Following the departure of former head coach Buzz Williams to Texas A&M, the Virginia Tech basketball program is searching for a new coach. Williams elevated the men’s basketball program and led the team to the NCAA Tournament three times.
The top rumored candidates to replace Williams are Mick Cronin of Cincinnati and Steve Wojciechowski of Marquette. According to Jon Rothstein on Twitter, Willard is the top candidate, while athletic director Whit Babcock has a list of other potential candidates already in mind.
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Another rumored top target to replace Williams is Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. The 47-year old has had his name thrown around in this year’s coaching carousel, with UCLA being a potential landing spot.
Cronin was formerly the head coach of Murray State from 2003 to 2006, before taking over at Cincinnati and coaching there ever since. The Cincinnati Bearcats experienced three straight 20-win seasons with NCAA Tournament appearances from 2010 to 2013.
When Cincinnati changed conferences to the American Conference, Cronin and the Bearcats elevated their win totals and postseason success. The Bearcats have made the tournament in all six seasons in the American Conference and have won the regular season conference title twice.
The consistency of Cronin’s resume makes him a top candidate for schools focused on continued success in the NCAA Tournament. Cronin’s Bearcats have made the tournament for the last nine seasons, a trend that Hokie fans have recently gotten accustomed to in the Williams era.
Cronin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has little to no ACC connections, making him a tougher hire for Virginia Tech. Cronin makes $2.22 million per year at Cincinnati, which would make him a reasonable hire for Babcock.
Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
The Hokies would be going full circle if they chose to hire Steve Wojciechowski of Marquette, the successor of Williams after he left for Virginia Tech. Wojciechowski is a 42-year-old who has led the Marquette Golden Eagles for the last five seasons.
In his only head coaching position, Wojciechowski led the Golden Eagles to two tournament appearances and maintains a record of 97–69. The Severna Park, Maryland, native was an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke from 1999 to 2014.
One major factor that could draw Wojciechowski to take the head coaching job at Virginia Tech is his ACC connection. Wojciechowski was a role player at Duke from 1994 to 1998 and immediately became an assistant coach after concluding his playing career. The former Blue Devil could be tempted by a return to the ACC as well as the potential to go against his old head coach and mentor, Krzyzewski.
Wojciechowski is young and considered to be rising in the NCAA coaching ranks. If Babcock and Virginia Tech hire Wojciechowski, the potential of him leaping to a bigger program at the end of his contract in Blacksburg would be a looming possibility. That being said, Wojciechowski is an intelligent coaching mind who could maintain the successful standard established by Williams at Virginia Tech.
Dark Horses to replace Williams: Gregg Marshall, Johnny Dawkins and Bobby Hurley
While the three rumored coaching candidates seem to be the most likely hires in Blacksburg this offseason, several surprising coaches could take the job.
Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall was raised in Roanoke, Virginia, and was considered for the job before the hiring of Williams in 2014. Marshall has coached the Shockers since 2007 and led the team to seven NCAA Tournament appearances. A leap from the American Conference to the ACC would be a tempting switch, but it would be tough to lure him from a program Marshall has been with for over a decade.
Johnny Dawkins led UCF to its first NCAA Tournament victory in program history this season, defeating VCU 73–58. Dawkins and the Knights were a tip-in away from upsetting his alma mater Duke and advancing to the Sweet 16 this year. Dawkins is 67–34 in three seasons at UCF and has consistently led the Knights to the top half of the American Conference standings. A former Duke player and assistant coach, Dawkins could be interested in jumping up to the ACC.
Another head coach with ACC connections is Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. The former Duke star has coached the Sun Devils since 2015 and has led the team to two straight NCAA Tournaments. The New Jersey native was present at the Virginia Tech vs. Washington game in the Atlantic City Tournament this past season. Whether Hurley was scouting potential new teams or just watching hoops in his home state is only speculation. Regardless, Hurley seems destined to make it back to the ACC at some point in his career, so Virginia Tech could be a realistic landing spot.
The immediate top priority of whoever Virginia Tech hires will be convincing 2019 recruits and current players to stick with the program. The Hokies have four recruits coming in next season and will likely build around Kerry Blackshear Jr., Wabissa Bede and Landers Nolley II.