Buzz Williams was gone. Marquette’s head coach was frustrated with the new league and changes in administration. He wanted a change of scenery.
The old Big East was all-powerful. It had guys like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino and virtually unlimited exposure that allowed Williams to win recruiting wars against fellow high-major programs.
Now, the league has taken more hits. It began with the departure of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC – and a revamped league that included seven holdovers in addition to Creighton, Xavier and Butler.
Doug McDermott carried the league this season, but his career is coming to an end, and now one of its other faces is gone -- to Virginia Tech.
Yes, Virginia Tech.
Marquette is still a quality job, but it’s not the same as it was a year or so ago. Those are just the facts. Williams was disenchanted.
There was always speculation that Williams would wind up going back closer to home -- somewhere in the Texas area. Maybe even replace Texas Longhorns coach Rick Barnes someday.
Instead, he has bolted for a bottom-tier spot in the ACC.
Williams is a home run for new Hokies athletic director Whit Babcock. No, he’s a grand slam. Babcock came from Cincinnati, and Williams is close to Bearcats coach Mick Cronin. That might have been the hook, but the key was exposure and support.
The administration has changed. Marquette will bring in a new president and athletic director at some point soon, and that’s rarely a positive sign for a standing head coach. Usually, the newcomers want "their" guys.
Williams now goes to work for "his guy" in the country's premier league. He’ll make the Hokies relevant -- even if it’ll be difficult to crack the top four of the league with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Louisville all in the ACC. Now Williams, who thrives on being counted out, gets to go up against Coach K, Roy and gets another shot at Boeheim and Pitino.
Unlike Marquette, Virginia Tech carries virtually no expectations. In nine seasons, Seth Greenberg took the Hokies to just one NCAA tournament. James Johnson was 22-41 in his two-year stint.
It’s going to take time, though. Johnson didn’t leave much in the cupboard. Think of this as a similar situation that Frank Martin faced when he left Kansas State for South Carolina. It could be a couple more seasons of battling for the cellar.
But Williams also saw the handwriting on the wall. He had raised the expectations: five consecutive NCAA tourney appearances, two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight. Marquette didn’t get in the postseason at all this season and the Golden Eagles will be worse off next season.
Now, Marquette is on the clock. The last go-around, the Golden Eagles pulled the shocker going with the anonymous Williams after Tom Crean left for Indiana.
I’ve been told that former UCLA coach Ben Howland will be in the mix. Syracuse coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins might be in play. Former Marquette player and assistant Brian Wardle, now at Green Bay, will be in the equation. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, according to sources, would likely have interest. Dayton’s Archie Miller could also be in the equation.
Marquette might not be quite as attractive as it once was, but it’s still a job that will attract plenty of quality candidates.