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My Thoughts on Coach Greenberg

Greenberg and Niemo from 2011

Obviously this past season I’ve been somewhat critical of Coach Greenberg and his poor track record of making the NCAA Tournament (just once in nine years and that once was five years ago).  But it is also fresh in my mind where this ‘program’ was nine years ago.  We had just fired ricky “program bomb” stokes after going 10-38 in their first three years in the Big East.  I’m not sure people even knew we still had a basketball program when he got fired.  The Cassell was empty and so was our glass of hope, or so it seemed.  Then in stepped Coach Greenberg.

I will always be thankful to Coach Greenberg for lifting us up out of the dark ages.  In his first year, 2003-04, he led Tech to a 7-9 record and their first and only appearance in the Big East Tournament, winning one game.  The next year we all assumed we’d take it on the chin in the ACC, but the Hokies scrapped to an 8-8 record and a NIT appearance, Tech’s first postseason trip in nine years. Seth was named ACC Coach of the Year for that 4th place finish.  Coach Greenberg would win the award a second time in 2008.  Here’s a look at what he accomplished at VT:

  • Improved Tech’s Big East record by 3 wins in his first year
  • Took Tech to their only Big East Tournament appearance
  • 2-time ACC Coach of the Year (05 and 08)
  • Earned four ACC Tournament first round byes in eight years
  • Finished tied for fourth or better five times in the ACC
  • Took Tech to the postseason six times (5 NIT, 1 NCAA – 07)
  • 61-67 ACC record
  • 3 ACC Tournament Semi-Final appearances (uva had 0 over the same span)
  • 170-123 overall record
  • 2nd place on Tech’s all time win list

Let’s not forget that we also got that spiffy new practice facility on his watch because our program was relevant again and the administration was willing to invest in the program.  Not sure they would have if we were still putting up 4-12s every year.

The Date: 2/26/11 – In many ways February 26th is where everything changed.  Tech had just knocked off #1 duke, Greenberg’s third win over a #1 since coming to VT.  Coach was hugging his daughters and very emotional on the court.  VT hoops hysteria was at an all time high.  After several NCAA snubs, we had clinched an NCAA Tournament bid… or so we thought.  But after 2/26/11 Tech went just 4-14 in ACC regular season play, including two losses to close the 2010-11 regular season that put us back in the NIT.  That was followed up by a 4-12 ACC record this year after a solid out of conference showing, and the buzzards started to lurk.  From seemingly the tops of the mountain last February, it was a mighty fall.  But most of us thought he’d get another year.  My sources indicate there was a strain between A.D. Jim Weaver and Greenberg recently after previously defending him (I won’t get into it since I’m not sure of it and because what’s done is done).  And then, today, it was over.

Part of the reason sited was a lack of a family atmosphere, which is interesting because he had one daughter graduate from VT, another at VT, and potentially another on the way.  Coach did have an abrasive personality – some liked it and his straight-forward approach, others got rubbed the wrong way.  And his antics always made for good fodder, whether you liked him or not.

I remember talking with Coach at one of the past Hokie Celebrations.  Upon hearing I wrote for TechHoops.com, Coach pretty much let me know he didn’t care for the blogs.  His reason being that one minute they love you, the next they want your head.  I tried to assure him that wasn’t my way, that he had my full support.  Then, this year, I did take part in the rumblings this year and expected a NCAA bid next year or I’d have been calling for his job.  I guess you were right, Coach.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

I definitely wish Coach Greenberg well and wish him nothing but success moving forward.  It is sad to see him go.  While it may have been time, you also have to be careful what you wish for.  We knew what we had with Seth – a tireless recruiter who could really implement a solid defense.  Did he hit a ceiling here or did the ceiling hit him?  We’ll never know.  But either way, here’s to you, Coach, and thank you for everything you did for Virginia Tech basketball.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1198 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

Contact the author | Visit the author's website | Follow Niemo on Twitter

  • Ryan Healy

    well said Niemo-

    I have thoroughly enjoyed following VT basketball since Greenberg took over… I remember watching VT my freshmen year at Tech in the Cassell versus UCONN the year before he took over and lets just say VT didn’t have a chance in hell (got beat by 50 points)… VT always had a chance with Greenberg at the helm and despite all the close heartbreaking losses he was the leader of a team that could beat any team on any given night… Toast to Seth and the success he had as a Hokie… If it wasn’t for him turning this program around I wouldn’t be tuning into every Hokie bball game with excitement and passion…

  • FruitpietheMagician

    Well – I am sad to say, this is a mistake. I know most of you think that coaching is like the Janet Jackson song “What have you done for me lately?” – But unless you are going to bring in a Gary Williams type, this will look more likely like the other MD coaching move – Friedgen. There are a lot of coaches that have bad years, and get to stick around because they are institutions in of themselves. Seth was very close to that status here at VT, and that he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt for one more year is ridiculous. Seth was enthusiastic, and attracted national attention to our program. It wasn’t coaching that got us nixed out of the NCAA’s in those close years – we did more with less talent than most. Thank you Seth for your spirit and coaching that was great enough to make Footballers like myself almost more looking forward to Basketball season than getting in another Bowl game with the pigskin.

    • Blue Collar Hokie

      I think it was more than one bad season fruitpie I just have to think the mass exodus of coaches and weaver going from ‘seth is our coach’ to ‘seth is fired’ in the last month and a half speaks to some behind the scene stuff going on here.

      So let the wild and uninformed speculation begin! I say we go after Dino.

  • Joe

    Strange timing… Any news on who they’ll be looking at as a replacement?

  • Blue Collar Hokie

    Dude he was hosting a recruit today?

    Harsh!

    The timing is baffling I have a feeling theres more than meets the eye unfolding here. Gonna be interesting thats for sure.

  • 69HOKIE

    I really appreciate what SG did for VT, but it WAS time. We will never know everything about what really happened, but there was just too may things that were ‘just not right’. Especially lately.

    I absolutely agree with the comments about 2/26/11. That downslide was hard to watch.

    VT will not have a problem getting a good coach. We have a lot to offer. We can have the magic back in the Cassell.

  • Les

    I think Weaver is pissed off he had to defend himself for Johnson leaving. His statement on the reasoning for firing Greenberg borders on the irrational. It looks like they never had a close working relationship.

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

    That desire, he said, came to him as he stood before a workshop of 182 fulltime staff members of the athletic department.

    ”The relationship of that program to the rest of the department is what hit me,” Weaver said, noting that Greenberg did not attend the workshop. Weaver declined to elaborate, but said it was quite evident to him at the department workshop.

    http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/virginia-tech-fires-seth-greenberg-as-coach-042312

  • BJ

    I’m very disappointed to see Coach Greenberg go. Like others have pointed out with him at the helm we always seemed to have a chance, we always were competitive, and we always knew we had a coach that gave it everything he had. By all accounts he should’ve had at least 2 additional NCAA births. I believe he deserved 1 more year and many of the reasons Weaver gave for letting him go now just didn’t make sense. I hope we can bring in someone good who can build on the success that Coach Greenberg has had.

    • hokiegrad

      several have said that Weaver’s stated reasons didn’t make sense. I think Weaver was probably genuinely concerned about the atmosphere around the program. So many coaches leaving. At least Johnson’s leaving “nothing to do with money”. So many players leaving. Whatever Weaver saw in the hallways. Etc. “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. It became crystal clear to me last week when I closed our workshop that we didn’t have that in the men’s basketball program, especially with people leaving… The family environment that I’m talking about is – if you could’ve been at our compliance and staff workshop and seen the camaraderie that we have, it would be easily understood. Let me say it this way. Coach Beamer has terrific continuity in his program. I happen to believe continuity goes a long way to establishing successful operations, whether it’s in athletics or the business world or wherever. That’s what I’d like to say in our entire department.” I buy that.

      Is there more to it? Probably yes. There’s ALWAYS more to it than what most of us are privy to. That’s the way the world works. But I do think the reasons he gave probably have a lot to do with it. I don’t think he was being disingenuous.

      • Les

        There are so many coaches changing jobs this seasons. There’s bound to be many more that are testing the waters, including some good ones. Weaver did mention that he thought that they could attract a good coach because of the young players who were returning (fingers crossed). That may have played into the weird timing.

        When asked if Greenberg would still have been fired if his staff members did not leave, Weaver replied, “In all likelihood, yes. I respond that way because I’m not confronted in real time with that scenario.”

        http://clemson.greenvilleonline.com/content/story/13855/greenberg-follows-johnson-out-at-virginia-tech/

  • new guy

    The press conference and the stated reasons for the dismissal were bizzare. Very unproffesional.

  • http://www.heyhokie.com goodraisin

    I’m completely torn. Like Niemo, I remember those days with Ricky Stokes and the possibility of Weaver landing us a coach that bad really gives me nightmares. In a flash, we could lose our best players to transfer and lose our recruits as well leaving us in the same position Boston College was in last season. Well, even worse really because Donahue had time to hit the recruiting trail.

    However, there were things that Seth Greenberg just couldn’t do. He couldn’t coach a competent offense. Player development really seemed to be lacking (Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen were both basically the same players from their freshman to senior seasons). VT struggled to get resume-building wins under Greenberg. So it all hinges on the new coach… if Weaver brings in an old friend who can’t get the job done, then we’re going to be hating life. If he can land someone awesome like Shaka Smart… well things could look a little brighter.

    • hokiegrad

      hear hear

    • Les

      Bench development was completely lacking. We never got the depth needed at the key point guard and center positions. We lost in the second half of games because we were too gassed to prevent the opposition from driving past us.

      He had the two star players develop toxic relationships with the officiating crews which worked against the team. Everyone knows about Jeff Allen, but Delaney hardly ever got favorable calls after that article midway through his junior year.

  • Clark
    • Chris

      That is one uninspiring list. The only guy there who I’d be okay with is Dino, who I thought got a raw deal at Wake. The assistant from UK is mildly intriguing.

      I hope we’re aiming hire than those guys, but in reality, we’re probably not.

  • Chris_atl

    Niemo – you said “Did he hit a ceiling here or did the ceiling hit him? We’ll never know.” If I understand what you are saying we will know. If the next 10 years are the same or worse, then VT is the ceiling issue. If the next 10 years are better then it was SG. And the measurement is NCAA trips.

    This is just like divorce, you know you can’t continue as is but you are still saddened that it had to end. Your tribute was nice and appreciated Niemo. I am just going to trust the university on this one. I am disappointed that SG may have had some fatal flaws that kept him from getting to coach this recruiting class to its full potential. That has got to hurt. He probably felt he was about to deliver what we all were waiting for. I feel for his family too because I am sure they thought all the kids would graduate from VT with SG’s contract extension. And now VT will not be as pleasant a memory for them.

    I think the players may tell us something. If they all stick around it might suggest that, while they liked SG, that they understood the need for a change. The good news is SG is not likely to get a better job immediately and so I can’t imagine players following him although they could still leave. I will miss SG but am looking forward to see who comes next.

  • SouthMShokie

    Folks, I am very appreciative of the national attention that SG brought to the program, and for making BBall relevant again, like it was under Devoe and Moir.
    However, I could not stand the quality of player that we put on the court. The interviews with senior upperclassmen Delaney and Allen on ESPN Gameday were an absolute embarrassment for students exposed to 4 years of university education.
    I never understood why SG never once could dress out more than 11 players each season, thus running his players into the ground with zero bench depth.
    And I disagree with the comments about his recruiting skills. His teams were basically filled by Fork Union.
    I never felt like his teams represented the spirit of the University, and I grew weary of ugly behavior that sprouted too often.
    And then for him to live 4 years with Delaney and have no more relationship with him than what was exhibited between them at the end is a real failing on his part. So I am thankful for your accomplishments, Coach, but it was time for the next chapter. Hope that it will build on your work.

    • http://www.heyhokie.com Goodraisin

      I think you mean Hargrave instead of Fork Union, and actually the players opted to attend that school after Greenberg had received verbal commitments from them. He did have a relationship with that school, but it had nothing to do with recruiting… I assume it’s a place where he thought they would learn to discipline themselves and face some tough competition from time to time.

  • http://www.chrishatcher.weebly.com Chris Hatcher
  • Lee

    I’m sad to see Greenberg go, I thought he definitely deserved one more year.

    I was also sad to see some of the former player’s comments on twitter. Did any one else catch what Jeff Allen was saying yesterday?

    I’m not sure what to make of his comments; it seems to me it could have been from behind the scenes situations we never heard about or from a bitter team alumni that expected more from his college career.

    • Danram

      I am too, Lee. But when things have gotten to the point where your AD can hire any good new assistants because the word has gotten out in coaching circles about how hard Seth is to work for, and when you have players contemplating a transfer because Seth is such a demanding coach, you have to make a change.

      I thought Allen’s comments were unfortunate, but it’s safe to say that Seth was not loved by many of the guys who played for him. Remember the blowup he had with AD Vassallo and the rumors that Nigel Munson left because, at least in part, he didn’t like the way Seth rode him in practice. Some horses respond to the whip, but some spit the bit.

      I support Weaver 100% in his decision. At this point, he really had no choice.

  • Lou

    Green also had comments and was strongly considering transfering to another school.

    Allen seems like a cancer. He’s very talented but frustrates most because he shoots himself and his own team in the foot.

  • Max

    I’m gonna miss Greenberg a lot. I thought Greenberg was a good recruiter, despite the fact he never recruited out of Virginia. His fiery attitude on the sideline during games was infectious, especially on myself as I consistently found myself beating on my computer desk when the Hokies weren’t doing well. He wasn’t a very good coach, in that all the players he recruited were the same players they were from the time they were freshman to the time they graduated. He brought the program back from the dump it was in during the Ricky Stokes era. A .580 winning percentage in 9 seasons with an NCAA Tourney berth is a lot better then a .470 winning percentage the previous 26 seasons with 1 NCAA Tourney bid. Not to mention several wins over #1 teams under Greenberg’s regime. I believe Greenberg’s downfall was the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, a losing record last season, and all of his assistants bolting. Weaver said that the program didn’t have a family type relationship, but the way the players reacted it sounds like they all loved Greenberg and they are a close team. The way this was handled was classless and tacky. Calling Greenberg to tell him he was going to be fire while he was hosting a recruit. Posting on Hokiesports in big letters with a picture of Weaver essentially saying there was going to be a change at the top. It was just handled terribly and the fact Weaver did it a month following the season and nonetheless after he told Greenberg his job was safe through next year. I’m anxious to see what everybody does now. Harrell is leaving, what does Wood do?? How about all the current players on the team?? With all that said I can’t wait to see what this new era of Hokie basketball brings!!

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