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'Family' reunion when Virginia Tech hosts Radford on Monday

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It’s time for a “family” get-together.

Mike Young will be coaching one team and his proteges Darris and Shane Nichols will be coaching the other when the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team hosts New River Valley neighbor Radford at 7 p.m. Monday.

Darris Nichols, who is Radford’s rookie head coach, once served as one of Young’s assistant coaches at Wofford. Shane Nichols, who is Darris’ older brother and assistant, both played for and coached under Young at Wofford.

“[Young] is a guy I respect in the business, a guy that I worked for and learned a lot from,” Darris Nichols, 35, said Sunday in a phone interview. “He’s helped me throughout my coaching career, … a guy that you can always lean on.

“He’s family to me.”

All three men are Radford High School graduates.

Shane Nichols said Monday’s game “should be fun.”

“He’s a mentor,” Shane Nichols, 37, said of Young. “I’m really grateful to him.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

Young, 58, is friends with the Nichols brothers’ parents. So he has known the Nichols brothers since they were kids.

“They’re both exceptional,” Young said of the brothers. “It’ll be good to have them over.

“Great family and great people and really good basketball coaches. It’ll be fun to see them.”

After playing for Radford High School and West Virginia, Darris Nichols played professionally overseas.

He then spent a year as a WVU graduate assistant and two years as an assistant at Northern Kentucky before being hired by Young at Wofford.

“A guy that wasn’t born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. He went step by step,” Young said. ‘He’s paid his dues.

“He’ll do a great job. He’s really, really good.”

Wofford won 20 games and the 2014 Southern Conference tournament in Darris Nichols’ lone year on the staff. The Terriers lost to Michigan in the NCAAs.

“He taught me a lot about the game of basketball,” Darris Nichols said of Young. “That was a special year.”

Darris Nichols left Wofford to work for Mike White, first at Louisiana Tech and then at Florida.

Young and Darris Nichols were supposed to have been on opposing benches for the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March. But Darris, then a Florida assistant, tested positive for COVID-19 when the Gators arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Southeastern Conference tournament. So he was still quarantining in his Nashville hotel room when the Gators beat Tech in the NCAAs in Indianapolis.

“I felt like I had a really bad flu,” Nichols said of his COVID-19 experience.

Young attended Darris Nichols’ introductory press conference at Radford University in April.

“Happy that Darris has his first crack at being a head coach. Won’t be his last job,” Young said Friday.

Shane Nichols, 37, played for Radford High School and spent a postgraduate year at a prep school before beginning his college playing career at St. Peter’s. He transferred to Wofford in 2004, after his freshman year, to play for Young.

After playing professionally in Israel and working as a Radford High assistant, Shane began his college coaching career under Young as a Wofford assistant. He was on Young’s staff for two seasons, helping Wofford make the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

“He helped me get my start,” Shane Nichols said of Young. “He helped me along the way with other job opportunities.”

Shane then served as an assistant at Niagara, Hofstra and Murray State before joining his brother’s Radford staff.

“Shane’s going to be a head coach soon,” Young said.

The Nichols brothers are certainly familiar with Cassell Coliseum. When they were Radford High School players, they attended team basketball camps at Cassell with their Bobcats teammates every summer.

They also used to play in pickup games at Cassell.

“Between Radford and Virginia Tech, me and my brother were always going around trying to find the best pickup games around,” Darris Nichols said.

Radford is off to a 1-1 start, including a win over Emory & Henry and a 73-52 loss at Virginia

“We’ve got to limit teams to one shot. We didn’t do a good job of that against UVa,” Darris Nichols said. “We’ve got to do a better job on the defensive glass.”

The Hokies (2-0) are coming off a road win over Navy.

“They move the ball and they can shoot the ball,” Darris Nichols said. “Communication [on defense] is going to be huge.”

Shane Nichols said some of Young’s offensive sets are the same as when he played for Young.

And how are Young’s players compared to when Shane played for Young?

“He’s got a little bit better ones now,” Shane Nichols said with a laugh.


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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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