No one was playing a trick on Mike London.
Friday night’s game between Virginia and William and Mary was scheduled long before the announcement last November that London had been named the Tribe’s new head coach.
Of course, London previously had served as the Cavaliers’ head coach for six seasons, 2010-15, and before that had served as the Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator.
“This isn’t the first time,” said London, who coached at Virginia under Al Groh, was subsequently hired as the head coach at Richmond, and then took the head-coaching job at UVa.
There was a one-year stint as the assistant head coach at Maryland before he spent two seasons as the head coach at Howard in Washington, D.C.
“We had the biggest upset in college history,” said London, whose 2017 team scored a 43-40 road victory over a Nevada-Las Vegas squad that was favored by 45 points.
All the recent moves haven’t left much time to check out his old surroundings in Charlottesville. Or, have they?
“There’s still a daughter who’s going to school there for her last year [of high school] at St. Anne’s-Belfield,” said London, who is building a home in Williamsburg, close to where he grew up and where his parents still live.
Richard Burney, a fifth-year defensive end who has battled injuries throughout his career, played on London’s last UVa team in 2015. So did reserve cornerback Myles Robinson.
London, who was 27-46 during his six seasons, was not retained following the 2015 season. He was replaced by Bronco Mendenhall from Brigham Young.
After two lackluster seasons, Mendenhall’s 2018 team shut out South Carolina in the Belk Bow, 28-0, and finished 8-5.
“Coach Mendenhall has done a great job there, assembling his talent and staff, and doing it his way,” London said. “My hat goes off to him.”
Two of Virginia’s most prominent players, linebacker Jordan Mack and cornerback Bryce Hall, had committed to the London staff during the summer of 2015. Wide receiver Joe Reed had committed in 2014.
“I’ve seen him, met him, talked to him at the coaches’ convention,” London said. “When I hired [ex-UVa quarterback] Matt Johns, I spoke to him about Matt. Our conversations have been light, professional and complimentary. I have no issues with Coach Mendenhall.”
Former Virginia assistant Vince Brown is William and Mary’s defensive coordinator. Former UVa players on the staff include Johns, Darryl Blackstock, Ras-I Dowling, Keenan Carter, Gordie Sammis, Muffin Curry and Josh Zidenberg.
“It’s been really fun to watch their development,” London said. “It reminds me of when I first got to Virginia and coach [Al] Groh had [assistants] Al Golden and Danny Rocco, as well as Bill Musgrave and Bill Lazor.”
London, whose brother had played at Virginia, left UVa with no apparent bitterness.
“If the opportunity at Virginia hadn’t existed, who knows if the whole bone-marrow transplant situation would have occurred with my daughter,” said London, who was a donor in 2003 for his daughter, Ticynn, who was four at the time.
“You can’t write a better script for what’s happened over the years. I’ve still got great relationships with the Chris Longs of the world and the Chris Cantys, people that I talk to all the time. As a man, as far as character and integrity, I hope that I did a good job.”
In 2011, London was named ACC coach of the year. Only one other former UVa coach, the late George Welsh, has won it more than once.
“Obviously, you’ve got to put wins on the board and that’s the way that goes,” said London.
Highlights included road victories over Miami and Florida State over a three-week span in 2011.
“I’m not ashamed of anything,” London said. “I hope I had an impact in the community and with the young men who played there. Now, I can jump in the car and have lunch with my Pops. He’s having health issues right now.