The Posse Closes In

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Seth Greenberg

It’s ten o’clock in the evening as I start writing this, and I want to get something posted tonight, but … where to start? There are those who want to define Seth Greenberg’s tenure by what happened in the last season, by what happened in the last month, but the truth is that it’s not that simple.

In the end, when the villagers stormed the castle with torches and pitchforks, Seth Greenberg stood alone behind the gate, and there was nothing he could do. Greenberg’s Virginia Tech career ended with him alone and friendless, no one by his side but his family.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when Greenberg could do no wrong, or at the very least, there was a time when his faults were ignored because of the good things he was accomplishing. Greenberg’s fiery, bluntly spoken personality, which ironically became perhaps the biggest shortcoming that led to his firing, was a breath of fresh air early in his tenure.

Hired out of South Florida in 2003, Greenberg was rescued by the Hokies as he rode out of Tampa, just one step ahead of the posse. Seth wasn’t well-liked in Tampa, at least not by the people with a voice who cared to air their thoughts about the man. He came out of nowhere and didn’t appear to be equipped to do a good job at Virginia Tech, a place with many challenges in the way of success. The VT program was scraping bottom after the disastrous tenure of Ricky Stokes, had lost any semblance of the tradition it had established in the 1960s through the 1980s, and was having its moment of clarity about what it was.

And the answer was to hire a guy who had barely won over 50% of his games at USF, and who had a losing record in Conference USA? In a column I remember well, I called it A Curious Hire. I had my doubts, to say the least.

I also remember an email I received shortly after he was hired, and which I included in that column. One member of the West Virginia media who had worked a few USF games for ESPN Regional TV told me, “Seth is a very good recruiter and this is a very interesting hire for VT. Seth is a pit bull. Don’t sell him short.”

Early Success

Surprise us he did. Seth was left two Ricky Stokes recruits, Jamon Gordon and Coleman Collins, and he tacked on his own late addition, a kid named Zabian Dowdell that Seth had been recruiting to South Florida. Greenberg lit a fire under rising senior Bryant Matthews and cobbled together enough other players to do what Ricky Stokes had never done: finish in the middle of the Big East pack and make the Big East Tournament.

The love affair had begun. Greenberg showed passion and fire that had been absent from Virginia Tech basketball for as long as we could remember. The quiet, gentlemanly Charlie Moir was followed in 1987 by the hapless Frankie Allen, who started out strong but fizzled into a train wreck of untalented, undisciplined players. Bill Foster restored competency to the program but didn’t have a forceful personality or the desire to keep recruiting, and he gave way to the late Bobby Hussey, who, to say the least, lacked charisma. Hussey was dismissed unceremoniously by Jim Weaver in 1999, and Weaver rolled the dice on Stokes. Stokes bombed, always saying the same thing after every loss (“I thought the kids played hard. I thought the crowd was great. We just didn’t get it done”), and he managed to displace Frankie Allen for the title of Worst. Virginia. Tech. Coach. Ever.

Greenberg was nothing like those guys, and his energy was what the program needed. When Greenberg’s Hokies rolled down to Durham in the 2004-05 season and absorbed a 100-65 beatdown in one of the worst officiated games I’ve ever seen, Greenberg didn’t take it lying down. He fussed, argued, wagged his finger, dropped F-bombs on the refs, got tossed from the game, and was full of fire and not the least bit intimidated as he was escorted off the court. Then he promptly paid Duke back on the return trip to Cassell, knocking off the 7th-ranked Blue Devils in a game that showed everyone that he wasn’t just going to fight; he was going to land knockout punches now and then.

The Hokies finished an improbable 8-8 in that inaugural ACC season and made it to postseason play (the NIT) for the first time in nine seasons. Seth Greenberg was a marvel.

That season was followed up by the 2005-06 disaster of a season, marked by personal tragedies too numerous to recap here. The heart that the Hokies had showed in Greenberg’s first two seasons turned into a different kind of heart, a heart break. It began with Sean Dockery’s halfcourt shot in early December and spiraled down and out of control from there. Seth and his Hokies suffered, and we suffered along with them.

The 2006-07 season that followed was magical. That was the senior season of Dowdell, Gordon, and Collins, three players that were all lovable for their own different reasons: Dowdell for his toughness on the court, Gordon for his at-times Herculean play and folksy, unintentional humor off the court, and Collins for his unwanted, unwelcome status as the quiet, tragic figure of Virginia Tech basketball.

Those three guys and their cohorts had one of the most amazing weeks in Virginia Tech basketball history, beating #5 Duke in overtime in Durham, with Deron Washington jumping OVER Greg Paulus. One week later at home, they drilled #1 North Carolina 94-88 in Cassell Coliseum for Tech’s first win over a #1 team in 24 years.

I remember hanging around Cassell Coliseum after that game and eventually making my way down to the empty floor and talking to Hokie radio announcer Bill Roth. We both said the same thing, in jinx-you-owe-me-a-soda fashion: “They’re going to beat the hell out of us in Chapel Hill.”

But they didn’t. Tech won that one, too, in overtime, and Seth Greenberg had it rolling. He seemed to have found the formula. His teams weren’t as talented or deep as the teams they were beating, but they were one thing Seth desperately wanted them to be: tougher. It was a gritty underdog quality that resonated with Hokie fans. This coach Virginia Tech had was different, yes, but he might be just the right fit.

The Hokies earned their first NCAA Tournament bid in 11 years after that season, and they even won a game as a #5 seed. It was all trending up, despite the losses of Dowdell, Gordon, and Collins after that season.

Greenberg parlayed that success and his own dogged commitment on the recruiting trail into a deep, highly-rated recruiting class, and the 2007-08 team, led by senior Deron Washington and freshmen Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, picked up where the previous team had left off. Despite being young, the Hokies almost made the NCAA Tournament again, losing out on their last chance at a bid when Tyler Hansbrough’s last-second shot sent the Hokies to defeat against the #1 UNC Tar Heels in the second round of that year’s ACC Tournament.

Progress Stalls

That was the year Seth made his “certifiably insane” comment, and in retrospect, Virginia Tech basketball was never the same after that. The “certifiably insane” comment was the first thing I can recall Seth doing that polarized the fan base. Many — as always — liked his fire and passion, but a few pointed out that it was stupid to bite the hand that feeds you, poorly thought out to tug on Superman’s cape.

The end of that ’07-08 season brought another event that I think is underrated in how we perceive Seth Greenberg’s tenure: the graduation of Deron Washington. Deron was a marvelous athlete and a magnetic personality, and he was the last of Seth’s lovable basketball players. Much like Zabian, Jamon, and Coleman before him, Deron had charisma and was easy to love. I’ve liked a few of Seth’s players since then, but Deron was the last one who made us laugh out loud and feel joy watching him play. (Dunk on BC, anyone?)

After that, Virginia Tech basketball was a grind. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the Hokies could never quite get over the hump:

  • 2008-09: VT started out 16-7 (6-3 ACC) … but faded to a 17-13 (7-9) finish and failed to make the NCAAs.
  • 2009-10: VT started out 21-4 (8-3 ACC) … but despite finishing 23-8 (10-6), failed to make the NCAAs because of a “weak schedule”.
  • 2010-11: In late February, the Hokies beat #1 Duke at home to get to 19-8 (9-5) … but lost their last two regular season games and again failed to make the NCAAs.

Failing to get NCAA bids was tough enough, but the Hokies also never made it to New York in the NIT. The NIT trips became stale, and it felt as if the program had stalled.

At the end of the 2010-11 season, when Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, and Terrell Bell all finished their careers without making the NCAAs, the discontent started to simmer, and a confidant of Seth’s told us, for the first time, that Seth was growing concerned about his standing amongst the fan base. “How am I doing?” Seth was quoted as asking. “What do the fans think?”

Seth is one of those guys who has a good sense for when the mob is coming to get him, and he knows just when to break and run. You could tell he was hearing hoofbeats in the distance.

Then came the 2011-2012 season.

Barbarians at the Gate

Seth Greenberg

Why did things turn south so quickly? On December 31, 2011, the Hokies beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater to go to 11-3, and there was no indication that trouble was afoot. But in the next month, the Hokies went 1-6, and suddenly all anyone could ask me was whether or not Seth was on the hot seat.

Support for the program had been gradually eroding for a couple of seasons, but when this year’s version of the Hokies started to lose games, the ground disappeared beneath Seth’s feet. The whispers started quickly that Greenberg wasn’t well-liked, that many of the players — including the stars — disliked him and wanted to transfer out, and that he didn’t have a single supporter among the big-money donors, whom Seth had all gradually alienated throughout his tenure.

This time, Greenberg didn’t just ask friends about “how he was doing” with the fan base after the season ended in March; this time, he took action and tried to get the hell out of Dodge. We were told that he inquired about two open jobs and tried to get on the candidate list: one in the northeast and the other down in Texas (SMU). We were told that he was informed that he had to make the NCAAs next year or he was gone. And lastly, we were told that he wanted out of coaching altogether and was campaigning hard to get a commentator job on ESPN after next season (assuming he lasted that long).

His assistants either knew or sensed that Greenberg was a short-timer, and that’s when the crew started jumping overboard. First Rob Ehsan (UAB), then James Johnson (Clemson), and lastly, John Richardson, who just as Greenberg was getting fired, was putting the finishing touches on a return to ODU.

You knew it was getting nasty when Jim Weaver publicly stated after Johnson’s departure about a week ago that it “wasn’t about the money”, absolving himself (Weaver) of blame and leaving open the very distinct possibility that, well, perhaps Greenberg was the problem. That theory fit the whispers very well, so many took it and ran with it.

Johnson’s departure was the tipping point for a situation that had eroded quickly. On December 31, 2011, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was doing okay. Less than four months later, the program is falling into disrepair, and Greenberg is gone.

Here’s the thing about all those rumors that Greenberg was abrasive, hard to work with, and hard to take: they’re true. I can’t find anyone who will tell you otherwise. There’s the public Seth you see on TV, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. A little outspoken, but passionate and worthy of your respect.

But if you talk to those who know him and work with him, they’ll tell you he can wear on you. About a month ago, I bumped into an athletic department employee, one whose name you would easily recognize (not a coach), and we got to talking about Seth. This person doesn’t have an axe to grind with Seth, but he said bluntly, and nicely, “It’s true [about Seth being tough to work with]. And the thing is, he knows it, and he even uses it.” This person shrugged. “And that’s just not how we do it at Virginia Tech. That’s not what we’re about.”

That’s what did Seth in. Where Seth comes from, you’re open, honest, and direct, even if what you say is unpleasant. You holler at people sometimes, and you don’t think anything of it afterwards. Remember those newspaper stories about him and his brother Brad, when Brad worked at Virginia Tech? They recounted that Seth and Brad would “yell and scream” at each other at times.

That’s why Seth didn’t get any benefit of the doubt when things went bad in 2011-12. Jim Weaver talked about this in his press conference about Seth’s dismissal, saying, “I wanted to confirm that the person in charge of that program had the same family atmosphere that the rest of the athletic department has.  It became clear at the end of this year’s athletic department workshop that the basketball program didn’t have that atmosphere.”

Weaver later added, “Nothing [in particular] happened. I was standing in front of the 182 full-time personnel in our athletic department, and it hit me. He was not even there, but the difference between the relationship between that program and the rest of the department hit me.”

It’s simple, folks. Seth Greenberg had some early success, but the program plateau’d. The fans started to get restless. Seth sensed it and started to look around. When he started to look around, the program started to crumble, and something needed to be done. And when things started to happen, the fact was magnified that Seth’s way of doing business — his personality — didn’t fit the culture of the athletic department.

And he was gone. This time, the posse got him.

The End Doesn’t Define Him … Does It?

Right now, the wounds are fresh on both sides, and the feelings are bitter and even angry. Seth isn’t the only one taking heat. Jim Weaver is taking some heat for the way he handled things. Bobby Hussey, Ricky Stokes, and now Seth Greenberg can all vouch for how cold-blooded Jim Weaver can be when it’s time to make a change. Weaver publicly supported both Stokes and Greenberg mere weeks before firing both; his word on whether or not a coach is on the hot seat means nothing. Remember that.

Seth Greenberg ran out of rope, but the end doesn’t define his entire tenure at Virginia Tech. He did beat the #1 team in the nation three times (out of five, if I remember correctly, giving him a 60% winning percentage against #1 teams). We had a lot of fun watching his guys play at times, and although there were many times where Seth and his players aggravated us, there were also many times where they made us proud, and there have been a lot of fun moments over the years.

Almost every coaching tenure ends in a mess. Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno will raise a glass to that. That doesn’t erase the wins, or the good moments, it just means it’s over, and it’s time to move on.

For the record, I interacted with Seth Greenberg a few times, but only one time that is worth remembering. I was at Disney World with my family in October of 2010, eating ice cream and enjoying my vacation when my cell phone rang. When I looked at my phone, it identified the caller as SETH GREENBERG. I suppose I had stored his number in my phone somewhere along the way, and I was surprised to see it.

I stepped outside and answered. Seth was calling me because someone on TheSabre.com had posted a picture of one of his daughters on their message board, and as you can imagine, the nasty comments had followed. (Seth’s daughters are all very attractive. Any father would be proud.)

Seth was calling to ask me to ask them to remove the posts. He was forceful, he was insistent, but he was never abusive in the slightest way. He even tried to explain why he thought the posts should come down, which was silly. A father doesn’t need to explain why he would ask that. I told him I would take care of it, and we hung up.

By all accounts, he is a hard guy to be around. But not always. And yes, he wound up getting fired, but he did some good things here, too. I respect more than anything else the fact that he worked hard and he didn’t compromise the program by taking the easy road and cheating the program into probation. Now it’s over, and it’s time to move on, and what’s really important is what happens next. Thanks, Seth, and good luck at your next stop in life.

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56 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. You have surprised me. I thought your writing was at a high level before now – concise, full bodied, thoughtful analysis. This article is spotless. Making it available as an article for everyone was an act of real generosity considering the depth of the information. I am very grateful for the talent you share with us through TSL, and I hope you can continue to do so.

    As to the content your article addresses – The manner in which the AD handled the issue really indicates that something personal (and ugly) was involved. SG’s hard work over the last nine years on behalf of the program surely warranted a little more respect and consideration for SG’s dignity.

    Certainly VT’s dignity wasn’t upheld by JW. I hope it can be attributed to his struggles with his health, and I’m very sorry to see any associate of VT behave in such a cold hearted way to any one in such a public fashion.

    1. I can only echo the sense of these comments: very well written, equal to any national analysis; excellent analogy of a posse; good data; balanced and full of information. This should be nominated for some sort of award.

      Not sure how to take Jim Weaver’s role. Some make him out to be a dark force. Not sure. The program is clean, the overall progress in the ACC is fair, with financial integrity and generally excellent fitness.

      I have some contacts in Blacksburg, but only on the academic side. The culture of VT is unique. It’s very much an internal system, one that somehow eschews outsiders. It’s crucial for both the academic as well as the athletic side to fit in, to operate within a somewhat private but well-known set of Hokie rules.

      Congratulations on a jewel of an analysis. Whatever happens, hopefully both the men’s and women’s basketball programs will be taken to a better level.. They have become painful to watch.

    2. This is the JW way, didn’t have Parkinsons when he canned Ladies Soocer, Hussy, or Stokes.

      Time for him to step aside.

    3. Will is the best. The absolute best. And I agree that JW’s handling of the firing was not befitting VT. It surprised and disappointed me. But now…as Will said…we should look to the future and hope Seth can do the same.

  2. A good Article, a fair Article. Seth Greenburg just didn’t work out, nuff said. To heck with
    Eulogies, the dude had 9 years and an upcoming 10th, it wasn’t working. Let’s find the Coach that we should have hired 10 years ago!

    1. Couldn’t disagree more. Will makes no mention of us losing two- three starters plus our 6th man for last season. We finish on the bubble with …what? 7 scholarship players? No doubt from anybody that with the full roster we cruise thru ACC and get a high seed in NCAA last year. If all that happens….there is no discussion. See Teel column in today’s paper.

      To jump in now with horror stories seems rather lame. Where were they before Weaver acts? And then to say Weaver handled it poorly is even weaker.

      Was Seth hard to work with? Who cares? Are they asking that in Lexington KY or Louisville KY? Its what you get when you higher New Yorkers. Quit trying to make the guy out to be Joe Stalin.

      Was it the right move? We’ll find out.

      But here’s what I know. When he got here, Tech basketball wasn’t in the same sentence with UVA hoops. A year ago, losiung to UVA ws considered a bad loss. I watched Maryland fans go nuts when they beat us up there two years ago…..remember the Jeff Allen “finger” game? Can you believe it? For Maryland beating VA Tech was a huge deal……And oh….yeah, hey Jeff saw your tweet….nice….mabe if you hadn’t drawn two fouls in the first 8 minutes of every game we would have made the NCAA your Junior year! All class!!

      So all in all Will, while your column probably reasonates with most people…… it has so many gaps. The second guessing out of this web site is rather embarassing.

      Other than that….Great column!!!

      1. I agree with you, Bugle. The folks in Durham seem to manage working with a bulldog of a coach there, too! Yes, the squad started out 11-3, but the injuries mounted as the season wore on. Despite that, his kids kept competing hard for him.

        Going into the FSU you game I remember thinking that Tech was going to get its doors blown off. Surprisingly,, they had FSU up against the ropes in a nailbiter that went down to the wire. Afterwards, I recall reading posts trashing the team for choking and letting the game slip out of their fingers. And that they lacked a killer instinct. But objectively, some may say that an injury-riddled team with 6 first year members played its tails off and nearly pulled off a road upset against a nationally ranked team.

        SG indeed made Virginia Tech basketball relevant again from a national perspective. He did more for the program than any of the previous coaches in the past 20 years, IMO. I wish him well and thank him for his contributions to the Maroon and Orange.

  3. Excellent read Will. A few thoughts. SG is a very knowledgable coach who is a great recruiter. JW is a numbers($) man and CFO, who knows his business. He is not a real people person, at least on the job. That is why he is so good at running the business of VT sports. SG could not get the elite recruits, and no one else has for VT basketball. Duke and Carolina raid Va. whenever we have the elite. Until someone can do that, we can not reach the top, and I don”t know who can. Maybe Shakka, who has recruited better than his league is, but who knows if he can take the next step even higher.

  4. Great article Will, you have given a fair history and representation of the Greenberg era. I will add that some of us who had problems with Seth are probably more impressed by the lack of being part of the VT family, I know he has two children who attended VT. But it was interesting that Weaver brought it up doing his press conference. To me personally it was how the coach treated Dell Curry and his two sons that caused me the most grief with him personally. I could excuse a lot of his behavior on and off the court, but you don’t treat the VT family that way. That’s my 2 bits, and I hope that VT can hire a coach that we will all be able to support. By the way, the fact that Weaver supported Greenberg publicly til the firing, is what I expect any good executive to do, anything else would be unprofessional.

  5. That’s why we have Delta in Atlanta, One way ticket Nawth for those Yawkers that get out line.

    On a serious note, I admired Seth. He brought compassion and a sense of competitveness that Tech hadn’t seen in years. He also seemed to have a high regard for the academics. However, you have to respect and adjust to the culture you are working in or else you will hang yourself.

    I wish him and his family all the best.

  6. Will, as usual, you da man. Another great easy to read enjoyable article.
    Does anyone know if this eventual new hire will be Weaver’s and only Weaver’s choice?
    It seems that years ago when Frank was hired, a committee was put together to make the selection. If that’s the case , I would love to see a selection by committee happen again. I’m not sure I trust Weaver with such an important decision at this time, and he hasn’t handled earlier dismissals with much class, or compassion.
    I wonder how he will react when he himself is on the chopping block, if that is even possible.

  7. Great article.

    I’ll miss Seth, I always thought our teams had a chance to make the NCAAs while he was coaching. Hope can keep me interested in the program. I wasn’t interested in the 10 years before that. That said, I lost hope earlier this year than in any other year with Seth and with the lack of news on the recruiting front, and assistants bailing I think a malaise was setting in and Weaver made the right call. Timing doesn’t really matter in the long haul. The next coach does.
    I would enjoy an article about how the AD is managed and the power structure enabling/limiting him. Who decides when the AD has to go? Who hires the next one? Seems like that could come on us any day now.

  8. I concur with everyone else here, Will, that this is one of your best efforts. Top 3 or 5 at least (you’ve had more than a couple great ones).

    That being said I’d like to see the same effort put into an article about JW and his tenure to date. There is no doubt that he is a polarizing figure much the same as Coach Greenberg, and I’d be very interested to see this fair, balanced, well thought out analysis of our AD.

    I will always remember fondly the Seth Greenberg era of VT basketball. He made me and countless others hoops fans again. I wish him and his family well.

  9. Weaver always has the grand story to explain why he does what he does and to justify his actions. The explaination about letting SG go now since things would not change by next year and he would not extend the contract next year so get it over now is the same is the thought process he should have used to cut loose Beth Dunkenberger from the women’s program, but he said he would give her more time and not spend the money to pay her off. Sounds like two standards to me ?? Or is it Weaver only worrys about football and the other sports programs at VT go down the tubes. Whenever Weaver is asked a question, particularly one that is critical or constructive concerning the sports administration, listen closely to his answer, it usually is difficult to understand and almost always says he is correct and the questioner is wrong !! I gues we have a family atmosphere in the department as long as it fits Weaver’s family definition. His retirement will not come soon enough for me.

    1. Weaver decided to fire Seth while he could. He wasn’t going to risk Seth turning it around this season, and with a young talented team that was certainly a possibility.

  10. Great stuff, Will. Dare I say you do your best writing after 10pm? Tech’s removal of coaches has almost always been something between a bitter divorce and a train wreck. Somewhere out there is a basketball coach who would be the perfect fit for the Hokies. I know the pressure is on to hire sombody yesterday, but I hope the time is taken to scour the networks and consider all offered assistance. The Hokie Nation wants a successful ACC basketball member. And to SG, thanks for the memories. May fortune smile on you and each member of your family as you change courses.

  11. Will, I agree – certainly among your best articles. I agree the program had gotten as high as it would ever get under Seth. I think you covered the reasons very well.

    There was success, but the bottom line of 1 NCAA appearance in 9 years can’t be overcome by even the nicest guy out there. Plus the moderate success of making the NIT wasn’t a springboard to the NCAAs like it was in the 90’s, it was a disappointment.

    When the Talking Heads on TV have named the bubble after your team or in some cases after your coach (“after nine seasons of nearly permanent residence on the NCAA tournament bubble…”) and (It wouldn’t be March Madness if Virginia Tech wasn’t firmly planted on the bubble.”) it’s time for a change.

    Seth is a bright guy, and I think it showed on ESPN during this past tournament. If that is his future, then I will enjoy watching him.

  12. While I have no real dog in the Jim Weaver fight, I feel that he was more than fair with Seth. Based upon the information in this column, Jim had no choice but to act. While I appreciate the hard work by Seth, his ‘attitude’ just does not play well in SW Va. You have to be able to play well with others to be successful. We only need look at the Football program as a model of how to be successful and be well liked at the same time.

    1. To play Devil’s advocate……FB took 7 seasons to get Tech to post season play. Half of D1 football play in post season. Seth got Tech therea lot earlier.
      He begs for a nd gets an nw Basketball building after which in his first season lands the highest ranked recruiting classever at Tech. Tech fans reward him buy not selling out Cassell and students not even coming close to filling up their section. Seth gets fired before the second post basketball building class starts playing.
      Don’t talk to me about Tech family and consistency in coaching as I have read for ten years how the football teams offensive play caller has to go.

      Let’s face it Tech fans are not as supportive asthey think they are and they haveno idea how hard it is to build a bball program at VA Tech. As I wrote in an earlier reply, when Seth got here, we were not even in the same sentence as UVA hoops. We hadn’t won in Charlottesville since 1976…..beating VA Tech had become a big deal for every ACC team. And we are flushing that?

      Just be careful for what you wish.

      1. Bugle,

        We’re both in the minority I guess. What short memories people have. Prior to SG arriving in Blacksburg, the basketball program was crap. People who talk about Seth’s teams as being unwatchable have forgotten about the Ricky Stokes, Bobby Hussey, or Frankie Allen teams. Bill Foster did some good things but he wasn’t committed for the long-term.

        SG had by far the greatest positive impact on the program than any of the aforementioned coaches. I think Hokie Nation is going to be in for a rude awakening. There is no one individual who is going to be an absolute perfect fit as a coach. We had a good one but we just kicked him to the curb.

  13. A great read, albeit a bittersweet one. It’s nice to hear the various perspectives and take a stroll down memory lane. All I know is that I was a huge fan in the Foster days during my years at VT. That enthusiasm gradually faded as Foster departed, and I watched fewer and fewer games, pitstopping occasionally for an espn.com standings and boxscore check. I remember watching the first round Big East game against Rutgers, and then the excitement of pulling a series of surprising upsets in the 04-05 season, and I was instantly re-engaged. Like football, the sometimes excrutiating losses began to actually really hurt, but hey, at least I cared and felt something. I just hope hope that Weaver has some sort of plan in place, and that we don’t fall back into the abyss.

  14. Good summary and analysis of Greenberg’s tenure and why the firing happened. I think most would agree that things had come to a head and a firing was going to come within the next year. But I still think you guys are being too light on VT and Weaver, perhaps partly because you had inside info and were expecting this to come sooner rather than later, so this came as less as a shock.

    It’s not that Weaver was “cold-blooded” in how it was handled. It’s that he was incompetent. Everything about the timing and manner of the firing makes VT look bad, will hurt short-term and long-term recruiting, will hurt our chances of keeping the team together as-is, and will hurt our upcoming coaching search.

    Weaver had two options. Soften the ground and get the word out that a change might be coming, try to maintain relationships with the team, recruits, and their families, fire Greenberg in March and try to transition as smoothly as possible. Based on what you guys have said was going on inside, this should have happened. The only other reasonable option was to wait till next year.

    Instead, Weaver fired him in the worst way possible and at the worst time possible, and did everything to ensure this team will not transition smoothly and could be crippled for two years, if not more if we can’t find a good replacement coach. I’m willing to buy that the assistants leaving somewhat forced Weaver’s hand. But I still think that he should have made a choice months ago and acted on it this March or next.

    1. you are presuming that there wasn’t another reason he fired him….or and this is my opinion….it took that long to raise the 1.2 mil to pay him off. That’s the way it ishere. Tech doesn’t have deep pockets….nevr has…never will. You hve to have the resources to back up what you choose to do.

      1. It’s $300,000 per year for the next four years. That’s a pittance to the VT athletic department. Short of a mistress on the staff scandal, there’s no reason to justify the bomb Weaver just dropped on VT basketball.

  15. Great article Will – you summed it up perfectly for me. Coach Greenberg will always have my admiration for turning the program around and making it respectable again. And he always loved VT, and cared deeply about his team, but his personality wasn’t a good fit in the long run. I wish he could have won a few more games and got to the NCAAs another 2 times – it would have been much different.

    1. If wecould get John Calipari to come coach Tech would we take him? You bet! How’s his personality differ from Seth’s? He doesn’t give a hoot about how many players of his graduate.

      1. No frickin way, he would have us on probation so fast, it would make your head spin.
        He’d have to cheat here to get those players here.

  16. Will, this may be your best article/analysis ever. Seth never compromised VT from an NCAA reg standpoint, but still operated as if he were above it all. You’ve heard it before: “I know what I’m doing, so don’t confuse me with the facts”. And in the process, basketball became an outlier within the athletic department. I guess this is what our so-called “insiders” have been hinting at for awhile now. And since Seth’s personal work ethic and efforts were laudable, he probably thought he’d be okay …. until the last three to four months as thing began to unravel.

    What gets me, and this is so complex, is Jim Weaver’s epiphany at the conclusion of a department wide workshop, that a change needed to be made, that SG had isolated the basketball program (my interpretation) from the rest of the “family oriented” athletic culture. I’ve learned throughout my business career that cultural values and social mores within a successful organization can be a formidable “self policing” mechanism, and ultimately no one person is “above it all”. I’m guessing that, for a while now. many folks were gathering around the watercoolers in Cassell, saying ” doesn’t Jim see what’s going on with SG and the basketball program”? My belabored point is that Mr Weaver had his head stuck in the sand for quite some time. If he were truly in touch with the dynamic regarding Seth and the basketball program, he would have addressed this much earlier on – certainly before “it hit him”. In the end, the accountability lies with Jim Weaver.

    Seth was the right man for the time. Good luck to him and his family.

    MH

    1. Spot on Masked. Weaver’s late epiphany means:

      1 – he really is in caretaker status now, i.e. not engaged in the job or

      2 – Gabbard is in charge of BB and missed the boat.

      Either way it is a shame that in the end such a bad taste is left in everyone’s mouth.

      1. or…….he didn’t have the money to fire a coach with four years left on his deal….Get real…..Weaver is not the stooge many Hokies think he is. Its easy to back seat drive.

  17. Great article and it provides some very insightful color. Overall, very fair assessment and it really stresses that talent, as opposed to relationships and intangibles, can only take someone so far.

    For me, Seth made watching VT basketball enjoyable again. Being consistently ranked between the top 40 and 100 was a pleasant turn around from what he inherited. I found myself, as well as many other VT alumni, engaged and excited to watch our team play.

    There were many heartbreak moments and memorable stories throughout his tenure. Overall, I thank Seth Greenburg for all the energy he invested in trying to build the program and running a program that received some national respect (on and off the court).

  18. Even without the transition to the ACC; Greenberg made the VT job better than it was when he arrived. He beat multiple #1s and went a season without losing to Duke or UNC in the ACC. It may have been the right move, but We should certainly appreciate seth and what he has done for VT Basketball.

    Thanks Greenberg and Best of Luck!

  19. That’s a very good, very fair column, Chris. I agree with everything you said. Seth has his faults, as do we all. But overall, I think that he did a great job with our basketball program, considering where we were and the odds we were facing when he got here. I wish things could have ended better for him.

        1. My first thought was, “Chris has a secret family?” I actually scrolled up check the author again!

          Nice article Will, maybe I’m too complacent, but I loved the Greenberg edition of the Hokies.

          I’m all for consistent success, but man those wins against the elite teams sure were special.

          1. I did as well my friend!
            Losing the DC Classic MVP and Wood along with who knows who, we are going back to the bad days. Unless JW pulls a magic act and hires someone that can keep everyone here.
            I don’t have much faith in the way he handled the firing. NO Class and he should go the SAME WAY!

  20. Weaver wants a family atmosphere that includes blindsiding someone like that? Give me a break. If you want a family atmosphere, act like it. If you have a problem in the family you don’t throw the person under the bus. You talk to them and try to work it out.

    People complain about one NCAA bid in 9 years, well, I will be pleasantly surprised if we make it in the next 9. I am a big believer that you don’t fire a coach unless you can get someone who will be better for the program. I don’t think that is possible now. Not because Greenberg was fired, but bcause of the way it went down. Welcome to last place in the ACC. Get comfy. We will be here a while.

    1. I agree with this comment completely! Weaver and his “do as I say not as I do” policy is for the birds. I’m going to hold out on buring the program for awhile, though because I can’t bear the thought of all of the hard work going down the tubes.

      But make no mistake, the Board of Visitors is surely watching, and if this move by Weaver blows up in his face, he better be the next to go! And he would deserve being treated just as shabbily as he treated Seth. By the way, if JW goes, I hope Gabbard goes as well. I don’t mean to hate, but he looked like a corpse at the press conference and had no intelligent words to add whatsoever that would provide any comfort to the Hokie nation. I was embarrassed by both of these guys.

  21. This is one the best articles ever Will, fair & balanced.

    JW is very COLD BLOODED, I cannot remember the coaches name, think it was ladies soccer coach, who he fired, then said I’ve got a plane to catch and left. The one that really stands out to me, and his cold bloodiness, was when Chuck Hartman retired. My very good friend, Jay Phillips was sitting in the baseball office, when one of the asst. AD came in, and informed him that Pete had been offered the job. JW was at the golf course dedication, didn’t have the stones for a face to face, and John Joudon left town because he didn’t want to face the man, he had lied to for over a year. Loyalty means nothing as Will stated, honesty does.

    It was time for a change, I agree with JW, but there’s got to be a better way to handle it.

  22. Thanks for a good synopsis Will. I’ve always said that Seth should be commended for being what Hokie Basketball needed “at the time”. It became painfully obvious to players, assistants, even Seth himself, and finally to Weaver that the time had passed. It was time to start a new chapter.

    Nothing should devalue the contributions Seth made to the basketball program. His tough, gritty teams were perfect Hokie teams to take us into the snooty, haughty ACC arena. As has been the case in the past for Seth, it was time for someone else to take the next step… and perhaps time for Seth to find another reclamation project. Hokie basketball IS down, no doubt. I hardly think it is in the long-term shambles it was in when he got here. Perhaps the “rebuild” will be quicker because it didn’t linger for a couple of years…NONE of us know that, it’s a total crap-shoot (as it would be for ANY program….right UNC?).

    Perhaps your most telling comments were around the firing…”almost every tenure ends a mess”. There ARE no nice firings. This cannot be expected to be any different . Thanks to Seth for what he did, good luck in the future. Good luck to the Hokies in hopefully finding the guy who can pick up where Seth left off and take us to greater heights…

  23. Will, this may be the best-written article I’ve ever seen you do on any topic. It is extremely thorough and balanced. Maybe you should wait until late at night to do all your writing.

  24. Thanks for an excellent and well-balanced analysis. Your well-written and well-reasoned articles are always a pleasure to read and they keep me coming back to TSL for more.

    This ending turned out to be a sad chapter in the story of Seth Greenberg and VT basketball; when the next chapter in VT’s basketball history is written, hopefully it will be about happier times.

  25. Thanks for your insight, Will. Hope we get a new hire that will settle things down quickly and well. Wish Coach Greenberg the best. He would be a great commentator.

  26. Have heard lots of rumors of problems with other coaches, staff and players. Have no inside information or contacts, just rumors.

    Have long been concerned over the loss, transfer of so many kids from the program.- some were recruited over…others clearly did not want that environment or culture.

    Writing appeared to be on the wall for a long time and Weaver allowed it to run on..trying to avoid the payout.

    Seth being forced out is not a problem IMHO- progress was stalled _ the timing and the manner in which it was accomplished is on Weaver

    The end was a debacle and meltdown of the program- for that we can thank Jim Weaver and his lack of action earlier in the process.

    Weaver needs to go as well- wish the new AD could hire the new Head BB Coach- Weaver will stamp the program with another inept and mediocre hire with below market salary

  27. Great article Will. Thanks for your insight into VT basketball. Your knowledge is great. I really wanted Seth to do well and at times he did do really well. It really is the losses that got him fired. If you are winning then his attitude would have been tolerable. However, if you aren’t making the tourney then all of a sudden the fact that people don’t like the way he carries himself grows momentum. It’s just like any relationship. If there are more negatives than positives then the other party starts to question things and from there it gets worse.

    He is really a victim of his own success. All of a sudden we were upsetting Duke and UNC and we were amazed at how this could be happening and we wanted more. The problem is the more was not coming and for some reason we could not understand why. You give a mouse a cookie and they will want a glass of milk as well.

    Seth is a good basketball coach. He had a great work ethic and he wanted so much for the Tech program to succeed. It was like he was determined to show that he and the Tech program were legit. He is legit and he did a good job as Tech’s coach. I would give him a B as a grade.

    Jim Weaver did not handle this situation correctly at all. He has made Tech look bad for the unprofessional way this was carried out. Seth deserved to be treated better with the firing. That is regrettable. There is a more dignified way to handle that. It is kind of ironic, Weaver is saying he fired Seth for not created a family like environment and then Weaver himself handled the firing in the coldest most insincere method possible.

  28. Great article, reflects the same feelings and views I have of Seth’s time in Blacksburg. Regardless of where we are now, he did a good job of making Virginia Tech Basketball relevant again.

  29. Looking back, the SG to SMU rumor should have been a sign that things were starting to unravel. JW should have acted then.

  30. Thanks for a fine, well-balanced article. I have always supported SG and I’m sorry to see his tenure here at Tech end like this. While I can understand why others may not have warmed up to him, I never had an issue with his personality. Maybe that’s because my parents hail from NYC and I’ve always taken SG’s personality traits in stride.

    Although I’m sure SG has made a few comments along the way that he’d like to have back, I am still very proud of the way he represented our fine university. As sleazy as college basketball is today, his upright character is a credit to him, his family and our school. He did things the right way, he worked very hard, and he inspired me to care about Tech basketball again – for the first time in a long time. We owe many of our finest moments to his leadership.

    Coach Greenberg will always be a Hokie in my book, and I will remember his time here fondly.

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