Just more than a week after two of his staff members left Virginia Tech for jobs at a Conference-USA school, Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg is now losing his top assistant to a conference rival.
Associate head coach James Johnson has accepted a position to become an assistant under Clemson Coach Brad Brownell, according to multiple athletic department sources familiar with Johnson’s plans who were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on Johnson’s behalf.
Johnson becomes the sixth assistant coach in four years to leave Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball program, and combined with former assistant Rob Ehsan’s decision to take a similar position at UAB, his departure means Greenberg will need to replace two assistants and a director of basketball operations this offseason.
But this latest departure could be the most damaging. Johnson was Greenberg’s longest-tenured assistant after joining the staff in 2007 to replace Greenberg’s brother, Brad, when he accepted the head coaching job at Radford. Johnson had previously worked under Coach Jim Larranaga at George Mason when the Patriots made a run to the Final Four in 2006.
Johnson was also considered the Hokies’ most consistent recruiter outside of Greenberg, and his move couldn’t have come at a worse time from a recruiting perspective. College basketball’s new April evaluation period is set to begin next weekend. Johnson was the primary recruiter for Robert Brown and C.J. Barksdale, and he also helped land incoming recruit Marshall Wood of Rustburg, Va., this past year.
One person close to Johnson said this move to Clemson was purely for monetary reasons and that Johnson is expected to receive a $45,000 increase from his current salary of $140,000. That same source said Johnson was elevated to associate head coach last April and given a raise because new Georgia Tech Coach Brian Gregory had expressed interest in hiring him.
Johnson, a Powhatan, Va. native, previously interviewed for the head coaching position at Gardner-Webb following the 2009-10 season.
Johnson is expected to become Brownell’s top assistant at Clemson after former Tigers assistant Rick Ray accepted the head coaching position at Mississippi State. As of Friday morning, he had begun informing Virginia Tech players of his decision.
Greenberg’s assistant coach salary pool has become a point of contention in recent weeks, especially since multiple athletic department sources confirmed last week that Ehsan also received a raise when he decided to accept a job at UAB. In addition, the Hokies lost their director of basketball operations, Jeff Wulbrun, to UAB when he was offered a full time assistant coaching position under new Coach Jerod Haase.
It was just last May that Ehsan replaced former assistant coach Adrian Autry, who was set to leave Virginia Tech for a similar position at Dayton of the Atlantic-10 Conference before he accepted a late job opening at his alma mater, Syracuse. Autry was set to become Dayton’s top assistant before joining the Orange.
Before the 2010 season, Greenberg also lost two assistant coaches when Bill Courtney accepted the head coaching vacancy at Cornell and Ryan Odom left for an assistant coaching position at Charlotte. In 2009 former assistant Stacey Palmore left the Hokies for a similar job at Georgia.
John Richardson, who joined Greenberg’s staff in 2010, is the only remaining Virginia Tech assistant coach at this time.