There is only one thing that is absolutely certain about Virginia Tech’s dismissal of men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg on Monday: It could not possibly have been handled worse.
When was the last time that someone scheduled a news conference to fire a coach — trumpeting it all over the Internet to make sure the entire world knew about it — without first bothering to tell the coach being fired? How about never?
Greenberg’s first inkling that he was in trouble came when reporters started calling his cellphone while he was speaking at a charity luncheon. The reason he cheerfully told people that the news conference had to be about something other than his job status was because no one he worked for had told him his job was in jeopardy.
That was three hours before he lost his job. The phone call apparently came not from Athletic Director Jim Weaver, who said later that day that he made the decision based on a “gut” feeling, but from Tom Gabbard, the assistant athletic director who oversees the basketball program. After being hired by Weaver nine years ago, didn’t Greenberg deserve to hear that he was being fired from Weaver?
Of course he did. And he didn’t deserve to have the school advertise what amounted to a professional public execution when he hadn’t yet been informed he was about to be shown the door. Weaver said he made the decision last week. Even if he didn’t receive approval to fire Greenberg until Monday morning, he still had time to contact him before announcing the news conference. Virginia Tech’s season ended on March 9. Weaver waited until April 23 to fire Greenberg. Would it have killed him to wait another 24 hours to give Greenberg a chance to sit down with his family and prepare them for what was about to happen?
The larger question, of course, is whether the firing was justified. Weaver claimed that the recent exodus of Greenberg’s assistant coaches and the fact that he wanted the basketball program to have “the kind of family environment that the other part of our department has” led to his decision. Apparently he was miffed because Greenberg didn’t show up at his athletic department workshop last week, something that happened because Greenberg was tied up with recruiting. Which is more important, getting better players or listening to someone drone on about how to fill out expense forms?
Let’s be serious. Family environment? What does that mean? Is Greenberg tough to work for at times? Absolutely. Does anyone think Gary Williams was easy to work for? Mike Krzyzewski? Anyone ever hear of Bob Knight?
Greenberg was probably tougher to work for in part because his assistants understood they were making far less than most ACC assistant coaches. A story in Monday’s Post revealed that Mark Turgeon’s four assistants at Maryland made about $800,000 last season — this at a school that is eliminating sports because of budget shortfalls. Greenberg’s four assistants made $405,000 last season. Assistant coach James Johnson was offered a 25 percent raise to leave Virginia Tech for Clemson after five years with the Hokies. By the time Weaver made a counteroffer to match that money, Johnson had already accepted the Clemson job.