Kyle LaFerriere-US PRESSWIRE
From the awkward and messy firing of Seth Greenberg to the head-scratching hiring of James Johnson, Jim Weaver is at the center of the mess that has put the basketball program in a terrible strain.
Athletics director, Jim Weaver, summarily fired Seth Greenberg one month after the conclusion of the end of the 2011-12 basketball season, and long after the coaching carousel stopped spinning. Furthermore, as Seth Greenberg's boss, he embarrassed and threw Seth Greenberg under the bus during a press conference while Greenberg was actively showing a basketball prospect around the campus, who by a cruel twist of irony, left a program due to the coach being fired. When Weaver was asked if Greenberg knew he was being fired, he flat out said no. Weaver did not even have the guts to tell Greenberg to his face, in a Donald Trump voice, "YOU ARE FIRED!"
Fast forward one week later, he hired James Johnson, a former assistant coach under Greenberg who left for Clemson for the same position with a better pay. Think about that for a moment. That is spiteful. I don't care how Weaver tries to spin it now, with the one year anniversary approaching, and what Weaver did was cold.
I was not a fan of Seth Greenberg, but I respected him. Greenberg led the Hokies to victories over vaunted programs in North Carolina and Duke, several times, and at one point, upset heavily favored Duke in Blacksburg, prompting Dick Vitalie declaring that the Hokies were going dancing.
Greenberg's sideline antics and demeanor grated on many nerves. He was known to be abrasive and loved to thumb his nose at the press. His "Certifiably Insane" comment was believed to be the cause for the Selection Committee to pass over the Hokies, not once, but twice. Greenberg's offenses were boring to watch, but man, could the Hokies play defense. Greenberg was tough on his players.
One sticking issue with Greenberg was the annual pilgrimage of players transferring out of Blacksburg because they a) could no longer tolerate Greenberg, b) wanted more minutes, or c) were simply not good enough for Greenberg. Also, Greenberg experienced turnover among his assistant coaches. That was one reason Weaver cited as grounds, among others, for firing Greenberg.
That's fair. I get that. Constant staff turnover is a cause for concern. The problem was this: Greenberg's staff was among the most underpaid in the ACC. I believe Jim Weaver is not fully committed to investing into the basketball program as he is in the football program.
James Johnson was hired because Weaver did not have many candidates, in spite of rumors that Virginia Commonweath's coach, Shaka Smart, and Villanova's Jay Wright were on campus for interviews, and because Weaver was cheap.
I am not criticizing James Johnson for taking the head coaching job. Quite the contrary, he deserves ton of praise for handling the awkwardness of the transition with grace, for helping the basketball program to move along from Greenberg's era to now, and for coaching the talents he has on hand. I think he did a phenomenal job in spite of the circumstances that would have frustrated even the most talented coaches.
I think James Johnson deserves more time to recruit the players for his system. This year began with a surprising start to a disappointing finish, I am aware there are some more games to be played, but by all accounts, the season's largely done. Johnson is going to experience growing pains as this is first full-time gig as the head coach.
Jim Weaver may be an great family man. He may be loved among his peers and the athletic department family. Let's be brutally honest though; He is a lousy personnel guy. He single-handedly destroyed the women 'sbasketball program by "reassigning" Greenberg's Director of Basketball Operations, Dennis Wolff, to being the women's coach. He did not bother to conduct an exhaustive national search to replace the current University of Kansas basketball coach, Bonnie Henrickson. The hiring of Wolff was criticized as a lazy hire, and it was.
Weaver is a great facility guy. He helped Virginia Tech's admission into the ACC. He helped to raise the funds to expand Lane Stadium to accommodate the increasing demand for seats. He helped bring in the capital to have a new basketball facility. Weaver is working hard to have a football indoor practice facility before he leaves. He has kept the budget of the athletic department in the black, unlike a certain institution who are bolting for the "greener pastures."
However, this does not excuse his inability to lead a functional, well-oiled athletic department without causing controversy, especially as it is still in that state one year later. Weaver's health is not in the greatest shape. It is believed that he is not working as many hours as he used to. Weaver may have every intention to retire at the year 2015. But ultimately we don't know. I think he needs to retire now, not a moment too soon. He has done great things, facility wise, but I fear if he keeps it up, he may be remembered more for his bad personnel decisions over the years.