Virginia Tech AD: Wolff 'the right person' to lead women's program

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Dennis Wolff wouldn't say that coaching women's basketball was the furthest thing from his mind when Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver approached him approximately five weeks ago, but the notion required much research and even more consideration.

Five weeks later, the two men sat at a table at the Schott Media Center as Wolff was introduced as the Hokies' new women's coach.

"It was never in my mind until Jim Weaver put it in my mind," Wolff said Tuesday afternoon following what he called a crazy week that still seemed to surprise him, even after agreements were official and paperwork signed.

Weaver called Wolff "the right person for this moment in time."

Wolff, 56, has spent his entire career coaching men, most recently for the past year as the profoundly overqualified Director of Basketball Operations for the Hokies' men's team. Before that, he was the head coach at Boston University, where he was fired in 2009 after 15 seasons.

After a year away from the game, he wanted back in, and Tech men's coach Seth Greenberg provided him an opportunity for which he is eternally thankful.

"I'm going to be grateful to him and his family for taking me in, giving me this chance to meet everyone here and to see what a special place Virginia Tech is," Wolff said.

Wolff said that the past year essentially provided a 12-month job interview and exposure to a school and athletic department about which he knew little before he arrived. Likewise, Weaver said that the past year allowed him to reach the point where he believed Wolff was an ideal candidate for the women's job were he interested.

"I saw a very poised individual," Weaver said, "who is dedicated to the game of basketball, who is a team player, understood the dynamic of the Virginia Tech athletic family and was a person that I felt like would be an excellent addition to our department."

Before Boston University, Wolff did stints as an assistant at Wake Forest, Southern Methodist and Virginia, the latter under Jeff Jones.

Though Wolff never has coached women, he is not unfamiliar with elite high school and college women's basketball. His daughter, Nicole, was a prep All-American and major recruit who attended Connecticut before a knee injury curtailed her career.

He said that he would draw upon the experience of watching her career unfold and the exposure he had to other top-level women's coaches and players.

"I am absolutely, 100-percent aware there will be some learning curves on some part of it," Wolff said. "One of the main reasons that Coach Weaver and I started talking about this is how I began to feel about Virginia Tech. There are so many people in this room that I consider friends.

"Across the board, my interaction … (with) everybody that came into the program, it really made me feel like this was a special place."

Weaver said that Wolff received a six-year contract with a base salary of $233,486 annually, along with a $132,000 retention incentive. He gets a country club membership, courtesy car and other stipends that are believed to push his total package in excess of $400,000 per year.

Wolff said that he's made no decisions yet about a staff. He met with the players before Tuesday's press conference. He said he thought that he was well received and he hoped that all of the underclassmen would remain with the team.

Wolff's move from coaching men to women is uncommon, but not unprecedented. Paul Westhead coached the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, as well as Loyola Marymount and George Mason men. He later coached the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and has coached the University of Oregon women the past two seasons.

West Virginia women's coach Mike Carey spent 13 years as men's coach at Division II Salem (W.Va.) College before taking over the Mountaineers. Southern Cal women's coach Michael Cooper coached in the NBA and the NBA's Developmental League, as well as with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Wolff called his new job "as significant a challenge" as he's undertaken in his career — not just because of the transition to coaching women, but because of where the Tech program currently sits. The Hokies were 11-19 and 1-13 in the ACC this season.

Over the past three years, the Hokies were 14 games under .500 overall and 7-35 in the ACC. But Wolff said the positives are a good school, top-shelf practice facilities, a passionate fan base and a marquee league in which to compete.

"Everything is in place here," he said, "for us to have a successful program."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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