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Williams leaves Marquette to coach Virginia Tech

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Williams leaves Marquette to coach Virginia Tech
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Marquette head coach Buzz Williams in action during an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Buzz Williams is headed to Virginia Tech after six mostly successful seasons coaching at Marquette.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock announced Williams' hiring Friday night in a statement. Williams will be formally introduced at a news conference Monday in Blacksburg.

''Buzz is a proven winner who has earned his way up through the ranks with a strong track record of success,'' Babcock said. ''I am confident he will energize our fan base and help make Virginia Tech basketball competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.''

Babcock, who became athletic director Feb. 17, moved swiftly to find a replacement for James Johnson. Johnson was fired Monday after two seasons, including a 9-22 record and a last-place finish in the competitive ACC. It was the team's third straight last-place finish.

Williams was 139-69 at Marquette, though his tenure there ended on a disappointing note. A team picked to win the reconfigured Big East in the preseason finished 17-15 and 9-9 in conference for sixth in the league.

The Golden Eagles' eight-year run of NCAA tournament appearances was snapped.

''It's never easy to leave a great school like Marquette, where I spent seven wonderful years, six as the head coach,'' Williams said in the Virginia Tech statement. ''I've heard tremendous things about this terrific institution and this is an outstanding opportunity to build a program.''

Williams' name frequently popped up each offseason in recent years in the coaching search rumor mill. By Friday night, his Twitter account boasted a maroon Virginia Tech background and a picture of the Hokies' home court.

The departure comes a year after Williams led Marquette to the NCAA regional.

''Crazy news ... but good luck to Coach Williams. The madness of (March) continues,'' senior guard Jake Thomas posted on Twitter account.

Now Marquette is without a head coach at a time when the second and third rounds of the NCAAs are being played in the school's home arena. To make matters worse, in-state rival Wisconsin is the main draw at the Bradley Center.

''During his six-year tenure, he helped elevate the program to one of the most successful in the Big East Conference,'' said Marquette interim vice president and athletic director Bill Cords. ''We wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.''

Cords said the school has already started a search for Williams' replacement.

Marquette prides itself on a basketball tradition that includes the 1977 NCAA championship. The team, then coached by Al McGuire, beat North Carolina 67-59.

Dwyane Wade, Doc Rivers, and Maurice Lucas are among the school's most prominent NBA alumni.

But the coaching search muddies an already uncertain period at the private university. Besides having an interim athletic director, the school has also been operating with an interim president after Father Scott Pilarz resigned in September after two years.

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Follow Genaro Armas at https://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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