Buzz Williams UCLA Rumors: Will Hokies Coach Leave for Bruins?

Getty Head coach Buzz Williams of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts to a play against the Saint Louis Billikens.

Buzz Williams isn’t just one of the snappiest dressers in college basketball. He’s proven to be one the finest program-builders during his time resurrecting Virginia Tech.

He took over a Hokies team that finished 9-22 in 2015. After an 11-22 mark his first season, his team has eclipsed 20 victories ever since, including 3-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He now has the Hokies on the doorstep of their first Sweet 16 since 1967, only needing to beat longtime friend Ritchie McKay and the Liberty Flames (7:10 p.m. EST, TBS) in the second round.

The quick turnaround has some thinking he’s heading elsewhere after this season. One of the major openings is UCLA, who fired Steve Alford back on New Year’s Eve.

Williams has been a bit of a wanderer in his career, only spending a year running New Orleans before shipping up to Marquette as an assistant for the 2007-08 season. He took over for Tom Crean in 2008, and despite decent success, he took a lateral move to Blacksburg.

The idea that he’s itching for one of the more high-profile jobs in all of basketball is not far-fetched. Let’s look at the rumblings.

Buzz Williams to UCLA Rumors

Seth Davis of The Athletic threw the possibility out that Williams could be considered for the UCLA job, as well as openings at Texas A&M. However, he seemed to indicate that UCLA would rather go the NBA route, citing interest in former Suns coach Earl Watson, Lakers coach Luke Walton or former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

Hoiberg has been connected to the Nebraska job, even though Tim Miles has not been let go yet.

Ben Bolch of the LA Times didn’t even list Williams among a slew of candidates, though that hasn’t stemmed the rumors from percolating.

Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News tossed Williams’ name into the discussion.

If he can win in Blacksburg, he can win in Westwood.

Few have been better at finding talent where others weren’t looking. This is the guy who essentially discovered Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder, along with current Hokies star Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Jeff Goodman of Stadium said that while Williams isn’t the first choice, he’s an option if UCLA swings and misses on a guy such as Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Here’s what he wrote about both:

Chris Beard, Texas Tech – Terrific coach, but just don’t know if he and his style fit in Westwood. Far better suited for Lubbock, but Beard has done an incredible job.

Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech – See Chris Beard, but just replace Lubbock with Blacksburg.

Jon Rothstein thinks highly of Williams, and could see him as an underrated option to mold the immense talent that lurks in Westwood.

“Somebody else who has done an unbelievable job is Buzz Williams. He has taken one of the worst programs in the ACC in Virginia Tech and made it into a Top-10 team. He understood what it was like to coach at a basketball-rich program when he was at Marquette.”

The other plus with Williams? UCLA wouldn’t have to break the bank for him. He’s not at the level of a John Calipari or Tony Bennett in terms of salary, only reported to be making $3 million a year. This is outside the top-20 earners in college basketball.

He’s cheap, he’s a talent-developer and a program-builder. For a UCLA program in shambles after this season, he’d be a quality pickup. By taking Virginia Tech to the Sweet 16 (or beyond), expect his stock to increase in value.


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