Point guard Erick Green and the rest of the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team were in the middle of a weightlifting session at the Hokies’ practice facility Monday afternoon when they were suddenly called into the film room for a meeting.
Minutes earlier, Coach Seth Greenberg had received word from Athletic Director Jim Weaver that his days at Virginia Tech were over. When he walked into the quiet film room to give his now-former players the news, Green said his now former coach kept it short. But as he spoke with reporters after Weaver’s news conference Monday afternoon, the Hokies’ point guard also described the scene as “one of those moments.”
Green and his teammates never saw this firing coming.
“He was a great guy,” Green said. “I think people thought we had conflicts. We had no conflicts at all. He was a great guy. It just [stinks] he has to go.”
Greenberg’s sudden departure Monday leaves Green and Co. in the awkward position of deciding whether or not to remain at Virginia Tech now that the coach who recruited them is gone.
After Greenberg met with the team, Weaver and associate athletic director Tom Gabbard held their own meeting in which Gabbard promised the group they would hire the “kind of coaching support that they’re certainly entitled to,” Gabbard said during Monday’s news conference announcing Greenberg’s firing.
The team’s leading scorer and captain, Green tried his best to take on a leadership role during this tumultuous time while also attempting to come to grips with his own situation. Green, a two-time All-Met from Paul VI, is a rising senior and understands he only has one more year to make his mark on the college game.
“I wish it didn’t have to end like this on my senior year,” Green said. “But for the guys, I don’t really know where their heads are at. Hopefully we can all stick together through all this and talk and hopefully no one leaves. I don’t think we have to start from scratch because I think the guys that we have know our chemistry and bond is real good right now and just hopefully no one takes that direction and leaves.”
The Hokies currently have eight players on scholarship and two recruits signed for next year. Gabbard said no players have asked for a release from their scholarship yet, but keeping the recruits — Hargrave Military Academy forward Montrezl Harrell, who was named MVP of the Capital Classic on Saturday after scoring a game-high 24 points, and forward Marshall Wood of Rustburg, Va. — may be tricky because the Hokies’ basketball program has no remaining staff members aside from strength and conditioning coach David Jackson.
Then again, keeping the current players on board isn’t a given. When asked if he was harboring any thoughts of leaving, Green’s tone changed a bit.
“Right now it’s my senior year and I’ve got to look out for my best interests and whatever’s best for me,” he said. “Coach Greenberg, if he would’ve stayed, I’m not going nowhere. I’m not gonna say I’m leaving. Not gonna say anything like that. I’m gonna give the new guy a chance and see who they’re hiring and see down and talk with them. If we fit, we fit.”
Green said he’d like a new coach that uses the guard-oriented system Greenberg employed, but seemed most adamant about playing at a fast tempo and not “no Princeton or laid-back offense.”
But even as he spoke about what could be in the future, it wasn’t long before Green reflected back on the coach who brought him to Blacksburg.
“Everybody saw the side of him where he was yelling and doing all those crazy things, but he’s really a good guy,” Green said of Greenberg. “He not only cared about us on the court, but off the court for our families and how we interacted with people and things like that. I’ve got nothing bad to say about him.”