Reports: Tech to Hire James Johnson as Head Coach

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James Johnson

Multiple reports indicate that former Hokie assistant coach James Johnson will return to Blacksburg just two weeks after he left for Clemson, and take over the Virginia Tech men’s basketball program as head coach.  Johnson left Tech for the top assistant position at Clemson, but has been lured back to Blacksburg to become the head man.

Johnson has always been a popular coach with Tech’s players, and judging from some of their Tweets today they would be very happy with the hire.

Erick Green: “Yessss I’ll be back next year”
Cadarian Raines: “throwing a party tonight”
Cadarian Raines: “Its a great day to be a hokie”
Jarell Eddie: “That makes me feel a lot better.”
C.J. Barksdale: “Congrats To JJ becoming Head Coach..Im hype lol He deserves it though”

He brings an extensive background as an assistant at every level of college basketball: low-major, mid-major and high-major

Johnson was known as Tech’s top recruiter during his days in Blacksburg, and he was the lead man on guys like Robert Brown, C.J. Barksdale, Cadarian Raines and Erick Green.  He was also the initial recruiter for Dorian Finney-Smith, though John Richardson later took over that recruitment.  2012 signee Marshall Wood was a James Johnson recruit as well, though he is likely to attend Hargrave Military Academy for the upcoming season (that was in motion before Seth Greenberg was fired).

Here’s a quick look at James Johnson’s coaching career.  As you can see, he has extensive experience in the ACC footprint, and he has recruited players to Virginia Tech from Florida (Robert Brown) as well as Virginia.

Hokie Men's Basketball
2012-2013 Schedule
Record: 13-19 (4-14 ACC)
Click here for full schedule
11/10 (W, 1-0)VT 80, ETSU 62
11/12 (W, 2-0)VT 69, Rhode Island 50
11/15 (W, 3-0)VT 95, VMI 80
11/19 (W, 4-0)VT 96, UNCG 87
11/23 (W, 5-0)VT 87, App State 76
11/27 (W, 6-0)VT 95, Iowa 79
12/1 (W, 7-0)VT 81, #15 OK State 71
12/8 (L, 7-1)WVU 68, VT 67
12/10 (W, 8-1)VT 70, MVSU 49
12/15 (L, 8-2)Ga Southern 78, VT 73
12/22 (W, 9-2)VT 66, Bradley 65 (OT)
12/23 (L, 9-3)Col State 88, VT 52
12/29 (L, 9-4)BYU 97, VT 71
1/5 (L, 9-5, 0-1)Maryland 94, VT 71
1/9 (L, 9-6, 0-2)BC 86, VT 75
1/12 (W, 10-6, 1-2)VT 70, GT 65 (OT)
1/19 (W, 11-6, 2-2)VT 66, Wake 65
1/24 (L, 11-7, 2-3)UVa 74, VT 58
1/27 (L, 11-8, 2-4)Clemson 77, VT 70
1/30 (L, 11-9, 2-5)Miami 73, VT 64
2/2 (L, 11-10, 2-6)UNC 72, VT 60 (OT)
2/7 (L, 11-11, 2-7)Maryland 60, VT 55
2/9 (L, 11-12, 2-8)GT 64, VT 54
2/12 (L, 11-13, 2-9)UVa 73, VT 55
2/16 (L, 11-14, 2-10)NCSU 90, VT 86 (OT)
2/21 (L, 11-15, 2-11)Duke 88, VT 56
2/24 (W, 12-15, 3-11)VT 80, FSU 70
2/27 (L, 12-16, 3-12)Miami 76, VT 58
Sat, 3/2 (W, 13-16, 4-12)VT 69, Clemson 61
Tue, 3/5 (L, 13-17, 4-13)Duke 85, VT 57
Sun, 3/10 (L, 13-18, 4-14)Wake 90, VT 79
Thu, 3/14 (L, 13-19, 4-14)ACC Tournament
NCSU 80, VT 63

Johnson is a native of Powhatan, VA and played college basketball at Ferrum, which is approximately an hour away from Virginia Tech.  He was a three-year starter, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a Ferrum College Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and his team’s MVP in 1993.  In 2001, he was selected as one of the Top 10 players in Ferrum History.

A 1993 graduate of Ferrum with a degree in psychology, Johnson was a squad leader in the Army National Guard for three years from 1989-91 while he was also playing college basketball.  After his college career was over, he immediately got into coaching.

Johnson’s first priority is to put together his assistant coaching staff.  With his experience and his contacts in the ACC footprint, he’s likely already got plenty of names in mind.

Quotes On James Johnson

“JJ is the elder statesman of our staff and is tremendously invested in Virginia Tech basketball. He is one of the elite recruiters in all of college basketball and a terrific on-floor coach. His genuine concern for our student athletes and their development both on and off the court is well documented. He is a head coach waiting to happen.” — Seth Greenberg

“I’ve known James for a long time, we’ve competed against one another several times at multiple schools.  I’ve been extremely impressed by his work ethic and the fact that he’s worked for some very good coaches. He has good recruiting ties in our breadbasket. He will help us in some Mid-Atlantic areas such as Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., as well as pick up some of the recruiting Rick (Ray) did for us in the state of Florida.   He’s a man of high character that has risen through the ranks of the college coaching profession. He will be a very good role model for our players and like all of my assistants, has a career aspiration of being a head coach.” — Clemson head coach Brad Brownell

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35 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. this was the cheapest, easiest hire Weaver could make. Any surprise he made it?

    I’m sure JJ is a good guy, and i’m sure he the current players like him a lot. But doesn’t being in the ACC earn VT any enhanced ability to hire an experienced, seasoned head coach? i guess not.

    1. Could be we got this new head coach “on the cheap”.

      Yes, probably the easiest hire Weaver could have made.

      Not surprised at all that Weaver made it.

      JJ is a good guy from what I’m reading and hearing about him and it sure sounds like the current players like him a lot.

      Does being in the ACC earn VT any enhanced ability to hire an experienced, seasoned HC? The answer to that is “NO”! And the reason could be Weaver.

      Who but an up and coming young coach would want to work for Weaver?

      Not saying Weaver made a bad choice with JJ. This is an incredible opportunity for this man and we’ll be giving him all the support we can as Hokie fans.

      Bottom line – Weaver was more lucky than good. If Weaver was good, he would have never let JJ leave in the first place.

    2. Weaverdidn’t have much of choice. He backed himself in the corner with firing Seth during recuriting and player looking to leave. He hired a stablizer not a coach. JJ deserves to be head coach some were. But not where he was an assistant, Players interact differently with assistants than the head coach. All of a sudden, now he is the one that has to lay the law done, after being their “friend amd mentor.” We’ll be one happy family playing well with others. Sooo sweet.

  2. I take back all the mean and ugly things I have said about Jim Weaver’s management of Tech’s athletic program in the past. Clearly, given other realistic candidates and the state of Tech’s basketball program today, this is far and away the best hire. JJ is the right guy.

    P.S. Well, I take back MOST of the mean and….

    1. I am respectful for this man!! Great decision by the Hokie staff. Glad to hear all the guys are coming back next year, plus our recruits. Were going to have an amazing team. Cant wait to see how all the freshman, sophmores, and juniors have improved. Especially Dorian Finney Smith.


      J.T. Thompson might be back next year!!

    2. I thought Seth Greenberg was an awesome coach. He was a really nice guy, and I would know, because I met him in person!! But, it was time to move on. It was probably because he hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in over five years. I wish him the best, and hello JJ.

  3. I really believe he he will fit in as Head coach as he did with his other positions he has at Tech, MAYBE WE FINALLY GOT IT RIGHT???????? VERY BEST OF LUCK.

  4. I like the hire and I think JJ will do well, but let’s be real here…….he was the only choice……if JW doesn’t hire him there most certainly would have been 2-3 players or recruits leaving the program. With JJ as the hire we stand a much better chance of retaining the current players and incoming recruits…..carpe diem JJ, here is your shot at the big time!! Go Hokies Basketball!!

  5. Relief! This is the best VT BB news in weeks. The transition will be relatively seamless, with a totally positive upside. Against the odds JW came through and did the right thing. Ok, Coach Weaver, you can retire now with our blessing.

    Ok I’m a pirana on a feeding freenzy…I want more news about this hire, and I want it NOW!

  6. Considering every single aspect of VT basketball, coaching, money, and direction of program, this has to be an excellent hire. Maybe Seth had one more year and JJ was a leading candidate to replace Seth, then he left early. I think Seth is an excellent coach who knew his time was coming soon. Hope it all works out, Tech still has room to grow and can if recruiting gets better. Hope JJ can do it, and good luck JJ!

  7. Well respected/loved Assistant Coach(s) are bailing out of the VT program….the mediocre Head Coach is actively seeking another job….I’m not a JW fan but come on folks you had to cut CSG. CJJ appears to check all the boxes except the head coaching experience….he’ll get up to speed if he isn’t already.


  9. GO GUARD!!

    A former squad leader in the Army? Now this guy gets it.

    I think many Hokies were hoping Jim Weaver would extend the head coaching opportunity to Coach Johnson. I was shocked to read the news and actually cheered at the desk when checking in to the TSL this afternoon. Setting aside the siren song of Shaka Smart, JJ was the only candidate in the conversation that created any excitement, at least for me. A great fit to carry the Hokie lunch pail underdog bootstrings persona that characterizes Tech. Plus, the gurus say he can recruit so even better. X’s and O’s? Time will tell, but given his history on the court and working with CSG, I’d say defense will be a point of emphasis.

  10. Congratulations and welcome JJ. Glad to have you back. Now go get some great assisttants to help get us to the NCAA’s.

  11. As before, Weaver’s search involved going down the hall and stopping at the first office he came to and offering them the job, in this case, he had to phone JJ since he was not in the building. It is lucky for us that Weaver did not pass the janitor’s closet first !!!!

  12. I’m ecstatic. Now we don’t have to say, “Who?” I’m one of those who voted for James in the vote posted on TSL, and I probably would have voted for him no matter who was mentioned in addition to him. Great choice, Jim Weaver!

  13. New Era has just started for VT Basketball and Head Coach James Johnson , I hope it’s a great match for VT and JJ. Time to move on as a fan and look for to the future. I’m glad to see him as the Head Coach…GO HOKIES

  14. Will he be able to influence current recruits to reconsider decisions to NOT attend VT?

  15. J.J. might be a great recruiter, but what do we know of his game management skills, X and Os etc. A football analogy would be hiring someone like Ed Oregon who is a heck of a recruiter but lacked basic coaching skills, and I hope that is not the case here.

    As someone else mentioned its a not a good longterm hire in the sense that if he is good, I doubt he sticks around at VT due to his age, and if he fails we are back to square one.

    1. That’s plain simple stinking thinking! He’s from Virginia, played for Ferrum, an hour down the road and coached at many Virginia schools already. There is absolutely no reason if he proves successful that he will stick with VT and live out his career right in good ole Blacksburg.

      Who knows, in another 8-10 years after 3-4 Final Fours, VT could be known as Basketball school and everybody will be asking Beamer who?

  16. I have nothing but positive assessments about Johnson and his capabilites…….however

    as Greenberg supporter (based upon his tireless dedication & passion; national exposure & reputation via espn —plus being at an age where he would have stayed—could have had a career at VT similar to Lefty Driesel –who basically created Maryland national basketball stature) —I have mixed feelings – don’t doubt James Johnson is capable and could be very successful……but , has no true ties or long lasting allegiance to VT— could start a successful run and gain national exposure —just to be snapped up by traditional bball power in an more familiar ,culturally diverse urban area which provides a cultural community & personal life he and his family could identify with outside & away from bball

    .. CSG gave it his all….24-7….I feel bad for him & his family…..its a little bit like watching a little real life “Julius Caesar” — “Et tu Brute” -playing out (Brutus was Caesar’s favorite,his ally &friend ) yet when the “senate” & other supporters turned on him… was Brutus that killed Caesar.

    Although Johnson did not plan or set out to create chain of events…you can understand
    how this might hurt someone in Gbergs shoes. From what I know of Seth, he will graciously congratulate Johnson and offer any assistance possible to facilitate the
    transition (though administration likely to dissauge him from coming on campus, any contact, etc) I’m sure CSG will continue to work in media (whether he coaches again or not). I suspect VT will request that Espn will never send Gberg to Bburg.

    1. I hope that JJ has the kind of success that would cause one of the traditional powers to come calling, Seth didn’t and it didn’t seem like he was on that track lately. I wish Seth well and I am sorry about the way he went out, but I think our ceiling is higher than he took us.

      I doubt that VT would ban Greenberg from doing our games on campus.

    2. A little over the top, eh?! Greenberg was a great ambassador for the VT program and built it up to where it is today, far better than when he got here. But I doubt JJ had anything to do with CSG departure in the end. They worked together for 5 years. To say CJJ has no allegiance to VT is silly. He has been here for 5 years. CSG had no ties to VT when he arrived either. If CJJ excels and moves on then more power to him.

      I am confident CSG will move on to better and more fulfilling things and I will remember him fondly. I am pleased with the new hire (and up and comer) and somebody that will give us the best chance at a smooth transition and bright future.

      To say that VT will request CSG never come to blacksburg as a commentator is also silly. We will never fully know what transpired between JW and CSG, but there is no consipracy here and certainly no Shakesperian drama unfolding. Ceasar and Brutus, really?!

  17. Good choice. The rest of the coaches mentioned seemed to have some flaws. He seems to be the best rounded for the job. It will be interesting to see what happens in the X and O’s department but recruiting, player relations, and university relations seem to be excellent

  18. As CC kept noting, there’s no such thing as a perfect hire, but if you’re going to go with an assistant, this choice does make a lot of sense. It really gives VT their best chance to not have 3 or 4 down years before any chance of a turnaround, and who knows, JJ could be one of those assistants who turns out to be a great HC. Best of luck, welcome back, etc.

  19. If this is true, it is a great hire. Young, talented, knows the school well, understands the ACC, no baggage, a proven recruiter, can relate to the players we need, etc.. I said all along I thought he deserved his shot. If he is successful, can see him here for a long time.

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