More than anything, Greenberg made Virginia Tech basketball relevant. The Hokies were consistently competitive in the ACC and, as disappointing as their near-misses were on Selection Sunday in recent seasons, the school was in the national conversation. The Hokies won at Cameron Indoor Stadium and at the Dean Dome, wins that would have seemed unfathomable when Greenberg took over for Ricky Stokes in 2003. Most thought that Virginia Tech would be a sacrificial lamb in the ACC, doomed to be a bottom-feeder in basketball while the football team flourished.
The football team has flourished in a notoriously mediocre league. The basketball team more than held its own in a very good league.
Somewhere along the line, Greenberg lost Weaver and Gabbard. Exactly why is hard to say. Virginia Tech struggled this past season, losing one close game after another and finishing 16-17. There was, as is always the case when a team has a bad season, some pressure from prominent boosters who no doubt thought that Roy Williams or Krzyzewski would love to leave their current jobs to coach in Blacksburg.
Greenberg had brought in a strong freshman class and with only one important player graduating, next season looked to have the potential to be a good one, especially in an ACC unlikely to have a dominant team.
Maybe that’s why Weaver made the move now. With Greenberg likely to have another good recruiting class, it might have been impossible to fire him after next season. The buyout, even with four years left on the contract, is a relatively cheap $1.2 million. Weaver decided that the assistants leaving gave him the opening he needed to get rid of Greenberg.
The bottom-line question for Virginia Tech is this: Can you get someone better? Weaver will not hire his next coach based on his ability to produce a “family environment.” He will hire him based on his ability to win games and get into the NCAA tournament.
As Weaver was leaving his news conference Monday, a reporter asked if he was looking for “Frank Beamer in sneakers.”
“I’ll take that,” Weaver answered. “Wouldn’t you?”
Sure. Beamer has won a lot of football games at Virginia Tech. His team has been the best of a second-rate bunch since arriving in the ACC. At the same time, whenever the Hokies have stepped out of the ACC and up in class, they have come up short. Virginia Tech football is always good, almost never great.
That might be a pretty good way to describe Greenberg’s basketball program. Playing in one of the country’s toughest basketball conferences, the Hokies were consistently good, never great.
It might well be that Virginia Tech already had Frank Beamer in sneakers on the payroll.
For more columns by John Feinstein, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein. For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.