On Monday when he announced Coach Seth Greenberg’s firing, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said he’d be open to hiring a veteran head coach, an inexperienced head coach or an up-and-coming assistant.
It remains to be seen what route the Hokies take in their search, but it was only a few weeks ago that Mississippi State — a school with a similar basketball reputation as Virginia Tech — decided to hire Clemson assistant Ricky Ray. Will the Hokies follow suit?
If they do, here are some assistant coaches to keep on your radar in the coming weeks. And just as a reminder, this does not mean these are all the names Virginia Tech might consider. As is the nature of coaching searches, there are sure to be some surprises over the coming days and weeks.
Duke’s Chris Collins
Pro – The former Duke standout has been one of Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s assistants the past 12 years and was elevated to associate head coach in 2008, when he also served on Krzyzewski’s staff during the Summer Olympics. Collins’s name has come up frequently as a potential head coach throughout the offseason, and his father, Doug, is a longtime NBA head coach currently leading the Philadelphia 76ers.
Con – Would Collins want to take a job where he would be going head-to-head with Krzyzewski so frequently? And if he’s successful at Virginia Tech, there’s also the danger that he could leave to return to Duke when Krzyzewski decides to hang up his whistle.
Duke’s Jeff Capel
Pro – The former Duke star just joined Krzyzewski’s staff last year after nine years as a head coach at VCU and Oklahoma and a stint as an assistant at Old Dominion. Capel led the Rams to one NCAA tournament appearance and then got the Sooners to the tournament two years in a row – including a run to the Elite Eight in 2009 – after persuading Blake Griffin to come to Norman, Okla.
Con – Capel was fired by Oklahoma after he went just 17-36 in the two seasons after Griffin left school early for the NBA draft. When he left Oklahoma, there were also concerns about his recruiting practices and the number of players who decided to transfer away from the program.
North Carolina’s Steve Robinson
Pro – A longtime Roy Williams assistant at Kansas and now with the Tar Heels, Robinson grew up in Roanoke and went to college at nearby Radford. He has been a part of two national championships at North Carolina and already recruits the state of Virginia for the Tar Heels. Perhaps more importantly, he might have gained some needed perspective after earlier stints as a head coach at Tulsa and Florida State.
Con – Robinson, 54, ended his five-year tenure in Tallahassee, Fla., with four straight losing seasons and was let go by the Seminoles in 2002. It would likely take some prodding to coach against Williams on a regular basis, and his prior track record would be hard to sell considering Greenberg had a better results as a head coach.
Clemson’s James Johnson
Pro – Johnson was Greenberg’s associate head coach until two weeks ago when he left for a job at Clemson. He knows the ins and outs of the program already and left on good terms with the administration. He was also a very popular figure with players and would stand a better chance than anyone of keeping the roster intact — incoming recruits included — if he was open to relocating back to Blacksburg again.
Con – He jumped off Greenberg’s sinking ship just in time, but it would be a bit awkward if Weaver fired Greenberg, in part because Johnson left, only to move Johnson into Greenberg’s former job. And though Johnson is known as an up-and-coming assistant coach, he has no prior head coaching experience.
Maryland’s Scott Spinelli
Pro – Spinelli has been the associate head coach at both Maryland and Texas A&M the past five years and is described as “a bulldog recruiter with tremendous connections up and down the east coast” by Coach Mark Turgeon. Spinelli’s mentor is former St. John’s and George Washington Coach Mike Jarvis, and he also spent three years as the associate head coach at American. His name came up during Nebraska’s recent head coaching search because of his time spent as an assistant for the Cornhuskers.
Con – Spinelli has only been at Maryland for one year after spending much of his career in the midwest, and other than some Washington area connections, he has no real ties to Virginia Tech. He also might not be keen on going up against Turgeon on the court and on the recruiting trail.
Kentucky’s Orlando Antigua
Pro – If the Hokies are looking to make a big splash, Antigua could be a possibility. The 39-year-old former Harlem Globetrotter and Pittsburgh star has been a recruiting dynamo for John Calipari the past four years at Memphis and Kentucky. A rising star in the business, he has the type of personality and track record to attract elite talent to southwest Virginia.
Con – If you look at Weaver’s track record of hiring coaches, he doesn’t often go for a sizzle pick like Antigua. Throw in Calipari’s own issues with the NCAA over the years and the fact that he and Greenberg are friends, and Antigua would seem to go against the grain of what Weaver is looking for. Antigua was a finalist for the Duquesne job earlier this month before Long Island’s Jim Ferry was hired.
Former Virginia Tech star Dell Curry
Pro – Curry is considered by most to be the greatest basketball player in Virginia Tech history, and his son, Stephen, indicated on Twitter Monday night that his father is interested in the job after Greenberg botched the recruitment of both Stephen and Seth Curry. Since he’s not all that removed from his playing days, Dell Curry’s presence could be a boon in recruiting. And heck, maybe he could persuade Seth Curry to leave Duke for his final season.
Con – Curry’s candidacy is a long shot at best because he has never coached at the college level and is currently a television analyst for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Virginia Tech would almost certainly face some backlash for hiring such an inexperienced head coach to lead the program.
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