Buzz Williams leaving Marquette fallout; questions are plentiful

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buzz williams dance

“I don’t get it.” That’s been my baffled reaction since it was announced on Friday that Buzz Williams was leaving Marquette to become the head coach at Virginia Tech. So many questions and to this point outside of never-ending speculation on Twitter; so little answers.  This is just the tip of the iceberg for what is going to be a crazy off-season for Marquette.  Allow me to try and answer some of these burning questions.

Why now?
Clearly something happened behind the scenes that has not yet been made public and only time will tell if we ever know the true answer to this question. Buzz Williams was a guest on CBS’ NCAA Tournament coverage Saturday and dodged the first question about why he chose to leave Marquette. Instead he gave a canned response and then began commenting about his excitement for the new challenge that lies ahead. Is there an NCAA investigation of some sort coming out in the near future? Worth asking, right?

We do know that Marquette’s administration is undergoing a transition with a recent change in Athletic Director and University President. When former AD Larry Williams resigned in late 2013, it was seen as a positive for Buzz’s future at the school since there were rampant rumors that the two did not get along. What Larry Williams’ exit did allow is Buzz’s buyout of his contract to drop from $2 million to $100,000.

The new Big East likely played a role in the decision as well as the conference struggled this year and took a fairly decent step back from a national standpoint. That includes the Golden Eagles who were preseason favorites to win the league but finished 17-15 overall and didn’t even make the NIT after three straight trips to the Sweet 16. Difficulty from a recruiting standpoint could have factored into that as well, but I don’t see that being a real issue since Buzz was still landing solid recruits at Marquette. Now he has to try and out-recruit high-level ACC programs at VA Tech.

Why Virginia Tech?
It is certainly not because the Hokies have a good basketball program. Buzz’s name had been linked to numerous, more enticing head coaching vacancies the past few off-seasons; Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, SMU, Minnesota, even UCLA. His ties to his native state of Texas made every job in the Deep South a potential landing spot which makes his move to Virginia Tech shocking.

The ACC is now regarded as the premier conference in the country especially with Louisville joining the league next year. However, the Hokies are a bottom-feeder of the conference. They finished just 2-16 in the ACC this past season, have made the NCAA Tournament just once since 1997, and haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1967. Fellow ACC programs Boston College and Wake Forest are both looking for new coaches and each of those jobs would be considered better gigs than VA Tech.

He’s not getting paid more since his reportedly 7-year, $18 million deal is less than the $2.8 million he made this past year at Marquette. Money wasn’t the determining factor. Virginia Tech does have a new AD now and Buzz Williams is “his guy” so having that stability must have been more alluring than the uncertainty with Marquette’s administration.  The chance to get to re-build his own program is a challenge that Williams is already embracing.

What does this mean for Marquette’s reputation?
I think this is a temporary black eye for not only Marquette but also the Big East. Leaving a program that has two Sweet 16’s and one Elite 8 in the past four years for a program that has finished in last place in its conference each of the past three seasons? Ouch.

The Big East needs Marquette to be a factor on the national stage to help their status as a conference.

Who is the next head coach?
Plenty of names have been thrown around since the position became open. We already broke down some of the options in this post. Green Bay coach Brian Wardle makes a ton of sense since he was a former Marquette player and assistant. I tweeted Thursday that if Buzz ever left, Dayton’s Archie Miller would be a great hire and his stock is soaring through the roof now that the Flyers are heading to the Sweet 16.  Tulsa head coach Danny Manning would bring name value and an up-and-coming coaching prospect. Anyone hoping for VCU’s Shaka Smart or Gregg Marshall from Wichita State shouldn’t hold their breath.

In recent history though, Marquette hasn’t been worried about making a splash hire but rather finding the right person. Tom Crean was an assistant at Michigan State before coming to Marquette and Buzz was a little known assistant before taking over. With that being said, MU assistant coach Brad Autry could be a possibility since he seemingly would help keep some stability at the school.

What impact will this have on roster/recruits?
This is the biggest and most important question of all. Whoever is brought in as the new head coach will obviously have the largest impact on which players may leave or de-commit. You can definitely expect at least one player to transfer. Juan Anderson almost did last year and might want to head back West. Todd Mayo? Let’s just hope Duane Wilson and Deonte Burton want to keep playing close to home and remain Golden Eagles.

Marquette had three players signed for their 2014 class (top 100 recruits Ahmad Hill and Sandy Cohen, also Marial Shayok.) Cohen tweeted this Saturday night “I have been released of my NLI. My window for recruitment is wide open” but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted interim AD, Bill Cords saying Cohen has not been released from his scholarship… yet, so there is one guy possibly gone.

Satchel Pierce and Malek Harris are committed but have not yet signed. It wouldn’t shock me if at least one other guy chooses to re-open his recruitment.  Same with 2015 commit, Nick Noskowiak.  Also, does Buzz leaving kill any chance Marquette has of landing highly-coveted 2015 big man, Diamond Stone?

Whoever gets hired needs to be brought in sooner than later and re-recruit the incoming class of 2014 to convince them to remain future Golden Eagles while also making sure the current core doesn’t end up transferring elsewhere.  Now pardon me while I stalk twitter for any new rumors/reports… sigh.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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