Farmville is a small town in central Virginia that has a reputation for huge furniture warehouses that can be customized to suit any style preference.

It’s not known for being a NCAA Tournament town.

Both of these things are true this week.

Longwood University is home to Griff Aldrich (a former lawyer and CEO) and Rebecca Tillett (both hired the same day 4 years ago). The Lancers women’s and men’s teams are in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in each program’s history.

The fascinating story of Aldrich’s trip to Farmville is fascinating.

Six years ago, former partner of a Houston law firm became CEO of a private investment company he established. He left that position to pursue his long-held dream and coach college basketball.

“I believe it’s more than the game. In a recent interview, Aldrich, 47, a devout Christian, stated that he believes we felt called to do it. “And there’s also a spiritual component because I remember when I was working in the private sector, it was all about promotion and climbing.

Vinson & Elkins’s peers were not surprised by his decision.

Stephen Gill, V&E colleague, said that it was one of those situations where everyone said “Oh yeah, the writing is on the wall.” He noted that Aldrich was very good at handling “sharks” in his role as a lawyer but clearly loved basketball. We didn’t see it, because we thought about it in terms monetary and whatnot.

“It was his passion to coach and to work with young children.

Longwood’s women’s team made history by winning the Big South Tournament title just hours after the men.

Tillett stated that her team was determined to match the men’s achievements by saying, “So as they’re rising, you know. “And so, I think there was some competitiveness for our ladies, like we want be at the same level as they are achieving.”

Farmville was big on March 6.

It was so large that, despite it being spring break on campus on March 7, around 200 people gathered to welcome them back to town.

Mayor David Whitus, an Longwood alumnus and season ticket holder for both programs, organized the greeting with a police, fire, and rescue vehicle escorting with sirens blasting. Players from both teams jumped on the buses to celebrate with their fans as they turned onto campus.

Whitus said, “Allowing people to touch players and players was magic.” He estimates that the city has about 8,000 people. “The community is absolutely delighted.”

Both Lancers teams will make it official by making their tourney debuts Thursday.

Longwood (26-6), which is a 14th seed will play third-seeded Tennessee (26-7), in the first round in Indianapolis’ men’s tournament. Mount St. Mary’s (16-12), the women’s team, will take on Longwood (21-11), a 14th seed. 16 seed at the inaugural women’s First Four held in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Longwood has a chance of securing its first NCAA Tournament victory. Although the men have a more difficult task ahead, Aldrich has witnessed firsthand how an underdog can succeed with a solid foundation.

He is a big fan of Aristotle. This explains why the wall outside the men’s locker room says, “You are what your repeatedly do.”

Excellence is not a status. Aldrich tells the players that excellence is a way of life. “We have a high accountability program, where we are always on them whether it is June 24th or March 3rd. “You are what you do repeatedly.”

Aldrich would be delighted to see Aldrich again as a giant slayer. He was part of the greatest upset in men’s tournament and history.

Aldrich was in his second season at UMBC when Aldrich’s Retrievers became No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 overall seed in men’s tournament. Virginia was knocked out 74-54.

After a 16-year absence from the sport, Aldrich joined Ryan Odom’s staff at UMBC in 2016. Aldrich was hired as the director of basketball operations, which paid $32,000 per year.

Aldrich arrived on the Lancers campus one year later. He was a former college basketball player who lived six miles from Longwood, Division III Hampden-Sydney, from 1992-96. Since then, the team has seen a steady rise.

Longwood isn’t able to offer the same opportunities that major college programs have. The 1,900-seat gym has pull-out bleachers and is used for practice and games. In 2023, a new arena with 3,000 seats is expected to open.

Aldrich, who founded a faith-based AAU program called HIS Hoops while he was working in Houston, still managed to recruit five players his first year. Aldrich, like many coaches, has also used the transfer portal in order to complete his roster.

Justin Hill, a sophomore hailing from Houston, attracted little attention after high school. Wilkins was a transfer to Virginia Tech-Wake Forest and became the Lancers first all-conference selections. Wilkins was also the Big South Conference Tournament MVP.

It will be difficult to knock off the skilled Volunteers even with Hill and Wilkins leading, but Aldrich has seen it firsthand.

Aldrich was probably reliving the conference tournament win at a midweek shoot session, as he spoke to his team.

“We have two options. We can choose to have fun or make a decision. Aldrich stated, “We made it to the dance, that’s awesome,” or we can be a team who says we can beat you.” “We will be dedicated to what we do, and we can win a few games.”

The Farmville mayor and his constituents dream of more basketball magic on the sport’s largest stage.

Whitus stated, “That’s been the talk of town.” “We hope they are the next Cinderella story.”