final Four, threw in the towel at the first sign of trouble at a place where just three years ago he said he was “living the dream”. That goes completely against everything he’s preached the past six years.
““I think he’s big on competing and being the toughest player that you can possibly be,’’ Jimmy Butler told Bob Ryan in 2011. Toughness was the mantra of his highly successful squads, but I guess it’s easier to say it than to live it.
He was too successful for his own good? Ha.
And that’s without getting into the specifics of his accusations. The “facts” he came up with for his decision show that it would be tough to maintain success in the new Big East on FOX Sports 1. This is not a fact, just his opinion.
I put in requests to the Virginia Tech athletic office about speaking with Buzz regarding some of his concerns with FS1 in May. This was the response I got “He is focused on Virginia Tech right now and does not care to respond to any of those type of questions.”
Seeing as he spent at least 85 minutes with Gary Parrish talking about non-Virginia Tech stuff, I thought I’d ask again. This was the response: “I would not expect Coach would be willing to discuss things regarding your questions about FOX Sports.”
I get it, he has nothing to gain by answering a few questions to a Marquette-centric blog as opposed to getting a puff piece from a national writer, but I am legitimately curious as to what those qualms may be, and how VT was the answer.
I mean, the Hokies had 1 game on ESPN last year, and it wasn’t even a league game. Of their four nationally televised ACC games, one was on ESPN 2 and three were on ESPNU. Those four games averaged a whopping 178,000 viewers. By comparison, all of Marquette’s conference games were nationally televised, averaging 131,538 viewers on FS1 in those contests.
Again we see the mantra of Buzz giving up. It would be too tough to topple ESPN. Should FS1 just give up and turn into food channel instead? Expectations would be much lower, something Buzz seems to like.
But getting back to reality, this all seemed as one giant, half-thought out excuse. Why was Villanova able to succeed in the Big East, becoming a top-10 team and ultimately losing to the national champions in the Tourney? Is Jay Wright packing his bags, looking to land at a powerhouse like Clemson? If winning was so hard, wouldn’t a school like Providence be less likely to make the jump it did last year? Should John Thompson III just retire?
Buzz has no one to blame but himself for last season’s debacle. FS1 didn’t clog the lane for Davante Gardner. The Big East didn’t make Jamil Wilson regress. Syracuse didn’t leave Jajuan Johnson, Deonte Burton and John Dawson on the bench for large stretches of time during the non-conference season. The expectations were so high last year because the roster was laden with capable veterans and promising rookies. That it didn’t pan out is no fault of anyone but Buzz and his staff.
Buzz has never been one to shy away from criticism, but I have yet to hear him take any part of the blame for last season. Not to mention things had gotten so bad that Steve Taylor and Jajuan Johnson were ready to bolt, with Mayo going on the record that a change was needed. But yes, let’s blame FS1 for that as well.
One thing this article did answer is why he chose VT. He needed the lowest bar possible. He fears failure. He doesn’t want to HAVE to win. He’ll take all the plaudits for winning at a place where it wasn’t expected, but just don’t ask him to provide the goods on demand.
That;s a bit of a strange way to look at things if you’re a coach, but perfectly reasonable for a human being. Buzz, strange as he may be, is still human.
Here is what he told us when we talked to him last September:
“Momentum isn’t the hardest thing to get, but it’s the hardest thing to keep. You run all day long so you can be Keith Olbermann. Ok, when you become Keith Olbermann you’re going to do what? You see what happens is, what got you to Keith Olbermann will not get you to Larry King. It will get you to Keith Olbermann. That’s a long run. You understand how many habits and how many heartbreaks and how much excitement there is in that run. But then when you get here, you have to re-calibrate. Most of the time, people don’t know how to re-calibrate. So they run run run run run, here’s my goal. OK, now what? Most everyone fails then. When you get to that status and you want to get to here, you then realize the distance from here to here is much harder than from here to here. I think it’s that way in any walk. As a father as a husband, because things are ever changing. Your children are older, you have new kids to coach, you have a new boss, you’re not at Marquette anymore you’re at the Chicago Tribune. Whatever the next step is, you’re thankful and you’re proud of that, but I want the next one and the next one.”
Buzz completed some of his life goals at Marquette, but, according to what Parrish has relayed, wasn’t willing to put in the effort it took to get to the next step.
Character Rev… you know the rest.
Here are some random notes I had about the article:
- Parrish goes into some length about Buzz contract and how he crafted it himself, yet doesn’t give us any inkling at just how lopsided this contract is in Buzz’ favor. Strange, really, as he hammered UCLA for the contract it gave Alford just last year.
- So Buzz was playing shoiuld I stay or should I go since September 2013? Way to keep your eyes on the prize there coach.
- Parrish states Isaac Chew is an assistant with Virginia Tech, but I’ve sent seven emails to their SID and he still hasn’t confirmed that. It also isn’t on the website. In fact, VT is the only school to not have officially filled its coaching vacancies, which have been open for almost three months now. You may ask what my obsession with this may be, and you’d be right to think it’s not normal, but I’m waiting to pull a Buzz and file an FOIA on Chew’s contract to see the terms of the deal and how they compare to his terms at MU. So long as the hiring isn’t official, VT has no responsibility to abide by my FOIA request. The struggle is real.
- I like that Buzz mentioned the bottle tipping over metaphor to Parrish without once grasping a sense of the irony.
- “When Marquette fired one of Williams’ assistants, Scott Monarch, in 2012, Williams personally supplemented Monarch’s income until he landed a new job at North Texas that Williams helped him get.” No mention of why Monarch was fired from Mr. Parrish. That would change the subject considerably.
- This is a bit tangential, but I find it amusing that Mr. Relationships unfollowed all the current Marquette players except Juan Anderson. I confirmed with Duane Wilson, who noted that at one time he was being followed by Buzz, but is not any longer. Trivial? Undoubtedly. Telling? You bet.
- When you have a long interview and you paraphrase someone extensively instead of letting their words do the talking, that’s usually an indicator that a lot of what was said was off the record/vulgar.
.@AndreiGreska I found it interesting Buzz was never quoted when it came to reasons why he left MU. He was paraphrased every time.
— Paint Touches (@PaintTouches) June 19, 2014