BLACKSBURG — Mike Young is the new men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech, but he is hardly a newcomer to the New River Valley.
Young grew up in Radford, where his love of sports and his desire to be a coach sprouted.
“I can’t imagine a more idyllic place for a young person to grow up than this area, in Radford,” Young, 56, said in a recent interview in his office. “What an opportunity, what a blessing that was to grow up in that town. It was remarkable.”
His father, Bob Young, was a high school coach. So was his uncle, Norman Lineburg.
Young decided to become a coach, too.
“It’s the family business,” he said.
In April, Young stepped down as the coach at Wofford to take the reins of the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.
“Being back in the NRV is great,” Young said. “I love the area. I love the people here.”
He last coached in the NRV 30 years ago, when he was a Radford University assistant.
“It is wonderful to have him back after 30 years,” his mother, Nancy Miano, said. “We had our first Mother’s Day dinner this year … in I think in 25 years. I can’t tell you how happy that made me.”
Young’s first season at Virginia Tech will begin Tuesday at Clemson.
His parents plan to be regulars at Cassell Coliseum this season.
“I can see all of his games, and I don’t have to drive so far to see him,” Young’s father, Bob Young, said.
Mike Young — whose parents divorced when he was an adult — grew up across the street from a park which had a playground, a basketball court and a ballfield.
He didn’t always have to cross the street.
“I can remember all the guys coming to the driveway after school each day, and we’d have a big game out there,” his mother said. “He was so into sports.”
Young attended an all-sports camp at Virginia Tech. He also attended the basketball camps of the late North Carolina coach Dean Smith.
Young’s mother was a secretary at an elementary school.
His father was an assistant football coach at Dublin High School for 10 years and also had a stint there as the head baseball coach. Bob Young later served 20 years as the principal at Dalton Intermediate School in Radford.
Bob Young’s sister, Joann, an ex-physical education teacher, is married to Norman Lineburg, the legendary former football coach at Radford High School.
“Everybody was involved in education in some way,” Mike Young said. “It’s all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be a fireman. I never wanted to be the president. I wanted to coach.
“I can remember the locker room and the feel of Friday nights when my dad was coaching and then being around my uncle so much when he was at Radford for so many years. There’s nothing like that locker room after a big win.”
Lineburg won 315 games as Radford High School’s football coach.
“With my Uncle Norman, you walk into that home every week and there he’d sit in front of the old VHS tape and that thing running back and forth, back and forth,” Young said. “While I probably should have thought that was boring as heck, it was something that was really neat to me.
“The film study, game preparation, practice preparation, I probably took more from my uncle than I did anybody in that regard. It is an all-consuming proposition. In some strange way, that always appealed to me.”
The Youngs and Lineburgs lived just a few blocks from each other.
“It was like one big family,” Young said.
Young and his younger brother, David (who now lives in Botetourt County) spent a lot of time with their cousins. Robert Lineburg is now the athletic director at Radford University, while Wayne Lineburg is an assistant football coach at Wake Forest. Mark Lineburg is the superintendent of schools in Halifax County. Paul Lineburg is the principal at Northside Middle School.
“We all just kind of grew up together. We had some great times,” Robert Lineburg said. “On Christmas Eve, we would all get together and talk basketball or football. … We saw the sun come up on Christmas morning because we’d been sitting in the basement, … just talking about sports.”
Robert Lineburg said Mike Young, who was five years older than him, was like a big brother to him. The two played pickup basketball and football games with each other. They attended Baltimore Orioles games and Bruce Springsteen concerts.
Robert Lineburg is not surprised his cousin became a college basketball coach.
“He was driven early on,” Robert Lineburg said.
Young was a point guard for the Radford High School boys basketball team. He pitched for the school’s baseball team.
“He was never a star, but he was always a good teammate,” his father said.
‘A little far-fetched’
After graduating from high school, Young played basketball the following season for Fork Union Military Academy.
“I don’t think he was ready for college yet at that time. He needed to grow up a little,” his father said.
Young then played basketball for the late Bob Johnson at NCAA Division III member Emory & Henry.
“I loved him like a dad,” Young said.
Young graduated from Emory & Henry in 1986.
“A friend of mine who was superintendent of schools in Giles County offered him a job as the head basketball coach, and I thought he ought to do that,” his father said. “I remember him telling me, ‘Dad, I don’t want to coach in high school. I want to coach in college.’
“At the time, I thought that was a little far-fetched. I thought he should’ve coached high school.”
Young stayed at Emory & Henry for two seasons as Johnson’s assistant coach. He then spent a season as Oliver Purnell’s graduate assistant at Radford University before becoming an assistant at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1989.
Young was a Wofford assistant when he began dating his future wife, Margaret, who was then a Wofford senior in the physical education class that Young was teaching.
“Coaches aren’t supposed to date students, so for about a semester nobody really knew,” she once told the Roanoke Times.
The two married in 1994.
Young spent 13 seasons as a Wofford assistant before being promoted to head coach in 2002.
In his fourth game as the Terriers’ head coach, he steered Wofford to a win at Virginia Tech.
Young’s wife is a partner in the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has a Spartanburg branch.
“One of the reasons I couldn’t just [leave Wofford and] go anywhere is she needed to be close to a … city,” Young said. “[But] they have an office in Greensboro; that’s the closest office to us [in Blacksburg]. She does a lot of work in Charlotte.”
‘Tickled to death’
Young steered Wofford to 299 wins in 17 seasons as the head coach of the Southern Conference school.
“Like his dad and like my grandmother — they were teachers — if you go watch a practice, he is a great teacher,” Robert Lineburg said.
Wofford swept the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles last season, finishing No. 19 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. Wofford advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time this decade and beat Seton Hall in the first round. He was named the national coach of the year by The Sporting News.
Virginia Tech hired him in April to succeed Buzz Williams.
“If you’re a high-character person and do things the right way, good things will come. Sometimes, it takes more time,” said Dan Earl, the coach of Southern Conference member VMI. “He’s a high-character individual, but he’s also a hell of a basketball coach.”
Young used to attend Tech games at Cassell Coliseum with his father in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“He loved going to Tech,” his father said.
Young will now be coaching at Cassell Coliseum.
“I can still see … where I would sit with Dad, watching the Hokies play,” he said.
“I’m sure that [coaching] … an ACC-type school is something he’s dreamed of every day in his life,” Robert Lineburg said.
Young and his wife have two children. Their daughter, Cooper, is a Sewanee student studying abroad in Austria. Their son, Davis, is a golfer on the Blacksburg High School team.
Young has been busy since getting the Tech job, with recruiting often requiring him to hit the road.
“I have seen him less since he’s been at Tech than when he was in South Carolina,” his father said. “He came by here last Sunday, stayed about an hour. That’s about the longest I’ve seen him.”
His parents will see him on Friday when Young coaches in Virginia Tech’s home opener.
“To have this opportunity at this stage of my career and to do it here until I walk into the sunset is awesome,” he said. “I’m tickled to death.”