After 21 years sitting on the Wofford bench, Mike Young has finally made the NCAA Tournament. But don't expect the bright lights to change him.
He's still the same wisecracking, snappy-dressing, fiercely loyal gym rat who came to the tiny campus in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1989. He has spent almost half his life building to a couple of hours on Friday, when the 13th-seeded Terriers make their NCAA Tournament debut against No. 4 seed Wisconsin in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Make the big time where you are. This is as big as it gets for me. This is home," Young said.
In a profession where coaching resumes go for pages, Young's résumé is short -- especially for a coach who has been a part of 11 losing seasons in his 22 years in Division I basketball. He spent two years as an assistant at Division III Emory & Henry College, one year as an assistant at Radford and 21 years as an assistant and head coach at Wofford.
But the Terriers are loyal. Football coach Mike Ayers has been there for 22 years. And when basketball coach Richard Johnson, who shepherded the team through its transition from Division II to Division I, decided to step aside in 2001 to become the school's athletic director, the search for his replacement was as simple as looking left down the bench at Young.
It hasn't been all "peaches and balloons," to use one of the coach's favorite phrases. Even with this year's 26-8 record, Young still has lost more games than he has won as head coach. But he had faith that his plan was going to work.
"You wake up one day and you've hit on a bunch of great people that are really good players. And lo and behold, we're going to Jacksonville to play in the greatest tournament on earth," Young said.
Young stresses his guys at Wofford are students first, then athletes, and he backs it up. Young's graduation rate at the liberal arts school with 1,500 students is perfect.
"Every one of these guys is going to graduate. They're going to go on as doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers," Young said.
Young is about the fine details too. Just look at how he dresses. Even after his team nearly blew an 18 point lead in the SoCon final, Young's sleeves were neatly rolled up just below his elbow and his tie was in a perfect knot as he cut down the nets last week.
Before then, perhaps Young's favorite title was winning the "Fashionable 4" in 2001 as coaches voted him the best-dressed assistant in the country.