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Rival Hokies hire James Johnson as basketball coach

New Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson does his best Seth Greenberg impression in a game this winter.  He'll be the newest Hokie for Hoo fans to love to hate.
New Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson does his best Seth Greenberg impression in a game this winter. He'll be the newest Hokie for Hoo fans to love to hate.

After firing head coach Seth Greenberg last week in what can only be termed a hilarious turn of events, numerous media sources are reporting this morning that Virginia Tech has found their man, hiring Clemson assistant James Johnson. This may be a UVA sports blog, but the activities of our friends peers counterparts to the southwest are certainly of interest to Wahoo fans, especially when they bring on national shame. So here's a little background on the new face of the Virginia Tech basketball program, who is not the same person as the recent transfer from the UVA squad.

While James Johnson comes from the Clemson program, he was employed by Virginia Tech just weeks ago. Under Seth Greenberg, Johnson was the associate head coach and had top responsibility on the recruiting trail. He had been an assistant basketball coach at schools for the past 19 years, including stints at Longwood, Penn State. and George Mason, before arriving in Blacksburg. On April 19th, Johnson announced he was departing Virginia Tech to take a job with Clemson under Brad Brownell, an old friend and colleague. Just under 2 weeks later, Johnson finds himself back at his former school, this time in a head coaching capacity.

Seth Greenberg gave high praise in Johnson's bio on, including an ironic endorsement for a future head coaching job: "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."

The hire certainly won't make a large splash, but it's about the level that rational fans would expect. A positive for Hokie fans is that Johnson likely has established relations with both current players and incoming recruits, especially highly-regarded Montrezl Harrell. In the short term, these athletes would seem to have the potential to be convinced to hang around in Blacksburg, and I suspect that continuity was an important part of VT's decision. Johnson is well-respected in the area and could keep their recruiting pipelines going.

On the other hand, Johnson has been coaching college ball for almost 20 years, yet none of his experience came from the head coaching spot. It remains to be seen how he will handle the new responsibility. While Seth Greenberg certainly had his share of...issues, he was a shrewd game manager that was able to go toe-to-toe against ACC coaches. Johnson has a lot to prove and a long way to go to get to Greenberg's level, especially from an "X's and O's" perspective.

Many of the big names involved in VT's coaching search likely had little interest in a move to Blacksburg, meaning the university was forced to roll the dice by hiring an unproven, albeit promising, assistant coach. The reaction of most Hoo fans will likely be to shrug their shoulders, ponder the irony of the names "Harrell" and "James Johnson" being involved in the VT program (if Harrell does stay aboard), and looking forward to beating them on the floor this winter.