Virginia Tech basketball coach News
Steve Thomas, 31, a former Washington Township High School basketball player, is preparing for his second season as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech. (Photo provided)
Little did he know at the time that his wild ride in college basketball was just getting started.
Since then he's worked in two of the best conferences in the country, been to a Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, developed a close bond with a Hall of Famer, and competed against the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.
And he's still only 31 years old.
"I'm just a Division III guy from Rowan trying to find my way, and I'm shaking hands with Roy Williams and Coach K, " said Thomas, a former Washington Township High School star guard who is preparing for his second season as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech. "Who would have thought?"
If Thomas sometimes can't believe that he's coaching in the ACC — where his rivals include storied programs like North Carolina and Duke — the way he got from South Jersey to the mountains of Virginia is a story in itself.
After graduating from Rowan in 2006, all Thomas knew was that he wanted to stay involved with basketball. So he took a job with U.S. Junior Nationals, helping organize grassroots basketball events all over the country.
During his five years there, Thomas became friends with George Raveling, Nike's Director of International Basketball, leading to a position with the sneaker company. He has remained close with Raveling, who played at Villanova, coached at USC and will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in September.MORE: Washington Township basketball news
"I'll be there (for Raveling's induction ceremony), " Thomas said. "That's my guy. He spoke at the church at my wedding. He's like a second dad to me."
Thomas eventually wound up in the Pac-12 at the University of Oregon, where he spent two years as a graduate assistant under head coach Dana Altman and earned a master's degree in educational leadership. He loved his time with the Ducks — and was part of the team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2013 — but longed to move closer to his family and friends in South Jersey.
When Buzz Williams left Marquette to become the head coach at Virginia Tech in 2014, Thomas saw his chance, even though he didn't really know Williams.
"We have a mutual friend in Coach Raveling, who kind of connected us, " Thomas said. "Once he went to Virginia Tech, I saw it as an opportunity to maybe get a job back East, closer to Jersey.