Like many who follow the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program closely, Hokies Athletic Director Jim Weaver has been “disappointed” by all the close losses that have derailed what once looked like a promising season. He wonders what could have been if Virginia Tech had managed to win “two or three” of the six games it has lost by four points or fewer this season.
But contrary to what some national pundits and fans believe, the Hokies’ 3-8 swoon since the calendar turned to 2012 hasn’t convinced Weaver that Coach Seth Greenberg’s job should be in danger. Citing Greenberg’s consistency since the Hokies joined the ACC, Weaver said Wednesday that Greenberg’s future “is not even a topic” at this point, even though it’s likely Virginia Tech will miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
“Everybody’s goal is to get to the NCAA tournament, and the last two years have been very frustrating for our men’s program,” said Weaver, referring to the Hokies’ near misses on selection Sundays.
“Yes, we’re like everyone else. We want to go to the NCAA tournament, but I’m not gonna base everything on the NCAA tournament. Everybody looks at things from a different perspective. I make decisions based on what I believe is the right decision at the moment in time, and when you look at the full body of work that Coach Greenberg has done since he’s come, I think it’s very solid.”
Greenberg has four years remaining on his contract and is due approximately $5.89 million over the duration of the deal. He was rewarded with a contract extension two years ago after surpassing expectations in his first seven seasons leading the program and subsequently drawing interest from St. John’s about its head coaching vacancy.
Though Virginia Tech has qualified for the NCAA tournament just once (in 2007) during Greenberg’s nine-year tenure in Blacksburg — and become something of a national story line because of its seemingly perpetual status on the bubble — the Hokies entered this season with more ACC wins (counting the regular season and tournament) than every conference team except Duke and North Carolina the past five years.
Greenberg, meanwhile, has twice been named the league’s coach of the year and has the second-most wins in school history.
Even he admits, though, that his prior success has made the results on the court this year tougher to swallow. Virginia Tech (14-11, 3-7 ACC) has won two of its past three games entering Thursday’s road matchup with No. 20 Florida State, but began 2012 with a 1-7 stretch that removed the luster from an 11-3 nonconference start.
“We are a little bit spoiled. Over the last five years, we have won a lot of games in the ACC,” Greenberg said this week. “That’s not a right. That’s something you have to go earn. When you are winning 10 games twice in the league and nine games twice in the league, that’s not easy. I think we have made it look a little bit too easy maybe.”
During the preseason, the Hokies’ players said the production of last year’s stars — Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell — wouldn’t be as difficult to replace as it may have looked on paper. That, though, has not been the case, especially because senior J.T. Thompson went down with a knee injury for the second consecutive season in October and veterans Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila haven’t been the sort of experienced “tone-setters” Greenberg’s previous youth-filled teams have featured.
This week, after making his fourth starting lineup change in less than a month, Greenberg said he has simplified the number of plays the team runs on offense. He also admitted that getting his younger players to compete with the sort of intensity and toughness that are hallmarks of his program has “been much more difficult than I would have anticipated.”
But Greenberg is always quick to point out that he hasn’t soured on this group one bit, and the recent victories have demonstrated “baby steps” of improvement for a freshman class that recruiting experts consider the best Greenberg has brought to Blacksburg.
Weaver has seen this potential as well and it’s part of his reasoning as to why Greenberg will be at Virginia Tech for the foreseeable future.
“All of Seth Greenberg’s teams play very hard, and I think if we continue to play that way through the end of this year, I’m hopeful that we’ll end up with a winning record and possibly get to postseason play in the NIT,” Weaver said.