Lost among the reactions to Virginia Tech’s decision to fire Coach Seth Greenberg on Monday afternoon is the fact that for the first time in school history, the Hokies are looking for someone to take over an ACC program. You’ll remember that when Greenberg was hired back in 2003, Virginia Tech was still part of the Big East.
Greenberg has left the program in far better shape than when he arrived, with a $21 million practice facility, a roster full of returning players and a galvanized fan base that cares about men’s basketball more than it did during the down years that preceded Greenberg’s tenure (in four seasons under Ricky Stokes, Greenberg’s predecessor, the Hokies went 45-70).
But there will be challenges facing the next coach at Virginia Tech. It’s a football school in southwest Virginia that has always had issues attracting talent from the sort of urban areas where most of the country’s best basketball prospects hail. It also doesn’t help that this coaching search has begun at such a late date, with the 2013 recruiting cycle already in full swing.
So who are the candidates now that the Greenberg era is over? Here’s some current head head coaches to keep in mind, but don’t forget that nine years ago, Greenberg’s name didn’t surface until the very end of Athletic Director Jim Weaver’s 24-day search.
VCU’s Shaka Smart
Pro: Simply put, he’s the hottest name in coaching circles (and my inbox) after leading the Rams to the Final Four and Sweet 16 in consecutive years. VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague also just left the school for the same job at Minnesota on Monday, which could change Smart’s mind about remaining at VCU long term.
Con: Smart is already making $1.2 million at VCU, which is equivalent to what Greenberg’s salary was at Virginia Tech. The past two offseasons, he has reportedly turned down jobs at North Carolina State and Illinois, and it’s unlikely Weaver will be able to offer the compensation package those two did.
Richmond’s Chris Mooney
Pro: The 39-year-old Princeton grad is just a year removed from leading the Spiders to the Sweet 16, and after seven years at Richmond he knows the dynamics within the state of Virginia.
Con: After last season, Mooney signed a 10-year contract, which includes a large buyout that hasn’t been disclosed because Richmond is a private school. He also runs the Princeton offense, which point guard Erick Green specifically mentioned as an offense he didn’t want to run.
Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor
Pro: The winningest coach in Old Dominion history, Taylor has a track record of success, leading the Monarchs to at least 22 wins in seven of the past eight seasons. He has also qualified for the NCAA tournament four times in the last 11 years.
Con: This could be an odd hire considering Taylor frequently butted heads with Greenberg over the Hokies not playing Old Dominion more often in nonconference play. He also just hired Greenberg’s former assistant, John Richardson.
Murray State’s Steve Prohm
Pro: The 37-year-old is coming off a remarkable 31-2 season during his first year leading the Racers. Also keep in mind that Frank Beamer was the coach at Murray State before coming to Virginia Tech 26 years ago.
Con: Last year was Prohm’s first as a head coach, and it remains to be seen whether he’s more than a one-hit wonder. He also has no experience recruiting in the ACC
Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall
Pro: Marshall, 49, a hot name on the mid-major circuit after leading Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments in nine years and then winning an NIT championship and earning an NCAA tournament bid at Wichita State. Marshall also graduated from high school in Roanoke.
Con: Wichita State recently adjusted his contract, which runs through 2018, after Marshall received overtures from North Carolina State and Nebraska in recent seasons. He’s also got a reputation for having a prickly personality at times.
Marshall’s Tom Herrion
Pro: In six seasons as a head coach at Marshall and College of Charleston, Herrion’s career record is 123-64, and he worked as an assistant under Pete Gillen at Virginia and Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh. This past season, he led the Thundering Herd to their first NIT appearance in 24 years.
Con: The word on Herrion when he left College of Charleston after two years was that he had the same kind of personality issues within the Cougars’ athletic department that helped cause Greenberg’s demise Monday.
Davidson’s Bob McKillop
Pro: McKillop famously led a Stephen Curry-led Davidson squad all the way to the Elite Eight in 2008, and he has taken the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament six times in 23 years. He has a career record of 426-271.
Con: At 61 McKillop might be too old for Virginia Tech’s liking, and it begs the question of what’s keeping him from coaching in a major conference. Then again, Jim Larranaga was around the same age as McKillop last year and looks to have been a solid choice for Miami.
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