Friday Q&A: March 7, 2014


1: Who is in Whit’s ear re: “the basketball problem”? I’ve read across various sites and boards that the situation is even more screwed up than a 20 loss season shows it to be (if you can believe that).

Chris Coleman: As far as who is in his ear surrounding the specifics of the Seth Greenberg firing, James Johnson hiring, and everything that went on behind the scenes during that time period? I really don’t know. Whoever he asked is going to have a slanted viewpoint, depending on whether or not they are anti-Seth or pro-Seth.

Do you mean the in-state recruiting discussion? Cvillehoops13, who is plugged into the AAU scene and Virginia high school basketball scene, asserts that the current coaching staff has burned a lot of bridges in the state of Virginia and surrounding regions. The issue with that is that there just aren’t that many Virginia Tech guys in high positions in basketball. Tech has been a football school for a long time now. How many persons with any stature in the AAU world actually went to Virginia Tech or care anything enough about Virginia Tech basketball to call Whit Babcock and let him know what is (allegedly) going on there?

To me, the situation isn’t that dynamic. It’s simple. Do you believe James Johnson is the guy to compete with the top coaches of the ACC? If you do, then you definitely retain him. If you don’t, then the quicker you can hire someone else, the better, and that’s likely to either happen this year or next year in my opinion (and again, I hate saying that, but it’s my job).

Whit Babcock was the AD at Cincinnati, and the Bearcats have an outstanding program. He was at Missouri, who is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament. He was at West Virginia when the Mountaineer program was built under John Beilein. Even if he knows nothing about Seth Greenberg or Jim Weaver, and he doesn’t know anything about the alleged in-state recruiting problems, he does know the difference between good basketball and bad basketball. He doesn’t need anybody in his ear to tell him that Tech isn’t any good at basketball. He has eyes, same as you and me.

I’ll tell you one story though. One fairly influential guy told Will a story about the first time he met Babcock, when Babcock visited for a weekend before he actually started the job officially. The first thing this guy said to Babcock was: “when are you going to fire the basketball coach?”

If Babcock feels like he needs to replace James Johnson (and let’s face it, he is a human being, so he is probably feeling that way), he will put out feelers through back channels to gauge the interest in the job. That will tell him two things: who he can get, and how much it will cost. That will help him decide whether he needs to make the move this year, or whether he has a better chance of lining up a good replacement next season after courting the wealthy alums and improving the infrastructure. Personally, I feel like he will make the move this year if he feels like he can get the right guy. If he doesn’t, he will wait until next year.

It needs to happen this year for recruiting purposes (I shudder to think about our 2015 class with every other program negative recruiting Johnson because of his lame duck status), but not at the risk of replacing Johnson with a mediocre coach for more money than he’s worth. Then we would just be having this same conversation again 3-4 years from now, except the buyout would be a lot bigger. If Whit feels like he has to wait a year before he can bring in the right guy, then I’m willing to accept that. Meanwhile, if JJ can turn it around next year, I would more than welcome it.


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