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Johnson was part of all four of those teams, as well as the star-crossed bunch that lost 11 of 16 games decided by five points or less last season en route to a 16-17 mark.

At the same time, Johnson’s learning curve isn’t likely to be as steep at Virginia Tech as it could be for someone else. He knows the administration. He’s recruited to Blacksburg and knows the challenges of attracting talent to a relatively remote area and the need to sell recruits on the allure of soaking in the spotlight in a small town.

“Those things, just knowing and being familiar with the entire lay of the land, I think will make the transition easier,” Johnson said. “There’s still going to be transition, and there’s going to be some speed bumps, but it’s going to be a little easier.”

Perhaps not initially.

In the weeks after Johnson’s hire, forward Dorian Finney-Smith transferred after one year in the program; he landed at Florida. Signee Montrezl Harrell asked for his release and wound up at Louisville.

Just eight scholarship players are eligible for next season.

“If a young man doesn’t feel like this is the place for him or he doesn’t feel like he wants to be here or wants to come, then I understand that, too,” Johnson said. “I want people that want to be here. I think if you want to be here, you’re going to work hard and embrace everything we have here and you’re going to enjoy the ride.”

Johnson’s hire did, however, ensure guard Erick Green would remain. The senior, the ACC’s third-leading returning scorer, thought his time with the Hokies was finished when the coaching change occurred.

Yet the hire of the assistant who recruited him and a reminder of the limited high-level opportunities he received out of high school convinced him playing for Johnson was the right move.

“He took on a chance on me when no one [else] took a chance on me,” Green said. “Nobody thought I was going to be who I was, but he always believed in me. [My mom] said ‘Why can’t you stick around and be with him?’ That really hit me. He did take a chance on me and got me where I am today. So I’m definitely going to make sure I get him on the right track.”

Players’ coach

There are valid concerns about how Johnson’s first season will unfold simply because of the limited numbers he’s working with.

One serious injury would create a serious strain on the roster, regardless of coaching.

There’s little doubt Johnson, who turns 41 later this week, will have problems relating to his players.

“I remember the first time I talked to him, he sounded so country,” Green said. “I never met him and got a phone call and was like ‘Who is this guy?’ When you meet him, he’s real cool and outgoing, funny, telling jokes. He reminds me of a younger [guy], like he’s in his 20s, joking and having a good time. That’s his personality.”

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