After weeks of internal and external debate, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock made the first major decision of his tenure Monday releasing men's basketball coach James Johnson after two seasons in charge and five more as an assistant.
Johnson was notified Monday and Babcock held a press conference Tuesday morning to address the public on the matter, a stark contrast to the last basketball coaching change.
"I certainly want to thank coach Johnson and his staff for their hard work, dedication and effort on behalf of Virginia Tech," Babcock said.
"They handled themselves with class and helped develop our young men on many fronts. Coach Johnson is a good man and he did his job with integrity here for over seven years in two different roles."
Babcock went on to address why he ultimately made the decision.
"I didn't come into this job with making a change in mind and no one pressured me to do it...at the end of the day I made the decision for the primary reason that I didn't feel that our staff was ultimately one that could lead our program successfully for the long term and to get us to our goal of the NCAA Tournament."
"I hate to say it, but it came down to wins and losses."
The Hokies have made just eight NCAA Tournament appearances in the program's history and only twice made the field in the last 25 years. Babcock alluded several times to getting a coach who's a "fighter" and "scrapper" but also didn't rule out making a "splash" hire.
Given that the Final Four weekend is a hyper-accelerated recruiting ground for out-of-work/upwardly mobile coaches, the fact that Babcock mentions the search may run through that weekend comes as little surprise.
"We are prepared within reason to invest for a favorable return. Sometimes you have to spend to acquire talent in this profession and we're prepared to do so if it's the right person and the right fit. We won't spend frivolously, but we must be aggressive if this opportunity presents itself."
The search will begin immediately and has no defined timetable. Babcock concluded the question and answer session by admitting, "I do not have a candidate in my hip pocket."
This will be the last Babcock will comment on the opening until the press conference announcing the hire. He repeatedly preached patience to the Hokie fanbase, stating that his hire could come from two schools of thought.
- A big splash, big name hire. Though he cautioned that these are difficult to execute.
- Up and comers. He then listed several big names who started out as "up and comers", including Beamer.
He stated that he thought the ACC is the strongest conference, and that he needs someone prepared for the grind that comes along with such a job. One of the best quotes was, "As long as they're keeping score we might as well win."
As Hokie fans, a mentality like that is all we can ask.
Check back with us later today as we will have more on Johnson's exit, and later this week when we take an early look at the marketplace, and see if any candidates reveal themselves.
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