Just talked to William Fleming and VMI graduate Ramon Williams, one of the new assistants at Virginia Tech. Here is the story:
For Ramon Williams, joining the Virginia Tech staff was a “no-brainer.”
The William Fleming and VMI graduate returned to Southwest Virginia this week as an assistant men’s basketball coach for the Hokies.
“I’m really excited — glad to be back in familiar territory,” Williams said Friday, one day after Tech announced his hiring. “Any time you can get back toward your roots or close to home, it’s a special time.
“My family’s excited.”
Williams’ wife is from Lexington. His mother still lives in Roanoke, as do two of his brothers, including his twin, Damon, who played with him at Fleming and VMI. His late father used to coach at schools in Montgomery County.
Williams, 44, has coached in the Midwest the past seven years.
“The chance to come back to Virginia, to the East Coast, was certainly very, very appealing — and the ACC,” he said. “It was a no-brainer for me to make that move.”
He was an assistant coach at VMI and Richmond before leaving the state in 2005 to join the DePaul staff when his boss, Jerry Wainwright, left the Spiders to take over at the Big East school in Chicago.
Williams spent the past three seasons as an Ohio University assistant coach, helping the Bobcats reach the round of 32 in the 2010 NCAA tournament and the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament.
Coach John Groce left Ohio University in late March to take the Illinois job. He brought Williams with him, but not as one of his three assistant coaches. Williams was given an office job as “assistant to the head coach,” a position that would have involved scouting and breaking down game tape but not coaching in practices or recruiting off campus.
So Tech is his third school in as many months.
“This business can be crazy some times,” he said with a laugh.
He was one of three assistants hired by new Hokies coach James Johnson, who got to know Williams on the recruiting trail over the years.
Johnson and Williams once squared off on the court. When Johnson was a Ferrum player, the Panthers played a preseason exhibition against a team of former college standouts that included Williams.
“I remember going against James,” said Williams, a former All-Southern Conference pick who is in VMI’s hall of fame. “He was a good defender, I’ll tell you that. I think I still had about 35 points on him — I’m just kidding.”
Williams scored 1,630 points in his VMI career — 1,238 more than Johnson did at Ferrum.
“I was a defensive stopper, so I probably would’ve been able to shut him down,” Johnsons said with a laugh.
Williams will recruit Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., for Tech. He recruited the region during his nine years on the VMI staff and his three years at Richmond, as well as during his time in the Midwest.
“I’ve always recruited back this way,” he said. “I’ve always kept some ties back this way and tried to expand our recruiting base even at Ohio, at Illinois, at DePaul.”
Williams said that as a VMI assistant, he recruited standout Jason Conley to the Keydets. Conley led Division I in scoring in the 2001-02 season as a VMI freshman. He later transferred to Missouri.
As a Richmond assistant, said Williams, he recruited A.D. Vassallo for the Spiders. Vassallo signed with Richmond but was not admitted to the school. He wound up becoming a Hokies star.
Williams’ first coaching job was as a part-time assistant, along with his twin, to Charlie Morgan at Salem High School for a season. One of the team’s players that year was Mark Byington, another one of the new Tech assistants.
Byington, 36 and Williams both played AAU basketball in Roanoke for Joe Gaither, although they were never teammates.
“When [the twins] were finishing college, they used to come back and play against our AAU team and I used to struggle, trying to guard them,” Byington said.