Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver officially announced the hiring of Dennis Wolff as the new women’s basketball coach Thursday afternoon. Wolff, who has never coached women at the collegiate level, becomes the sixth coach in program history after signing a six-year contract that runs through the 2016-17 season.
The deal includes a base salary of $233,486, a yearly retention incentive worth $133,000 to be paid out in three installments, a $10,000 bonus from Virginia Tech’s contract with Nike, a dealer car provided by the school and membership at a Blacksburg country club.
Wolff led Boston University to three NCAA tournament appearances and a 247-197 record during 15 years as the men’s head coach, but faces a considerable rebuilding project here at Virginia Tech. The Hokies went 11-19 this past season, including 1-13 during ACC play. They had a conference record of 9-47 over the past four years under former coach Beth Dunkenberger, who resigned last week
“This is probably as signnifcant a challenge as I’ve undertaken as a college coach,” Wolff admitted Tuesday.
I was en route to New Orleans as part of The Post’s NCAA tournament coverage during Wolff’s introductory news conference, but Virginia Tech’s official athletic website streamed the whole thing so I’m able to provide you with the details of what went into the decision:
Following a year off after his firing from Boston U. in 2009, Wolff spent the past season as the director of basketball operations for the Virginia Tech men’s program, and on Tuesday both he and Weaver equated the job to a “year-long interview.” Weaver said he first broached the idea of moving to the women’s side of things to Wolff a month ago, in anticipation that the decision would be a difficult one.
But the fact that Wolff had experience dealing with recruits at the highest levels of women’s basketball — his daughter, Nicole, was the McDonald’s high school national player of the year in 2002 and played under Geno Auriemma at Connecticut — convinced Weaver that the transition wouldn’t be as difficult as it appeared on the surface. Last Thursday, Wolff met with Weaver to officially express his interest in the opening.
“I saw a very poised individual 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 who I felt like would be an excellent addition to our athletic department,” said Weaver, who added he knew for much of this season that he was likely going to pursue a new women’s coach and had “lots of candidates” for the job. “I think he has a great knowledge of the game, and I think the fact that he coached his son at [Boston], that he coached up his daughter to the point that she was the best player in the land eight, nine years ago, lends itself favorably. … People who know him, know he’s a tireless worker.”
Wolff acknowledged he never considered coaching women until Weaver came to him with the idea, and that he will have to change his coaching approach slightly. He joked Wednesday that, “There’s a lot of hugging in women’s basketball. ... I don’t know if Malcolm [Delaney] ever wanted me to hug him this year.”
Wolff said that while he eventually wants to compete for an ACC title, his immediate goals are to get the program among the top four or five in the conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2006.
The coach spoke with his new team Tuesday before the news conference, and conceded he had only seen one of their games this year due to the conflicting travel schedule of the men’s team. Wolff said he has yet to decide who will be on his coaching staff, but didn’t rule out keeping some of Dunkenberger’s former assistants.
But even though he’s never coached a women’s game in his career and is now one of just two men coaching women in the ACC, Wolff already believes this latest opportunity could be a refreshing one.
“In the right situation, [women] can be a lot more coachable,” said Wolff, who has also served as an men’s assistant at Wake Forest and Virginia. “I think that some of the things that we’re all aware that plague the men’s side of it, I don’t think have creeped into the women’s side of it to that degree.”