Hokies hire James Johnson, first thoughts

This past Tuesday, Virginia Tech fired head basketball coach Seth Greenberg in an abrupt and blunt press conference. Of the many reasons Athletic Director Jim Weaver mentioned for giving Greenberg the boot one was the high rate of assistant turnover in the basketball program: all three of Greenberg’s assistants had left following the 2011-12 season, […]

This past Tuesday, Virginia Tech fired head basketball coach Seth Greenberg in an abrupt and blunt press conference. Of the many reasons Athletic Director Jim Weaver mentioned for giving Greenberg the boot one was the high rate of assistant turnover in the basketball program: all three of Greenberg’s assistants had left following the 2011-12 season, including star recruiter James Johnson. Johnson left Tech to join the Clemson staff even after he was offered identical compensation to stay in Blacksburg.

Today, although no official announcement has been made (look for that tonight), ESPN is reporting that the next Virginia Tech basketball coach will be the very same James Johnson.

Over the weekend the coaching rumor mill boiled through a giant list of names that ran the gamut from Jay Wright (Villanova) to Bruiser Flint (Drexel). Of all the realistic names none were particularly exciting (Bobby Lutz, NC State), and of all the exciting names none were particularly realistic (Shaka Smart). It seemed like the Hokies were destined to hire a middle-of-the-road coach, pay him a middle-of-the-road salary, and hope for transformative miracle.

Everyone in the country wants to hire the next Shaka Smart. Here’s a good way not to do that: hire a guy with a .500 record from a mid-major conference (Shaka’s record, by the way, stands at .757). Hiring James Johnson is a risk. He has zero head-coaching experience (neither did Coach Smart). But at the same time, while he hasn’t proven he can win at a major program, he hasn’t proven he’ll lose either.

So in that respect it’s an exciting hire for the Hokies.

One additional benefit of Johnson, is that out of all the names tossed in the hat for the job, he’s the one who’s got the best chance of holding together the current team and the current class of recruits. Maybe there is hope for next year, after all.

Exciting times Hokie fans, exciting times.

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Ross Catrow

Ross loves his family, Richmond, and beer (in that order). He is the master and commander of the good ship RVANews, and he watches a lot of movies.

3 comments on Hokies hire James Johnson, first thoughts

  1. Justin on said:

    I agree with everything Ross said. The only thing I would have liked to see would have been a new and coherent identity to the team’s philosophy. With an internal hire, that is less likely maybe. But obviously with Johnson now in charge, we very well may get that. Can’t wait to find out!

  2. RobinsonSt on said:

    When was the last time an ACC school hired a head coach without head coaching experience? If I was a hokie (I’m not), then I would be pretty scared about a blind hire of this magnitude. I know VT has also been trying to groom either Bud Foster or Shane Beamer for Frank’s post, but there’s a huge difference between being an assistant coach and being the main motivational force (head coach) on a team.

  3. @RobinsonSt I read a thing earlier that none of the current ACC head coaches were hired as first timers. I agree, it is a risk, but a smaller one since he is known quantity around the athletic department.

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