Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said one of the big reasons he fired former Coach Seth Greenberg last week had to do with his three assistants leaving Blacksburg for other jobs. On Monday, Weaver tapped one of them to be Greenberg’s successor.
Two weeks after leaving Blacksburg for a position at Clemson, former assistant James Johnson has been hired to be Virginia Tech’s next head men’s basketball coach, according to an athletic department source familiar with the situation.
Weaver said Monday afternoon that he could not confirm Johnson’s hiring because there is “one step left in my process.” He did, however, say he expected to hold a news conference Tuesday or Wednesday “at the latest.”
Neither Weaver nor associate athletic director Tom Gabbard immediately returned messages seeking comment on the situation. Johnson’s hiring was first reported by WSPA-TV in Spartansburg, S.C., and Clemson Coach Brad Brownell later confirmed to the Charleston Post and Courier that Johnson would be returning to Virginia Tech.
Johnson, 40, worked under Greenberg for five years and was elevated to associate head coach last offseason. But his departure was key in Weaver’s decision to end Greenberg’s nine-year run as head coach since Johnson had been Virginia Tech’s best recruiter in recent seasons.
Though Johnson received a 25 percent pay raise by moving to Clemson, Weaver said he told Johnson that he planned to match the Tigers’ offer of $190,000. Weaver revealed that Johnson said his decision was about more than money.
When news broke Monday morning, several Virginia Tech players had already begun celebrating the move on Twitter. Leading scorer Erick Green tweeted, “I’ll be back next year,” after telling reporters last Monday that he would wait until a new coach was hired to decide whether or not to transfer to another school for his senior season.
Freshman forward C.J. Barksdale, a player recruited by Johnson, congratulated Johnson and tweeted that “he deserved it.” Forward Cadarian Raines tweeted that he was “throwing a party” because of Johnson’s hiring.
Johnson could also help the Hokies keep their two 2012 commitments – Hargrave Military Academy’s Montrezl Harrell and forward Marshall Wood of Rustburg, Va. – since both have been exploring their options since Greenberg’s dismissal last week. Johnson was Wood’s primary recruiter.
Prior to coming to Virginia Tech in 2007, Johnson worked under Coach Jim Larranaga at George Mason when the Patriots made a run to the Final Four in 2006. He has also served as an assistant coach at Penn State, College of Charleston, Elon, Old Dominion and Longwood.
Johnson was also a three-year starter at Ferrum College and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2009.