The Virginia Tech Hokies made a curious hire Tuesday when they announced former head basketball coach James Johnson was returning to Blacksburg to serve as the director of high school relations for football.
Johnson replaced Seth Greenberg as Virginia Tech’s basketball coach in 2012 and served two seasons in the role before he was dismissed. Johnson was known for being a strong recruiter during his time in Blacksburg, and his recruiting was responsible for some of Buzz Williams’ early success with the Hokies.
Overall, Johnson spent seven seasons in Blacksburg, five as an assistant before Jim Weaver hired him to replace Greenberg.
Since Johnson left the Hokies, he spent two seasons on Jim Larranaga’s staff at Miami before spending the last five seasons at N.C. State.
Head football coach Brent Pry outlined Johnson’s role:
We are super excited to bring J.J. back to Blacksburg. As we have gotten to know each other, I couldn’t be more impressed by his infectious personality, ability to connect with student-athletes and mature approach to college athletics. His knowledge of Virginia Tech combined with nearly three decades successfully recruiting Virginia, the Carolinas, D.C., Maryland & Pennsylvania will be invaluable in his new role. We can’t wait for him to get started & begin making an impact in our program.
Smart move. This is what successful programs do. When you lack the resources of schools like Alabama and Clemson, sometimes you have to think outside the box. That’s what Pry did here. And even coaches like Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney think outside the box in looking for an advantage.
Pry, and the Hokies are counting on Johnson’s deep recruiting ties — and relationships — in the region to help the football program. It’s a smart gamble. And Johnson’s arrival doesn’t impact Glenwood Ferebee.
Johnson will work alongside Glenwood Ferebee in the role, Pry said.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) May 9, 2023
"Those guys are another layer to the hype that the assistant coaches and the area coaches do. So you’ve got a third layer to build relationships with the kid and the family, which is awesome." #Hokies
Ferebee is also a critical part of Pry’s off-field staff.
Athletic director Whit Babcock also commented on Johnson’s return:
J.J. has been in Blacksburg for a large part of his career and is connected to our staff. He loves Virginia Tech and will be a great ambassador for our university. His relationships in our footprint and his rapport with Hokie Nation are what have led us to this opportunity. His vital connections with high schools will help us to attract the very best to play for the Hokies.
I like this move for Pry and the Hokies. It may end up being an excellent move. Maybe it doesn’t pan out, but what does it cost you to try?
Welcome home, Coach Johnson.