[Ed. Note: Bumped from FanPosts. Thanks to Charles for this FanPost, which is perhaps the best I've seen in my five seasons with the site. Bravo. Also, another thanks to him for all of his high-quality FanPosts he's made on a regular basis. As you'll see in the article below, there's hope for more!]
Jim Weaver's retirement date has been etched in Hokie Stone for some time now. The only problem is that it's too far off. His contract runs through December 31, 2015. For those doing the counting, that's still over 2 years from now.
For brevity's sake I will try to remain as objectively calm as possible here. The reason I am picking this moment to write this, is that today marked the beginning of the basketball season. And if you haven't see the horrifying result across the bottom of your TV or elsewhere, the Hokies were knocked off by USC-Upstate 64-63.
I'll allow that to sink in. Your first question might be what is a USC-Upstart? I honestly can't tell you, and I won't even begin to do the research. I do know that they play in the Atlantic Sun conference though, and that an Atlantic Sun team shouldn't be coming within a dozen points of an ACC school on even their best day.
For those who may be out of touch with the program, James Johnson took over in what amounted to a panicky shotgun wedding last year. This occurred when Weaver all of a sudden had a falling out with Seth Greenberg around the time of the 2012 NCAA title game. Greenberg had recently had two decently regarded assistants jump to lesser programs in what amounted to lateral moves for slight raises. Johnson was to follow suit, planning to move to Clemson for a slightly larger raise. To an avid follower of the program, this raised some eyebrows. What could have gone wrong between Seth and his staff? To me personally, I was a little bit upset that Seth had also volunteered to coach the US team at the Maccabi games in Israel over the summer. After several highly publicized failures at reaching the NCAA tournament, and having several assistants jump ship, I thought it an odd time to dedicate his energies to anything other than getting the program stabilized and on the right track.
Greenberg never even had the opportunity. He was summarily dismissed, presumably for fostering the unstable environment that caused the defections of his staff. For about 48 hours, there wasn't a basketball staff. Weaver had already sent a basketball administrator down the hall to take over the Women's program, instead of hiring from the outside; and we had zero men's basketball staff. That is until the hasty arrangement to bring back James Johnson from Clemson's clutches, once again at a less than competitive salary. Which means that both our Men's and Women's basketball coaches are being paid at cut-rate levels. Why this is, I'll never know. With the football money we generate should have been enough to go out and find suitable candidates for a high-profile, elite conference school. Nonetheless, it has been a recurring theme throughout my time following Weaver, that our assistants are consistently paid less than market value.
Weaver's general inattention to the basketball program has been a sticking point with me for years. I simply cannot accept the explanation that we are ONLY ever going to be a football school. The capacity is there for us to be successful in both programs, just as Florida and Texas were, and as Louisville is currently. Yet, he continues to short the salaries of the men expected to present the university as committed to the program, and it amounts to nothing but a charade.
Which brings us back to Johnson, and the hasty arrangement that we have set before us today. The trickle down effect of the late hiring of Johnson put us behind the 8-ball in multiple areas. We lost a top-15 (however debatable that ranking is) player in Dorian Finney-Smith, and a highly touted recruit in Montrezl Harrell who joined forces with Rick Pitino and played some big minutes during their national title run last Spring, two critical rotation players who would have made a tremendous difference during last year's disappointing campaign. We lost any momentum in recruiting due to the lack of stability in the program. We wound up fielding a team that had nine scholarship players instead of 12 or 13. The lack of depth hamstrung us from the start last year and we wound up having our worst season since 2006 (The Season of Cancer and Death, which saw eight different players deal with a serious personal health issue or one in their family). To it's macabre credit, that season did precede our only appearance in the NCAAs under Greenberg in 2007.
Greenberg wasn't perfect, but he did bring in highly-regarded players. The fact that he could never coach these players to a significant post-season berth, particularly with the Allen/Delaney group, is definitely a shortcoming that was his to bear alone. However, the timing of his exit was perplexing. Most ADs looking for a new job are at the Final Four site networking, as there are tons of out of work coaches there trying to latch on to their next job. Weaver should have made this move as soon as the Hokies season was done, and been at the Final Four proactively. He could have then made the wholesale change he was looking to make, and had his constituents at least reasonably excited about the fresh slate.
As it was, he brought Johnson back to interview, and Johnson realized how desperate the program was, and made sure he got a 5 year deal from an AD who wasn't going to be in position to see the end of the deal. Good on Johnson for that, I'd have likely done the same. If he was going to be dealing with a lame duck AD in a program at a school that is supposed to only care about football, at least he got the guarantee.
After last season, we lost more players to attrition. Robert Brown left, and though he isn't a tremendous loss by my standards, he was a veteran of the program. We also lost two incoming freshmen to academics. It is understandable in football that a few non-qualifiers might exist since there are a high volume of players per class, and it's difficult to keep up with them through all of their testing and scores. There are also remedies in football, since not all players are expected to play immediately and often redshirt due to strength/size/playbook issues. But in basketball, where many players would jump to the pros immediately in better programs, even our players expect to play as true freshmen. They cannot greyshirt, and in most cases are averse to redshirting. They need to play right away, and in order to do so they need to qualify. There are usually no more than five students to keep track of through this process. In other words, due diligence on our staff was not done, and we made risky offers that we didn't follow through to the end of the process. This is inexcusable, it leads to wasted years, something i'm sure Johnson is not happy with himself or his staff about. Nonetheless, Johnson and Weaver are the overseers and should be held accountable.
I had committed to the guys on this site that I would periodically write about the team since I am passionate about Hokie basketball. Due to whatever personal issues I have been having, and possibly no real motivation or "muse" to spark me, I have not had the time unfortunately until today. But the product on the floor today was the culmination of all the historical background I gave you here. The team we are putting on the floor is not worthy of the uniform they wear. I hate to be so blunt towards some kids that obviously put in the work, but it's true.
The schools we beat these kids out for are Ivy League schools, directional state schools as far away as Arizona, lower tier mid-majors. We aren't beating out our competition. We aren't getting the in-state kids, and from Greenberg's track record, I'm not sure he was ever interested. Due to our current status, it appeared that Johnson simply isn't capable of convincing them that Blacksburg is the place to be; from their standpoint I know I would be skeptical. We got a kid from a military base in Germany (who is one of the academic ineligibles) whose best showing in an AAU/Camp setting was 9.3 ppg. I don't know where we're looking, I don't know if our mentality is self-defeating, but I feel like we are picking the lowest-hanging fruit.
I may or may not yet write about what I saw today in the coming hours or days, part of me thinks about "throwing out the tape" and starting anew. But we once again only played nine guys, with two key rotation guys out for suspensions or personal reasons, so that meant playing two former walk-ons. And we once again spent all off-season talking about playing up-tempo ball, just like last season. I'm not sure why we persist in saying this, when our coach has a defensive background, and we don't have the horses to run or the shooters to shoot accurately enough to make a running style feasible. To put it simply, I'm not sold on James Johnson's ability to implement a system or handle a sideline.
When will things improve? They will improve when we have a new AD who handpicks his new coach. The looming retirement and lame duck status of the AD will no longer be an issue at that point. But as I stated in the first paragraph that is still a long time off. It is time to buyout our AD, put the coach on notice that we need to see some significant gains both on the floor and in the recruiting haul, and by season's end. If we don't see these things, we should buy out Johnson too. I'm a believer in a fair audition, and he may not have been given the fairest of shakes, but when it boils down he got the job under dubious circumstances, and should be prepared for whatever ending comes of this unholy arrangement. None of the progress can take place with Weaver still aboard though, it all starts there.