- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2012

One by one, Virginia Tech’s assistant basketball coaches departed Blacksburg this month.

Now, their former boss is gone, too.

Virginia Tech fired Seth Greenberg Monday after nine seasons of nearly permanent residence on the NCAA tournament bubble and massive staff turnover in recent years.

“I would say it’s very safe to say he was shocked,” athletic director Jim Weaver told reporters during a news conference in Blacksburg, Va.

Greenberg’s contract ran through 2016, and he will receive a $1.2 million buyout ($300,000 per season remaining on the deal).

The garrulous Greenberg was 170-123 and took the Hokies to one NCAA tournament (2007) and five NITs at a school that made only two postseason appearances in the 17 years before his arrival.

Weaver said results, however, were not the driving force in his decision.

“I want to change the leadership such that the person at the top of that program has the same kind of family environment that the other part of our department has,” Weaver said. “It became crystal clear to me last week when I closed our [annual department] workshop that we didn’t have that in the men’s basketball program, especially with people leaving.”

Greenberg, it turns out, wasn’t in attendance, and his staff was mostly gone by then as well. Assistant James Johnson departed for Clemson last week, and assistant Robert Ehsan and director of operations Jeff Wulbrun left for UAB in early April. Several outlets, including CBSSports.com and the Virginian-Pilot, reported assistant John Richardson would accept a place on Old Dominion’s staff.

But the exodus was not a one-time occurrence. Stacey Palmore (2009 to Georgia), Ryan Odom (2010 to Charlotte), Bill Courtney (2010 to Cornell) and Adrian Autry (2011 to Syracuse) departed in recent years. Only Courtney took a head coaching job.

“I can certainly understand some coaches leaving, but to have as many leave as we had sat the wrong way with me,” Weaver said. “It had nothing to do with losing. It had nothing to do with NCAA appearances. It had something to do with people leaving. It had something to do with me wanting to change the direction and leadership of the program.”

What direction that goes in will prove curious.

Despite a 16-17 record last season, Virginia Tech generally was a basketball overachiever for much of Greenberg’s tenure. The Hokies had only one other losing season under him and were vastly more competitive in the ACC than most expected them to be upon entering the league in 2004-05.

Many of the same concerns from eight years ago — Blacksburg’s relatively remote location, an aging arena, a conference filled with schools with vastly more basketball tradition — exist today. Virginia Tech does have a three-year-old basketball practice facility and nearly a decade of selling itself as an ACC program.

It also was left with virtually no one on staff besides Greenberg — until yesterday.

“With three full-time vacancies on our staff, it became clear to us that we might just as well make the decision now and move forward,” said Weaver, who also concluded last week he would not extend Greenberg’s deal in either of the next two years.

Whether Virginia Tech can push ahead much further is uncertain. It was Greenberg who memorably declared on the eve of another crushing Selection Sunday rejection in 2008 that anyone who didn’t believe his team was one of the 65 best in the country — and thus NCAA-worthy — was “certifiably insane.”

It remains to be seen if expecting vastly more from Greenberg’s successor would warrant the same label.

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