What To Do With James Johnson?

Editor's Note: Pierson and Brian had an epic debate discussing the pros and cons of retaining/dismissing James Johnson. Enjoy it. --Joe

Pierson: My wife and I watched Taken 2 last night. Aside from rationalizing how producers actually thought they could pass Maggie Grace as a 17-year-old, it's easy to be endlessly entertained by Liam Neeson "doing what he does best" and hunting down vindictive Albanian mobsters. After establishing himself with powerful roles in The Mission and Schindler's List, he began to move into this uber-intimidating, "world beater" type role in films like Batman Begins and Taken. The older Neeson gets, the more he's typecast as a soft spoken badass. The A-Team? He is Hannibal—nothing more needs to be said. The Grey? Neeson is surviving in the wilderness, showing the wolves who's boss. Non-Stop? I'd be willing to bet the movie was pitched as Taken at 35,000 feet. And for what it's worth, he will always be remembered as Ra's al Ghul.

Where am I going with this? In all of the aforementioned Neeson flicks, you know before watching the first frame that his character will bring a purpose, an aggression, and an unbeatable intensity. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw that in the eyes of the Hokie basketball team. Certainly not this season, and maybe—maybe—not since the Oklahoma State game early last season. Maybe. The point is, there are a number of things lacking from the James Johnson-led Hokies, and the most visible evidence is the lack of killer instinct that makes teams great.

After watching the last 4 months of basketball, and re-watching the last 9 conference games as some sort of masochistic exercise, I can say with confidence that this team is broken. The effort level is inconsistent, there's little-to-no tenacity or hunger to out play, or out hustle the opposition. I can count on one hand the number of moments over the past two-plus months (most of which occurred during the Pitt game) where I felt that the team's energy reflected their own belief that they had a shot to win. Frankly, there are moments where the team appears conscious they're facing an uphill battle, and that pisses me off. There are plenty of excuses to make. To name a few:

  1. Injuries and "other issues" have forced the team to play with limited numbers, thus limiting their ability to get out and run or play defense at a high intensity level;
  2. The current roster is not conducive to the system JJ wants to run;
  3. Following the graduation of Erick Green, there is no capable Alpha Male to take the reins and lead this team. Jarell Eddie proved that he couldn't handle the role, and Ben Emelogu, despite his talent, is still only a true freshman playing on a bum ankle. The guys Seth Greenberg (and in many ways, JJ) had recruited to take that role—Montrezl Harrell and Dorian Finney-Smith—are elsewhere, and it has clearly hindered the program's ability to compete at a high level.

It's apparent JJ is constantly coaching and teaching. I want to be absolutely clear that I am in no way questioning his efforts, but the translation onto the court is erratic, at best. I am tired of turning on Hokie games and hoping we keep things competitive. I am tired of getting blown out by teams that we should be handling. I know we have a new athletic director and it immediately makes this a controversial subject, but I think it is time for a change. The program has stepped backwards since the dismissal of Seth Greenberg, and JJ hasn't shown enough over the past two years to instill confidence that he can bring Tech out of the cellar. I was one of the few who was excited when JJ was hired, but with each passing game I am starting to believe that it was too much, too soon for a promising young assistant.

Brian: Woah, Pierson coming out of the gate swinging! I really enjoyed the Neeson analogy, the dude's intensity could make Joe's baby grow chest hair, but it seems that your wife has never made you watch Love Actually. (Let this mark both the first and last time that Love Actually has been brought up on this website.)

I see what you're saying though, and as another guy who has watched every. single. godforsaken. game. I would agree that the results have been disheartening to say the least. It makes me uncomfortable trying to become a sports psychologist, diving into the psyche of a team. Who are we to judge whether or not a player is hungry (well other than Jeff Allen during his freshman year, who looked like he was always hungry), or whether or not they have intensity and desire to win?

Plenty of former Hokies could be misrepresented while trying to figure out whether or not a player has the drive to win. Malcolm Delaney was the coolest customer on the court at all times, same expression on his face whether he was up by 20 or down by 20. Heck man, even Tyrod Taylor was a level-headed guy, especially in his last two years. Did we question his intensity or energy? Nope, he just went out there and took care of business. Basketball is such a different breed, though, because it feels much more personal. You can see the faces and the bodies of every guy on that floor and you can see how much every loss psychically pains the team.

In fact, I felt the opposite way for the latter part of the season. After a string of 20-point blowouts in the middle of their ACC schedule, would anyone have been surprised if the team just checked out and lost badly on its way to the worst season in recent memory? Sure the season finished like that anyway, but the guys played as hard as they could. Whether they were playing for JJ or simply themselves is another debate entirely, but you can't deny that those guys were laying it out on the court.

You say that it pisses you off that the team is cognizant of the uphill battle it faces on a game-to-game basis. Let me ask you this, isn't it obvious to everyone? Let's play a little game. Run down the starting five of each ACC team that Tech has played and tell me how many guys wearing maroon and orange would start for the other team.

No, seriously do it. I'll wait. Waiting... Still waiting...

Okay, done? Yeah, the answer for every single school lies between zero and one. This team isn't as talented as its opponents, and what talent it has is accompanied by youthful mistakes.

You say that injuries are simply "an excuse", but let's think about it. In football, the reason you have a bench full of bodies is that injuries are bound to happen. You know players will miss games, and you have to have depth at each position. In basketball, you only have 12 guys and this team has had to use six- and seven-man rotations for the majority of 2014. Guys went down in droves, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Look at the most recent Maryland game. The team was playing very well for a half, but by mid-way through the second half the team was totally gassed and JJ couldn't sub anyone in. They ARE playing at a distinct disadvantage, and have been for most of the year.

This team has fallen off in the last three years, but it was trending down when Greenberg left. Seth never had to give big minutes to Christian Beyer and Will Johnston. Why punish someone who was told to play chess with half of a checkers set?

Pierson: Now I need to make sure my wife doesn't read this article. Can you block movies from ever appearing on your Netflix Queue?

First off, with the exception of Erick Green, I agree that the cupboard was bare when he took over. One of my biggest issues isn't the fact that we are losing games, it is the way we are losing them. If I remember correctly, in your pre-season preview, you noted that your expectation for the team was around 9-10 wins. I agreed with that number at the time, and in hindsight I wouldn't change anything. In addition, I agree with you that (a) this team as it is currently constructed cannot consistently match the top flight teams in the conference; and (b) there aren't more than one or two guys that could start elsewhere in the ACC. But I think we can both agree that there are a few guys on the current roster (i.e. Devin and Ben) that have the potential to be studs by the time their careers wrap up.

I understand your argument about the dangers of attempting to delve into the psyche of a basketball team, especially one comprised of 18-22 year olds. The team's effort in the Pitt, UNC, and Georgia Tech games was clear: this squad has not, and will not give up. They clearly respect and enjoy playing for JJ, even if this team knows that their ceiling is incredibly limited this year. What catches my eye and my ire are the little things; there are basic basketball fundamentals that are severely lacking during the course of the games.

  • Players aren't active off the ball, offensively or defensively.
  • The only person setting consistent, purposeful and hard screens is JVZ. Making matters worse, the guys running off the screens are not coming off them properly, nor are they adapting to the undercutting and hedging that the defense has consistently done.
  • No one EVER has their hands up in the 2-3 zone. To make matters worse, players' feet look heavy. Hands in the air disrupt passing lanes and active feet make closeouts easier. Defensive rotations in the 2-3 are slow, almost to the point where the system looks like it is designed to be conservative and minimize defenders chasing the ball (over-rotations that pull successive players out of position, destroying the 2-3 set).

Now I know that I am over-simplifying things, and there are far more complexities to these little things that we are not even aware of. Fatigue and injuries are surely factors, as are the talent levels. For instance, I would rather have a more athletic wing up top than, say, Will Johnston. But at the same time, Johnston brings an energy to the game that a lot of guys do not.

My point is, all of these things are correctable and could go a long way in improving both the perception and the tangible results of the team. As I mentioned earlier, JJ never stops teaching. It is one of his greatest qualities, and an important element for any young team. If a guy sets a lazy screen, JJ or one of the assistants is surely noting that to the player during the next stoppage in play. However, there continue to be recurring, technical problems.

Maybe it is an issue of JJ's assertiveness, and whether he has the ability to get through to these young men. When JJ was hired, the current players on the roster raved about how great of a coach he was and how excited they were to play for him. Players' coaches, like former Phillies' skipper Charlie Manuel, Andy Reid, or Pete Carroll, can be highly successful with the right mixture of players, and a few mature, vocal leaders that the rest of the team looks up to. Where this approach falters is when the team lacks that leadership, which is typical of a young team.

Look, there is no question that this team will continue to improve in the coming years. A lot of that has to do with the relative youth, lack of depth, and physical strength disadvantage that has been exploited in ACC play. These were all known issues coming into this season. JJ's challenge was to show improvement and establish an identity for this program. Two years in and the identity is excuses. Now the bright side is we may have a healthier, older roster that might be able to run JJ's preferred high-intensity offense and defense. Has JJ gotten a raw deal in his first two seasons? Sure. But forgive me for struggling to justify a third season for a coach who has yet to actually show us what his system is and win with it.

Brian: Look, if I said that I could defend the way that this team has played throughout the entire season, I'd be lying through my teeth. It's been bad basketball, and the only time that the team has found even a shred of success was by making games ugly.

I know what my position is supposed to be. I know that I'm supposed to swoop in and defend JJ with an iron fist while looking past all possible flaws, but as someone who knows what basketball is supposed to look like I simply can't do that.

My defense for a third year for Johnson is two-fold: he was put in such a bad situation that it's impossible to know how good of a coach he actually is, and when thinking about the Virginia Tech job as a whole who would take it? Seth Greenberg was bought out over the course of four years, so they're still paying his tab. If they pay JJ to go away that'd be about a million dollars that you're paying guys to not coach.

With that kind of money off the table, are they really going to get a guy that'd be much better than the one they have now? They don't have the money or the prestige to get a coach from a bigger conference, and going to the ranks of a lower conference is a roll of the dice (remember Andy Enfield, the guy who took Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16? Yeah, he's 11-20 at Southern Cal with two conference wins).

Why not wait a year, gather more money and show a commitment to changing the program for the better? It's impossible to take a bigger hit financially (attendance dropped to under 50% this year), and I know this sounds bad, but how much worse could it get?

Pierson: Sure it was a bad situation, but how long do we continue to allow this wound to fester? Let's take a look at Ken Pomeroy's analytics for the Hokies, dating back to our last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007.

Though there's a bit of a dip from 2011 to 2012 (Greenberg's last season), it is within the deviation we see throughout his tenure. Looking at JJ's first season (2013), we see a slight rise in the Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and a dramatic leap backwards in the Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, all despite the strength of schedule getting moderately easier. The rise in the AdjO can be directly attributed to Erick Green's transcendent season, but the defensive metrics are troubling. Worse still, the offensive metrics dipped precipitously following the loss of EG to graduation. In my opinion, the improvement in the AdjD can be attributed more to the Hokies packing it in, and playing a conservative brand of the 2-3, and not to any drastic improvements in the overall defensive qualities of the team.

The metrics tell us what we already know about the past two seasons: this team is not performing to the level that they were prior to Seth's departure. We all hated Seth's brand of offensive basketball, but the one thing he could implement with great success was a hard-nosed defense. You're asking the fan base, which is already apathetic and dwindling, to buy stock in a third year for a team trending in the wrong direction and lacking any true identity. Forgive me for struggling to hop on board.

I absolutely agree with you that there is no guarantee that the next hire is any better than JJ. What is important is that if Whit chooses to go down this road, he needs to make the smart hire, and not the trendy hire. As you have pointed out, there is an exceptionally long list of flavor-of-the-month mid-major darlings that move up to a major conference program and fail miserably. Andy Enfield is still in his first year at USC. Keep in mind that he inherited a dumpster fire that was lit by Tim Floyd and his numerous NCAA violations, and made worse by his successor Kevin O'Neill.

But you are right: For every Bruce Pearl or Dana Altman, there is a Todd Lickliter. Looking back, it seems abundantly clear that Jim Weaver's firing of Seth Greenberg was done with little foresight. If it had been, the job search wouldn't have dragged on the way that it did. No offense to JJ, but that process was frighteningly similar to the Cleveland Browns' search this offseason. So while I am here voicing my displeasure with the current coaching situation, I understand (a) the realities of the profession; (b) the limitations and drawbacks of coaching a program in Southwest Virginia; and (c) that our financial situation limits our ability to attract the coaching talent we covet.

One of the qualities new AD Whit Babcock brings to the table is his ability to raise money and invigorate a fan base. If there was ever a moment where we needed that approach, this is it. Look, I'm not an expert in college coaching searches, but I would think that a cautious, pragmatic approach that utilizes back channels to gauge interest amongst potential candidates would be the logical first step. If it turns out we have the ability to make a splash and dramatically upgrade the perception and future of the program, Whit has to explore it further. We are getting perilously close to complete and utter apathy. I was a student during the Ricky Stokes years, and I hoped to never experience that garbage again.

Brian: A bit of a dip in Greenberg's last year? They went from 26th in adjusted defensive efficiency to 100th. ONE HUNDREDTH. That's like saying the Titanic hit a little bit of ice, or that Lindsay Lohan has a minor drug problem!

To say that this team was cresting downward is an understatement. Getting both less talented and younger usually doesn't bode well for any college basketball team. I do find it curious, however, that you make very similar excuses for Enfield (mostly underclassmen, unbalanced roster) that can be used for JJ. Not calling you out on it, in fact I feel that there's a similar feel among most fans out there. People are just done with JJ and think that they'd be better served by nearly any other coach, even though I think you'd be hard pressed to see anyone turn this team around this year.

(Also, please don't compare recruiting in Los Angeles to convincing a kid to come live in Blacksburg, Va.)

I know this will sound cynical, but let's say you're Whit Babcock. You fire your head coach, which commits you to pay two guys to not coach your team. Given the recent financing of the program (another problem entirely) you only have money to "take a shot" on a guy who's coaching in the lower levels of DI. What are the odds that that guy works out? 50-50? 60-40 at best? Do you really want to set your program back 2-3 more years for a 60% chance that the new guy is the one to help the team turn the corner?

Also, if by some magical chance you do get a good coach, how long would he stay if the program is in the current shape it's already in? Maybe two years, and then it's back to the drawing board?

If you're ready and willing to make a change, don't you do it when you have everything aligned to succeed? Build a better culture, you get a better coach. Get a better coach, he gets better recruiting classes who then win tons of games. That's the formula. Get a guy who can see that the basketball program as a whole is on the rise, which is not something Tech has been able to do. Remember, when they got Greenberg it's not like he was a top name.

Greenberg went 108-100 with South Florida, 15-14 this season. Under Greenberg, the Bulls lost all 20 games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Their average attendance dropped to 4,045 this season, the lowest in 17 seasons.

No one has wanted this job for a long time, and if you fire JJ right now that trend's going to continue.

Pierson: Okay, maybe it was more than a dip, but after dropping from 7th to 100th in the same metric from 2008-09, all Seth did was follow it up with a rise in efficiency in consecutive seasons to 31st and 26th. Look, we can argue the intangibles of these statistics until the cows come home, but the proof is in the pudding and unlike the much maligned Seth Greenberg, JJ has yet to show us what he would give us in year three. This is evidenced by the fact that outside of the financial argument, you have yet to provide a compelling reason as to why we should keep him from a basketball perspective.

Of course improving the culture around the program is paramount to success, but there are a number of factors that are involved in that, many of which you previously outlined. It's an uphill battle to attract both coaches and recruits to Blacksburg, no doubt. But we have proven that we can lure the talent in other sports, and I see no reason why we cannot do the same in basketball. Blacksburg isn't for everyone, but we are not asking for everyone—only someone. After the 2012 season, aside from our coach's personality, we had a lot of the tenets for a successful program. The Cassell Guard was a force, Montrezl Harrell was going to be a Hokie, we had just had a recruiting class with 4, FOUR!, Top 100 players, and we were extremely competitive in the ACC. Were we struggling to get over the hump? Sure, but at least we were in the conversation. Today we are nothing more than an afterthought.

The financial caveats you outlined are compelling, and frankly, they scare me. I do not want to see our program become what we have grown accustomed to seeing elsewhere in the professional and collegiate ranks. At the same time, I struggle with that as the sole justification. How does that help our perception, both this year and in the future? Who is to say that if JJ struggles next year, our situation will be any different? Whit may need to open the purse strings to justify firing JJ. But the truth is, in addition to the items you outlined in your column, this program needs an identity. It is what helped put our football team on the map and it can help lay the foundation for the future of our program.

When Coach Johnson was hired, I was extremely excited after he discussed his vision for the program and the system he wanted to implement—a high intensity offense that wanted to push the ball up-court and wear down opponents over 40 minutes. After the fan base had been subjected to far too many years of Greenberg's motion offense that spent the first 25 seconds of the shot clock running around outside the three point arc, Johnson's pitch grabbed my attention. Two years later and I have yet to see this offense. Last year the story was, "Well we're short on scholarship players, so we can be more effective controlling our sets and getting the ball into Erick Green's hands as much as humanly possible." EG's ability to create buckets and finish off the dribble carried the team, but so many sets involved EG setting up near half court, running off a high screen and assessing the defense. If the defense collapsed, 9-out-of-10 times the offense would reset and try the same high screen again. It grew tiresome and was a far cry from the "intensity" we had expected. Nevertheless, when you have such a talented finisher as Erick Green, you can get by.

This year was supposed to be somewhat different. JJ would have a full recruiting period to restock. Sure we'd be young, but hell, we would be deeper, healthier and would have a full offseason of conditioning to prepare for the higher pace of play. But injuries to guys like Adam Smith and Ben Emelogu, Malik Mueller's ineligibility, Marquis Rankin's absence and JJ's famous doghouse forced the Hokies to play with just 7 scholarship players in ACC play with less-than-ideal lineups. I agree that this would be a daunting task for any coach, regardless of experience level. A young team with limited numbers and a lack of a true leader can only go so far. The only problem is that I cannot figure out WHO we are as a basketball team. What is James Johnson's identity for "Hokie Basketball?" So far all we seen is "survival mode" and all that we have heard is an idealized philosophy to be implemented at a later date.

I think we can all agree on two things: (1) Devin Wilson has the potential to be a really special player when all is said and done; and (2) JJ is doing a good job of building a team full of athletic wings to run his system. The problem is, who is going to give Devin Wilson a blow next season and still run JJ's system? We learned Adam Smith can't be trusted running point. Malik Mueller is the likely, candidate, but his game isn't run-and-gun. Is Ben Emelogu or one of the incoming freshmen going to be counted on? Outside of Emelogu, what other wing has proven to us that they have a true face-up game? Marshall Wood has shown glimpses, but he has been a shell of himself this season (I blame it on the loss of the hightop fade). Are the pieces there to successfully run JJ's system? Or will we be having the same discussion next offseason: "We're almost there, we just need one more season to bring it together."

Seriously, have you ever heard of a basketball coach being unable to implement his offensive and defensive systems until Year 3? Are we in the Twilight Zone? Whit is a new AD with zero allegiance to JJ, and one has to wonder if he is willing to tie his horse to that cart. If his introductory presser is any indication, anything could happen.

I can appreciate the heritage and traditions of what makes Virginia Tech so special. We will respect those traditions while also working to build a culture of continuous improvement and dynamic growth. Now is certainly not the time to fall back or plateau. It will take all of us, all of the Hokie family pulling in the same direction, to accomplish that. I'm confident we can do it together, keep achieving, keep improving together.

Playing in the most competitive basketball conference in the nation provides Virginia Tech with an incredible platform to showcase what being a Hokie is all about. The longer we fade toward irrelevance, the harder it will become to recover. In the end, all that I want is future success for this basketball program. Whit is faced with a difficult decision shortly after taking the job. But I have faith that he will ultimately do what is best for the program and the University.

Brian: We've burned through a lot of words here, so I think I'm going to keep my final counter brief. I feel that Tech can be a "two-sport school" like Florida or Tennessee, but it's going to be a 2-3 year process full of hard work both on the court and off of it. It's going to take exactly the right coach to finally put the Hokies over the top, and do you really want to rush that process with bare coffers? If they fire JJ right now, but make another bad hire from a pool of less qualified candidates, what was once a 2-3 year process immediately becomes a 4-5 year ordeal. Do you really want to rush into something with any doubt as to whether or not it would work? I sure don't.

Contact the editor about this post anytime by phone: (703) 646-1931 or mail: 3057 Nutley St Suite 633, Fairfax, Virginia 22031.

Comments

I read every word. And literally flip flopped with whomever was voicing their opinion. I really haven't watched basketball at all for the past two years. (I guess that's saying something). I want to have a successful sports program as much as the next Hokie. My question is if JJ were to keep his job, do you see this team improving next year? Can you envision JJ being a contender in the ACC? If we are having this conversation again next year will we regret not just biting the bullet now and making an educated hire that will provide the best opportunity to succeed? This year was historically bad and really can't get much worse. Presumably with a new hire you are going to get someone who you're betting does better than his predecessor. In this case that floor is very low. I'm not really sure which way I swing as far as granting JJ a 3rd year. I don't know enough about basketball to say what the problem is with his teams. But can you see a JJ team butting heads on a regular basis with UNC?Dook?Sewercuse? Or do you see those other coaches in a different league than JJ? I try to think of it like French does in his reviews of Lefty. French sees real promise in what Lefty is trying to do, even though the results might not be there just yet. Do we see that with JJ or are we going to be asking ourselves these same questions next year?

And for what it's worth, he will always be remembered as Ra's al Ghul

I'll always remember Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn. Easily my favorite Jedi.

And with regards to JJ, I'm with Brian. If we give Johnson another year, in the worst case scenario, we endure another losing season and another early ACC tournament exit. As bad as that would be, the alternative worst case scenario would be much worse. If we go with a new guy, there is a very real chance that we still endure another terrible season, but with 3 different head coaches on the payroll.

The way I see it, no one really knows for sure what we have in JJ. Personally, I think he can build a sucessful program at VT, but I could be wrong. His team's play hasn't really instilled a ton of confidence, but he also (due to circumstances beyond his control) hasn't had anything close to ACC-caliber talent and depth to work with. Whit will be rolling the dice either way, but he'd be risking way more by going with a new hire.

Letting a wound fester is bad, but it is still better than shooting it with a nail gun.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

Liam Neeson in my mind will always just be a terrible father. He abandons you in fallout. He's overprotective in ponyo and taken. He abandons his daughter in the batman franchise. The Jedi actually let anyone have kids. They just didn't want to tell Qui-Gon Jinn because they knew he'd fuck it up.

You shouldn't pay too much attention to Hollywood father role depictions.

The reality of Taken was he wasn't too over-protective and he wasn't told the facts of the trip in the first place. Yes its typescript, but makes it the defacto reality within the scope of the movie.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

My real beef with Taken is how unlikable his daughter is--She was such a spoiled and unappreciative little wretch. I'm not saying I was rooting against her per se, but if there was ever a movie character who deserved some forced time on a sheikh's pleasure yacht, she'd be the one.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

lol, wow!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Really nobody in that movie is right. Seriously. Everyone is wrong on some level.

IMO, If Whit finds the right Coach that meets his standard, JJ is gone this year. I think it all rides on who might be out there to come to VT. Our new AD is in a spot right out of the gates, VT needs a Change but the right hire also is important . This could be over by today or this weekend IF VT finds that right fit...If Not, 2015 .

Jack R.

I agree with Jack. If Whit finds a guy, JJ is gone. When Weaver hired JJ, I thought it was an odd hire. No head-coaching on his resume and yet right out of the gate his first job is a head coach in the ACC. I don't know of anybody who got the keys to a porsche as their first car and did'nt wreck it (OK maybe VT is a Buick, but you get my point.) I used to think a young coach is the way to go and it may still be the way to go, but it needs to be a young coach with history as a head coach.

I always look at opportunity cost, and in this case what is the cost of not making change. In the end, no change at the head coach, could cost the program a whole hell of lot more than $1M.

BTW nice article guys.

I agree that Whit should be/is searching for a replacement like Seal Team 6, and if he finds THE guy, then JJ is gone.
But it makes me think WTF happened with Greenburg?-dude had success at VT, was recruiting well above our typical level, and had the personality/ego befitting of a Div. 1 ACC caliber coach-he was a character of the likes of Valvano.
Was it such a dumpster fire that Weaver had to just up and fire the guy and pick up a JJ? Or could there have been a compromise?
I know Weaver/Greenburg situation has been discussed ad nausem, but I'm curious as to what the big trigger was for Weaver to commit VT basketball to a flight plan resembling that of the Hindenburg.
Bad personalities my ass-I've had girlfriends with bad personalities that I dealt with because the goods outweighed the bad. Now we've got the nice girl that looks like crap and can't roll a biscuit to save her life. (Does that sound sexist?)

the story has always been that weaver had a meeting with the entire athletic department about seth after jj's exit interview and the firing happened shortly thereafter. I don't think anyone would argue the timing and handling of the firing itself were horribly mishandled. seemed very knee jerk so I always assumed there was behind the scenes beef to begin with.

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

I think it had to do with not meeting expectations with his personality. His expectations were to make the NCAA tourney. Sure, one or two times we should've been selected when we we're on the bubble, but most of those years on the bubble were our fault. We would always drop games at the end of the season that we should not have. There would always be a bad loss after a good win.

"Facyson is a baller."
-CFB

not disagreeing with anything you said but jamie dixon at pitt was promoted from assistant to head coach and that's worked out pretty well. it's certainly not likely for a first time head coach to have success at a high level but its not impossible.

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

Nice article. I lost track of myself a few times in there, what with Lindsey Lohan hitting an iceberg and all.

The strongest point to be made, in my opinion, is this one:

...what was once a 2-3 year process immediately becomes a 4-5 year ordeal

This is where the basketball program is right now. Jumping at an unknown change would be a crapshoot at best. If Pearl came out of the woodwork, or any big name, saying they REALLY REALLY wanted to be the next coach of the Hokies RIGHT NOW, then I'd say go for it.

Correct me because I'm probably wrong, but although next year will be JJ's third year, isn't he still pretty much only on his second recruiting class? I can't remember the timing for Seth's firing, JJ's hiring, and when signing day is for basketball, but JJ's had a lot of work to do and not a lot of resources and support to do it.

Finally, I'd say keep JJ until we're finished paying Seth.

well Lindsey's been hitting that ice, that's for sure.

"I'm just rocking the Fuller"-Kendall Fuller
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

or stealing it from other celebrities homes when over for a party

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Finally, I'd say keep JJ until we're finished paying Seth.

I think that is what is going to happen. I can't see the Hokies breaking the bank for a $1-1.5 million per year coach with 2 ex coaches still on the payroll.

Exactly. This was discussed on another thread. Whit will focus on the game brand next year (another great thread!) since we have some $$$ issues right now and keep his eyes open for quality college coaches contracts coming open in a year or so.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I love the back and forth here. Both of you address basically every pro & con, but one thing Brian said stuck out to me.

Also, if by some magical chance you do get a good coach, how long would he stay if the program is in the current shape it's already in? Maybe two years, and then it's back to the drawing board?

This is one of the worst excuses for not making a change that I have heard. It comes up everytime we talk about changing coordinators in football and it makes me angry every time.

The threat of succeeding should never deter anybody from making a change at any spot in any walk of life

@Fightin_Gobbler

Go Hokies

Go Falcons

Agree 100%, that is what is called opportunity cost and that always involves some level of risk. In hindsight, I wonder if anybody (meaning the VT AD) looked at the level of risk when Seth was let go. Such as, recruits that walked.

Remember the saying change is good, just don't do it blindly and without thought.

Frank Beamer has spoiled our fans on the realities of how collge football works for coaches.

So when we've already put ourselves in a risky situation, we should take a chance on more? This is like losing $100 gambling and doubling down. Sure, you might win, but the chances are against you. Maybe I'm just too conservative a person, but I'd rather not take the chance on losing another 2-3 years for our basketball program.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

It's not like doubling down, though. Because we don't really stand to lose anything here. Things are already as bad as they're going to be. We won 9 games. We won 2 conference games, we finished last in the conference 3 years straight. What exactly is there to "lose?"

Keep JJ and all you're doing is delyaing the inevitable for another year.

I guess my point is we'll be losing more money to hire a coach who may or may not lead us to success. Worst case, we fire JJ and hire a guy who is just as unsuccessful due to money constraints. This does make us lose something. We lose 3 years of rebuilding our program.
If money weren't a concern, then I'd be right there. But, having 3 head coach salaries on the books constricts who you can hire a good bit.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

yeah but the reason we had to hire JJ was due to "money reasons" and firing SG. so now we're keeping him because of "money reasons?"

Is depth charging addtendance after another dumpter fire year not "money reasons" enough to get rid of him?

I never said anything about retaining or firing JJ. All I said was, don't use "what if we hire a good coach?!" as an argument against making a change. That line of logic makes no sense and was used year after year to justify keeping the offensive staff for football.

@Fightin_Gobbler

Go Hokies

Go Falcons

I never meant to put words in your mouth. I apologize. I was really just responding to you last sentence.
I've encountered to idea of "prospect theory" a lot the last couple weeks and have been thinking about it.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

If we hire a coach who has success then leaves, then we have proven to other up and coming coaches that we have the resources necessary to build a competitive program. It would mean that we had reestablished (at least a little bit of) a basketball program.

EXHIBIT A: JEFF GRIMES
We fired Newsome, hired Grimes, who later left. However, when he left, he left our OL better than he found it, and we were able to attract another big name OL coach.

Twitter me

+1. Great Point

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Btw-the buyout issue will be there next year as well. Greenberg's is over 4 years and Weavers is over the next 2.

That $1m will more than be lost in ticket sales, concessions, merchandising, etc.

Bottom line is if you believe JJ is the guy, keep him and extend his contract 3 years. If not, cut bait and start over. We may loose a few players or recruits. If JJ is given another year, he will be viewed as a lame duck and no way he signs a good class...so basically it's a bad year next or the following. Plus a new coach would reinvigorate the fan base and potentially increase ticket sales next year.

We put the K in Kwality

JJ has three more years on his contract. I want him to have his third year but don't even talk about extending a contract until he actually is 50-50 in ACC play.

A knowledgeable poster over on TSL brought up this very point. JJ is already viewed as "on the hot seat." How wel do you think that would bode for his recruiting, this year and next? The problem is that you can't just commit to the guy for "a year and see how it works out." What recruit would ever come here in that situation?

"Come to tech and play for me! I can't even guarantee I'll make it through next year, let alone your whole college career!"

Unless he contract extension removes the buyout clause, I don't want to see a contract extension. Sorry.

Right, no one does.

Which makes the proper decision then to...?

"Come to tech and play for me! I can't even guarantee I'll make it through next year, let alone your whole college career!"

Seems to be working pretty well for Mike London...

needs more "YOU!"

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

This is the same deal in cville with timecop, yet he was able to pull in some top recruits. I guess what im trying to say is it could light a fire under his butt and he could step up as a coach.

What to do with James Johnson?

)

@VTimHokie85
#BringBackTheTerrorDome

JJ's challenge was to show improvement and establish an identity for this program. Two years in and the identity is excuses.

Bam

Oh to have been in the room for this discussion.
I was of the mindset that the cost to keep JJ would help the program shed the cost of paying Greenberg still until I read this article in the Daily Press

The pressing issues are: Does Babcock agree? Can Tech afford to gamble that Johnson, as unproven as he is likable, can recruit and lead well enough to reverse a slide that's costing more than $1 million annually in lost ticket sales and casting a pall over the department? Can Tech afford to lure an established head coach? Money notwithstanding, is the program attractive enough to entice top-shelf candidates? Or would those coaches merely use Tech as leverage with their present employers?

That paragraph sums up the entire dilemma. Costing more than his salary and Greenberg's combined? but whats the alternative?

I like JJ but have always questioned his fire for the job. Where Greenberg was a hothead and always dramatic, JJ has been primarily the opposite. The biggest flash I saw from him this year was at the end of the UNC game and Eddie was whistled for that awful charge call that finished any comeback from happening. I need to see more of that JJ next year when he has a full roster if he isn't fired by Whit by the end of the week.

Horse hit on a key point that hasn't gotten much run in our discussion. JJ has really only brought in ONE of his own pledge classes so far and even that pledge class was extremely diminished in its impact this year because Donte Clark (star of the class) failed to qualify and ended up at UMass, Malik Mueller ended up being forced by the NCAA to sit out this season, and Maurice Kirby redshirted.

We got to see the other three all play significant roles on this team this year even in dealing with injuries. This immediately speaks to the depth and injury problems this team had going into the season. Three freshmen usually aren't primary contributors on the floor for many programs other than Kentucky. Devin grew up in front of us, averaged 34 minutes a game, chipping in 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Ben chipped in 10.5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game even being limited by the injury. Trevor Thompson was another that definitely grew in importance as the season progressed. He ended with 5 points and 5 rebounds a game on the season. That's 25 points per game of the team's 63 points per game this season from his first class.

Adam Smith was averaging 11 points per game before his injury sidelined him. The critical lack of depth at the point guard position this season hampered what JJ was able to do on both sides of the ball.

The discussion of the Erick Greene time last year in my opinion doesn't touch on the most critical aspect of that time. I loved watching Greene go up against Windmills, but from a team perspective I think he was the worst thing that could have happened to JJ and the rest of the team that year. He was the safety net, the easy out, and it never forced the rest of the team to grow up. Eddie never developed a killer mentality, Raines was allowed to loaf about and even Barksdale, Wood and JVZ got a lot less development especially offensively than they would have had without a player like Greene on the floor. It might also have been the root of Robert Brown leaving among other reasons. Brown never got enough playing time to work through his funk on the floor to ultimately find some success.

The future class coming in has Jalen Hudson, a 6'5" shooting guard from Lebron James old high school, led his team to a district title this year so far. He appears to have averaged 17 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds a game this season.

TJ Lang is a 6'7" small forward from a basketball pedigree. His father is Antonio Lang, who played at Duke as part of the 91 and 92 National champs and then went on to five years in the NBA. TJ Lang comes in back to back Mobile Alabama Player of the Year, leading McGill to the state tourney the last two years. This season he has averaged 21 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists a game.

Justin Bibbs rounds out the class as a 6'5" shooting guard from Montverde Academy. Last season Bibbs helped Montverde achieve the #1 ranking in every high school poll in the US. This season it appears they will finish #2 in the nation and are currently 25-0. Bibbs averaged 15 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds a game this season.

These three bring something that was severely lacking this season, pure shooting ability. They have the knack that Delaney and Greene had to be able to take the jump shot anywhere from 10 to 20 feet from the hoop and score more often than not. They are lean, fast players that fit exactly the style of basketball that JJ has said all along he wants to play.

I think that with all of the discussion considered that I lean towards JJ getting a third year but that year has to come with HIGH expectations. They need to be at least an NIT team with a chance of making the tournament. That means winning at least eight out of twelve OOC games and then having at least an even record in the ACC.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

I would not be opposed to another year of JJ, but like the football team, there needs to be some shake-up on the staff. Maybe we bring in a retired guru the likes of maybe a Bobby Knight to change the offense for next year.

Definitely, let's see if we can bring one of the greatest basketball coaches EVER out of retirement to a dumpster fire of a program he has zero association with to give us a little "shake up" as an assistant coach...I just, wow...

We could hire Phil Jackson as president of basketball operations. I hear he is looking for a job. oh wait..

Lets get Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as assistant coaches. :)

I agree that there is a need to look at the entire staff and see if there is someone that can work with the shooters on improving shot selection and form. I do not anticipate that taking the form of Bobby Knight, who ESPN and others pay more than JJ just to be an occasional analyst on TV. I don't have a specific name to give you for them to pursue but in my mind someone like Steve Kerr, the long range specialist of old from the Bulls (and yes I know Steve Kerr is GM of the Phoenix Suns) but someone of his ilk would be who I would pursue.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

What's Dan Majerle up to?

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Coaching for a Div 1 Basketball team - Grand Canyon University - in the WAC!! Last year's record was 15-14 (10-6 in conference). He was a Phoenix Suns Asst head Coach before that for 5 years. Sounds like he's done well post NBA...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Thanks! That was fast. (That's what she said)

That sounds like the resume of a former long-range specialist, turned coach that we should keep our eyes on. Like a homeless man's Steve Kerr.

For the record, I think JJ needs another season for us to truly judge his coaching abilities and vision for the program. What many people are brushing off as "excuses" are pretty significant obstacles to success in big-boy college basketball. Rome wasn't built in a day and Romulus and Remus didn't start with a still burning dumpster fire. Let's see what JJ can do with at least two of his own recruting classes and a supportive AD. If that doesn't work out, then after JJ's third year we will be much better off financially if a coaching change is necessary.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Wow, why the down vote for that?...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I evened you out. I have absolutely no idea why someone would downvote that comment. Hopefully, it was just fat fingers on a phone.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Someone that can work with the shooters on improving shot selection and form? Like a coach?

I think Dell likes his broadcasting job but it would at least be worth a conversation. Saw him last night on the Washington Wizards game against the Bobcats.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Penny Hardaway has been coaching a middle school team in Memphis and they win city championships. That's almost all fundamentals at that level.

WHO WANTS TO START THE RUCKUS!?

Kerr isn't the Suns GM anymore. He stepped down in June 2010.

In Sam Rogers we trust.

I didn't know anything about our recruits for next season. Assuming they all qualify and they all fit the mold of the players who can run JJ's offense, I'd say it would be great to see what he could do with these guys for two years with Devin running point. I say save money now, let JJ run the show, get his players in, install his system, and don't get too hyped about what might be.

I agree that a lot of key players (e.g. Mueller) did not have a chance to contribute this season, but the argument that JJ has only had 1 recruiting class doesn't hold water. He was the lead recruiter for every player on the team left from the Greenberg-era, including guys no longer on the team. Were these players SG wanted? Sure, but assistants don't vouch for guys they wouldn't want, themselves.

The notion that JJ deserves another year bc he has been playing with guys that don't fit his system is lazy. According to everything we have heard so far, we haven't seen his system yet. Were we shorthanded? Yes. Are the current players bad fits? Inconclusive.

Moreover, what's "his system?"

It doesn't take 3 years to implement a system. It's college basketball.

JJ will get another year is the consensus from all the people i have talked to on campus. The main reason I think he stays around is because of recruiting. As many people have said when Greenberg was fired we took a huge hit to the program from players decommitting, most notably Montrezl Harrell and Dorian Finney-Smith. We are finally starting to catch back up recruiting so JJ can build the team he wants. People also forget that Rankin quit this year and Robert brown transferred last year. Between decommitts and transfers in recent memory we can really afford to switch coaches again and risk losing key prospects:

Lamont "Momo" Jones - 22.6 ppg 3.4 apg 3 rpg in 36.6 min with iona
Manny Atkins - 14.6ppg6.1apg1.5 rpg in 33.1min with georgia st
Ben Boggs - 5.6ppg .5apg 2.3rpg in 17.9min with valpo
Tyrone Garland - 13.0 ppg 2.4 apg2.5 rpg in 29.5 min with LaSalle
Dorrian Finney-Smith - 9.4 ppg6.9 apg 2.1 rpg in 25.5min with Florida
Montrezl Harrell - 14.0 ppg 8.3 apg 1.2 rpg in 28.9 min with Louisville
Robert Brown - sit out because of NCAA transfer rules, UAB

With that being said I think a Healthy Ben Emelogu can turn into a Marcus Smart type player if he can avoid injury. Devin Wilson has shown he can handle the point for years to come and can only improve upon his all freshman acc team performance. Trevor Thompson is a raw talent that is improving every game. Malik Muller is on the german national team and was compared to Marcus Paige from UNC by JJ for his ability to shoot the ball.

JJ brought in a great class for next season considering the way the program has been headed and Whit will give him another year to see if all the pieces he assembled look anything like the final picture he was shown at the start.

I think we have to let him go. Sooner rather than later. Let's rebuild, with an AD who understands basketball.

Brandon J. Carroll
Class of 2010

Is Stick It In permitted at Cassel?

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech

Fosterball

I am not sure how I feel on this issue. On one hand, JJ has been dealt a poor hand; with injuries and defections, he has not had a competitive team that can play in the ACC. On the other hand, the players he has had should be very competitive with our OOC schedule. An ACC team should never lose to USC Upstate or UNCG. I don't think JJ has had a fair chance to show what he can do; but I am not sure he has shown enough to get another year.

I guess I am willing to let him have one more year unless Whit can entice a proven winner to Blacksburg.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

If Shaka or other coach becomes available and is interested, Whit finds the $$$ to make the move. Until then, he has to show support for the coach or he will undermine recruiting and everything else (assistants leaving, etc... ahem weaver).

Whit seems like an operator. Needs to marginalize guys like Teel who are undermining program support with his probably completely unresearched column yesterday. Don't give the clown any access. If Whit did give Teel access to float a trial balloon, thats not a good sign for our new AD hire.

Should try to find a highly qualified HS or other asst coach who can help and mentor JJ... no offense to JJ but like UVA is doing with London. No need to hire a retread coach as JJ's replacement at this point. Plenty of time later if JJ implodes and we can't buy our way out of our mess (we should be able to). JJ could still get this done. But so could Whit (by hiring the answer). If either of them fails to show they will get it done by the end of next year's coach hiring season... this could end up a mess.

Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise. Not sure how burned out the donors are....hoping for Whit's sake, he can raise a rainy day fund... okay a few rainy day funds, because we've got a few happening, probably a few more coming.

Teel is probably one of the most respected journalists in the state. I wouldn't say the guy is a clown.

JJs primary assistant head coach has like 32 years in coaching mostly at Penn State and already acts asJJs mentor. What the staff seems to lack is a coach that primarily supports improving the offensive awareness, shot selection, and flow on the offensive end of the court. That's where I would like to see them find a new assistant.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Seems to me JJ may need a new mentor...I feel like JJ still coaches like an assistant coach. He's all about teaching - which in and of itself isn't a bad thing at all- but I think the jobs of teaching fundamentals (the fact that these still needs to be taught at this level is another rant entirely) should be left to the assistants. The head coach is the leader, the figure head. His primary job should be designing and implementing sound strategies to win games as well as motivating, encouraging, and disciplining his players. In theory, he shouldn't have time to be teaching the little things.

Now I'm no coach, but I played basketball very competitively for 12 years under some great coaches and that was always my observation.

I know someone posted a lengthy e-mail about our offense. To me that means we don't have a motion offense. I agree with you that we could really use some augmentation on the offensive basketball end.

Whether that is installing a motion offense (with our guard issues this year it may not have been possible), or working on the things you mention, I'm right there with you.

Seems like we operate with fewer assistants in football than we could have. Maybe basketball is the same?

"If you're ready and willing to make a change, don't you do it when you have everything aligned to succeed? Build a better culture, you get a better coach. "

Isn't it going to be tougher to build a better culture if the program continues to dwell at the bottom of the conference? I don't buy this line of thought. If JJ isn't the guy then keeping him around is like keeping around a girlfriend who you don't want to be with any longer because you don't want to be single and don't have a hotter replacement lined up. That generally ends poorly.

Let's continue your girlfriend analogy, but let's say you signed a lease with this girl (stupid move, but I digress). In this analogy, stressful/awkward situations = money lost by athletics. You can:

  1. Dump her now, continue the lease, and find a new girlfriend - not going to be easy, who wants to sleep with someone who lives with their ex? (Fire JJ, keep paying him, hire a new coach)
  2. Wait until the end of the lease to reevaluate her, and if necessary dump her (Wait until JJ's contract is up)
  3. Dump her now, end the lease now, find a new GF who's awesome and will let you live with her (Fire JJ now and hire Coach K at a reduced rate)

#3's not happening, sorry.

#2 isn't ideal, but it's the easiest way to get out alive (less spending).

#1 leaves a lot of room for a horrible life (lots of spending)

Why not just suck it up and reevaluate later?

Analogies aside, don't forget that any new coach is going to have to rebuild too. If next year is going suck no matter what, then why not save money in the mean time, so you have more to spend later?

Isn't it going to be tougher to build a better culture if the program continues to dwell at the bottom of the conference?

I think we're so low that we can't go much lower. I believe that one more bad year will hurt us less in the long term than losing a half million and having a mediocre year.

Twitter me

Any new coach is going to have to rebuild after next year, too. So, all you're doing is delaying the "rebuild" out one more year, and thus ensuring *at least* two more bad years.

I think it's so telling that all the arguments for keeping JJ are "to save money" or "i feel bad for him." Absolutely none of them are "JJ is a really good coach who was dealt a bad hand. You can see flashes of his vision for VTBB. This is a guy who's ceiling aligns with our goals for the program - an NCAA Tournament Bid about every 3 years, and maybe the odd Sweet 16 run if things work out right."

It's never that. Never. It's "well he seems like a nice guy, and it would cost us a little bit of money to release him."

Hiring JJ was a "money saving" move to the detriment of the program. Retaining him will be a "money saving" move to the detriment of the program. Not spending money to better the program is 75% of the reason the program is where it is right now. Spend money and make basketball better, stop the madness.

Easy to say "spend money now" when we would be forking out over a million a year to coaches that aren't here or wouldn't be (JJ). Not to mention the $750,000+ it would take to get in a better coach.

As for JJ. One player not qualifying academically this year, another had to sit for the NCAA, and massive injuries have left him playing just 6 players for significant minutes. That is circumstances outside of his control.

He adapted too change his defense and improved the team. A little late, but he got there.

Eddie crashing and burning under the pressure of being a senior, NOBODY expected that. Again outside of JJ's control.

Every coach deserves a chance at their third year of a contract. This will be his second class coming in. And one important thing you are overlooking. The team never quit on the coach.

We need to be prepared to spend at minimum $1-$1.5 million to attract a good coach, plus another $1-$1.5 million for his staff. We cannot continue to hire these discount coaches and expect anything different than what we've had the past few decades. I think it's become pretty clear that we're getting what we pay for.

I agree, but that is part of the reason why I think JJ sticks around for one more year and that gives Whit a year to raise money for a big name coach if JJ doesn't have a massive turnaround.

Yea, I go back and forth on a daily basis. Might as well flip a coin in my opinion, seems just as risky either way. And I'm OK with either firing him now or giving him another season, I think both options are logical. Very glad, I'm not making this decision!

Same here. I lean more towards another year with hopefully no injuries. But I could understand if fired.

Your whole plan is "wait another year and then fire him." THat makes him an instant lame duck. We spend this whole time talking about what an unfair situation is and then put him in another unfair situation because, let's all be real here...there's not going to be any "massive turnaround."

"Lets fire him next year to save a couple of dollars" isn't a viable strategy because it creates a no-win scenario. You either have to fire him now, or commit to him with an extension. There's no wishy-washy middle ground that benefits the program.

How do we know there won't be improvement? Do you have a magic 8-ball? New players in that he has recruited for his plan. He was involved in previous recruitment yes, but that was for Greenburg's plan not his.

He has 3 years remaining on his contract, most schools wouldn't be extending a coach with 3 years remaining. They do it during the second to last year most times.

Most of those coaches haven't performed so poorly that the discussion is "should our brand new AD who didn't hire the guy fire him now or just put him on the hot seat all season?"

Those "new guys for his system" will all be...new, one of the excuses put up for why he did so poorly this year. Freahman can't ball, they get tired, blah blah blah. Come on. This is a "should we fire him this year or next year and save a couple bucks" discussion. The answer to that question is always "now."

If you think JJ is getting this team to .500 in conference and the NIT next year, pretty much what he would have to do to merit extended employment, I've got a bridge to sell you. I'd also like to know exactly what you've seen over the last 2 years that make you think he will. Also if you could tell me what his "plan" is, I'd love to hear it because no one seems to know.

Hiring JJ was a "money saving" move to the detriment of the program. Retaining him will be a "money saving" move to the detriment of the program. Not spending money to better the program is 75% of the reason the program is where it is right now. Spend money and make basketball better, stop the madness.

  1. JJ was hired because we need a coach to step in halfway through the off season. We needed a familiar face to save whatever recruits and current players (Erick Green) that we could. Weaver put us in a situation where JJ was probably the best option.
  2. The money saving is absolutely an issue that must be considered. Say you're buying a car; your current car is worth $1k, and you have $5k saved up. Do you sell the current car and buy a new car now for $6k, or, do you ride the current car to the ground over the next year (in which time you save up another $5k) and buy a nicer car a year later? You can't buy the car that requires a $10k downpayment if you only have $6k.

I think it's so telling that all the arguments for keeping JJ are "to save money" or "i feel bad for him." Absolutely none of them are "JJ is a really good coach who was dealt a bad hand. You can see flashes of his vision for VTBB. This is a guy who's ceiling aligns with our goals for the program - an NCAA Tournament Bid about every 3 years, and maybe the odd Sweet 16 run if things work out right."

I think JJ has potential to be a good coach, and I think that his progression was hindered by the position he accepted. I do think you see flashes of his vision, the question is can he make his vision a reality? He knows where the team is, and he knows what he wants them to be, but can he get them from point A to point B? IMO, this is still unknown. Between that, and our financial situation, I support giving JJ one more year to prove himself.

Twitter me

Specifically, what have you seen that indicated JJ has the "potential" to be a good coach? What has he shown you? Where is literally any evidence that he can compete at all with coaches on the level of K, Boeheim, Roy Williams, Dixon, etc?

Admittedly, I cannot speak knowledgeably about the X's and O's of our team's strategy, but there have been moments of promise (first half against Michigan St, our recently increased defensive efforts, etc). I don't think Coach K, Boeheim, Williams, or Dixon could have been much more successful with this roster.

If we could afford/hire a proven commodity to replace JJ by the end of the tournament, I would support the move. That doesn't mean I view JJ as a 'Lame Duck' Coach, it means I don't think the athletic department has another choice. Who else would we hire? How much would they cost? Where would the money come from?

Twitter me

JJ wants to run up and down the court. For two years and bc of a variety of reasons, we have killed the ball and tried to limit possessions (so the opposite of his preferred system).

JJ wants to use an intense man-to-man D to constantly pressure the ball. Instead, we have played a conservative form of the 2-3 to survive. It limited exposure to foul trouble (specifically for Devin and JVZ) and also slowed the game down.

We played good defense and rebounded well, but as I noted in the article, the statistical improvements can be attributed more to the "bend but don't break" defense and less to a true improvement in the teams defensive prowess. JJ implemented a system that allowed the team to keep games close and improve our chances to win.

You've established the problem, but do you have a viable solution (a new coach)?

Twitter me

I Iike want he wants to do, but what I struggle with is the lack of evidence that he is capable of coaching in a power conference. It is telling that no one can provide a strong argument as to why he should remain coach from a purely basketball perspective.

There was a post on here a month or so ago then went over a bunch of vialbe candidates to replace JJ. I'll try and dig it up, but this whole "who's out there" schtick is tired. There's 200 mid-major coaches out there we could replace him with. Most with many time more head coaching experience than him and proven systems and a record of success.

Duffman, its clear that you want JJ gone. If you want a new coach, all you have to do is raise the money for his buyout. Thats what Marshall just did with their coach. Private funds for 500k bought out Herrions contract and he was fired today. If you want JJ gone so bad, call up the athletic department and pledge your money

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

It's not my job, it's Whits job. If anyone from hokie club wants to call me to talk about raising money to buy out the men's bball coach Id love to talk. Arguments like these are tired.

I think the point is that we can't make a decision on whether or not to keep JJ purely on his performance; we have no choice but to consider the financial side of it.

Twitter me

Virginia Tech has spent 20 years making every damn basketball decision based on "what can we do on the cheap" the results speak for themselves.

In one respect, I guess what's one more year. In the other respect, when is enough enough?

You get what you pay for. We have the basketball program we deserve, continued acceptance of this nonsense is to blame for where we are now. So, the choice is up to you, either accept another year of terrible basketball at bargain basement prices, or advocate for a change. I know where I stand.

I'm over it. We've sucked on the cheap f long enough. You feel different and that's cool too. I'll see you here next year having the *exact same converaation* because we all know nothing is going to change.

What's the excuse going to be next year? I'm assuming youth and injuries again.

Demand better Hokie fans, it's OK. Look at what happened when we finally all demanded better on offense in football?

"Demand better Hokie fans, it's OK. Look at what happened when we finally all demanded better on offense in football?"

What happened was years of Beamer not listening to the fans demanding better on offense. I am not sure you are making your point with that example.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Right Beamer didn't listen for years and then he finally did, and the difference Is night and day in offense.

Just like the football offense, you can only make excuses and pretend like there's not actually a problem for so long.

Actually I think bringing up the football offensive coaching staff changes goes against your intended point. The overall offensive numbers went down under Loefler and Co. this year. Total and average rushing yards decreased. LT3's touchdowns decreased, as did his rushing stats and passing TDs were down too. But what increased was the fundamentals and the overall talent of the team. French will back up the offensive line, running back execution and the WRs made huge leaps in the regular season under Lo&Co.
I believe this to be the same as with the 2013 basketball team over 2012. I expect a large jump in talent and execution next year too. With JJ at the helm

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

You think this team is fundamentally better than it was one to two years ago? Really? I don't even know what to say to that...basic, I mean very basic basketball fundamentals is one of this teams biggest weaknesses under JJ.

You can see the loeffler offense. It makes sense, you can verbalized what the mission is and you can speak to what the players are doing to accomplish it. It's right there. It not only passes the laymans eye test, it passes educated scrutiny.

Can the same be said for the offense OR defense under JJ in MBB? Because I keep asking and no one answers.

What is VT men's BB under JJ? What is it and why? No one can answer this . That's not only a problem , it the problem.

I was talking about the improvement from JJs first year to second. Not comparing JJ to greenburg. I surrender, greenburg had his team playing more fundamentally than JJ after 9 years.

As for football(basketball), Loefler(JJ) was using the players at hand to implement the strategy he saw best to win. Loefler(JJ) probably didnt anticipate using 3rd and Logan(zone defense or having to use walk-ons) so often. But he saw the players on the team and drafted a plan accordingly, even if it differed from his Tom Brady or Chad Henne plan. Although it doesnt work if logan doesnt pass crisply to the open receiver (Eddie misses an open three from the corner or JVZ misses a dunk) missing dunks? are you kidding me, JVZ.

We have heard what JJ wants to run, even if we havent seen it. He needs the players before he can run like VCU and play suffocating man-to-man defense for 60 min.

I believe we are forced to concede one thing on our desires for JJ: agree to disagree

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

The loeffler analogy is this: even if it wasn't necessarily what he ideally wanted to run, you could see a coherent vision of what he was doing and why. Can we say that about JJ? What was the offense under JJ this year? What were they doing out there and why ? Like the original article said, what was our offensive identity under JJ?

We all know what he "wants" to do, we've heard all about it for two years, only to be immediately followed by all the reasons he couldn't do what he wants. The $680k question is: does he have the ability to actually make what he "wants" happen on the court?

Up here at Penn State, much of the same can be said. Top tier football program, basketball program can't get off the ground. On the rare occasion, they'll get a stud (like we had Erick Green), but they don't put much of anything into the program.

Unlike us, though, they're in the Big Ten. They focus on wrestling (national champs pretty much all the time), women's volleyball (also national champs pretty much all the time), and other Big Ten sports like hockey (their recent investment in this area, a brand spanking new arena, is incredible). Basketball will always be mediocre around here.

In the ACC, we need basketball, soccer, lax, sports like that. I'm glad to see other sports getting dap. But I wonder, how do some schools have ridiculous athletics across the board? Stanford being the best example.

Stanford is rumored to have an almost billion dollar fund that supports there athletics programs. They are a private school so they are not required to disclose the actual amounts.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

"Analogies aside, don't forget that any new coach is going to have to rebuild too. If next year is going suck no matter what, then why not save money in the mean time, so you have more to spend later?"

When you find yourself in a hole, what's the first step to getting out of the hole?

"I think we're so low that we can't go much lower. I believe that one more bad year will hurt us less in the long term than losing a half million and having a mediocre year."

If you know JJ isn't the guy, keeping him around to twist in the wind for another year isn't fair to JJ and will just make things awkward as hell. I don't watch enough VT basketball to really know if he should come back- lots of intelligent people have written on both sides of the argument. If the argument is that the talent he has available is so bad that he's had no chance, that's one thing. I can accept that. Apathy isn't a valid reason. A bad year (the 4th in a row) would be a lot worse. If you're going to make a change you might as well pull the band-aid and do it now even if it costs a little more money.

JJ can leave anytime he wants, so by no means is 'keeping him around' unfair to him.

Bottom line is I don't see a better alternative. Who are we going to bring in, how much will they cost and where is the money coming from?

Twitter me

We don't know that JJ isn't the guy. He wants to play up tempo offense but hasn't been able to because of the players/injuries that he has had. One more year at least for him to get players in for his system and try it. If he doesn't at least win 75% of OOC games, and be competitive in the ACC nobody is going to be arguing for his staying around.

Here's the problem: we also don't know that he *is* the guy, we don't even know if he's "probably" or even "possibly" the guy. You realize he's been here two years and the best thing you can say about him is that "we don't know he's not the guy." That's telling. That's severely damning with extremely faint praise.

Someone on JJs staff (or Whit's) should categorize all the basketball injuries over the last 3-4 (maybe 5) years and do some proper root cause analysis and then Pareto it. There is just way too many years of this in succession for there not to be something we could do to prevent a portion of them.

Much of the What If we keep discussing with Greenberg's last year (or was it 2? - I forget) and both of JJs years involve dealing with a large number of nagging injuries which thinned the bench and did not allow a "stated plan" to be executed for a long period of time. Certainly there is something there to learn and correct...

Anything they learn could then be eliminated as a reason for failure so we can really see what is going on. Clearly there are too many variables interacting at once. You could almost do a DoE on it!

The nerd in me shineth.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Firstly I think you have to keep JJ for one more year for all the reasons that have been listed. Many coaches don't have success at first and our instant-gratification culture is what's calling for his head more than reason is. If there's considerable improvement next year with his second recruiting class then maybe he's the guy who can bring this team somewhere. I mean, the best player this year was Wilson, JJ's recruit. There's definitely promise with the young guys and a decent recruiting class.

If he doesn't improve then, and I posted this on the other thread about hoops culture, maybe Dave Smart is our guy. He's the coach at Carleton University in Canada and they've won like 14 of the past 15 national championships. There's no scholarship players and he's a coach in the mold of Bob Knight. He says he'd seriously consider moving to the NCAA for 4 years $500,000 a year which is a lot more than JJ is getting. But this is one of two revenue sports. This is where you're going to pay the big bucks. It's only a matter of time before he becomes an NCAA coach, why not VT? You can read more about him at Grantland http://grantland.com/features/carleton-university-basketball-canada-syra...

WHO WANTS TO START THE RUCKUS!?

$680K plus 5% annually with some additional bonuses that cap at total comp poss of $800K

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

I doubt he's getting many of the bonuses this year...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

My bad I read somewhere that he was making 250K or so but that was last year I guess

WHO WANTS TO START THE RUCKUS!?

Here is Whit's dilemma...

I'm a donor (decently big...but one of "those" big donors)...they are asking me to increase my donation. My answer is why would I give you more money, when BB has been in money saving mode for the JW years (remember Seth was a budget hire that worked out well and JW didn't give him decent money until he had to)? Putting up ceiling fans and new stadium cups isn't going to do it. Show me you're serious about changing the BB culture and I'll evaluate my donation.

We put the K in Kwality

You can't make that decision based on BB only. Wrestling just won an ACC championship. They donate to the Athletic department, just the basketball dept. H2Okies, Wrestling, T & F should suffer donations b/c Basketball is struggling?

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

Yes. But the argument is Whit is going to be fundraising for the next basketball coach's payroll over the next year. I agree the other sports are excelling (don't forget about softball and soccer). Another bad year (financially...ticket sales and donations) for BB would further hinder the finances of the other programs (except football, obviously).

We put the K in Kwality

Coach Johnson deserves at least another year with the current and upcoming class.

Win-Loss record aside, late season improvement aside for being a turtle shell:

We couldn't afford to up the ante to keep an offensive line coach that needed an extra $180K to potentially stay on the football staff. A coach that in one year showed great promise in recruiting and improvement in the performance of his current players.

How do you expect to cover $1mil in ex-coaches salaries, plus at least $3.5 million ($2 million/$1.5 million staff) for a new coach that can compete with Coach K, Williams, Boeheim ....and Dixon? I will give you the first three and that Dixon is working towards that level. How many coaches are there in the country that I would put on the level of those first three? Self at Kansas, Calipari at Kentucky, Pitino at Louisville, Izzo at MSU, Donovan at Florida. Miller at Arizona is working that way along with SDSU's Miller and possibly Marshall from Wichita State. These are the only coaches that really could consistently compete with the three legends listed. Oh wait, you have to add Pitino to the opponent's list for next year.

This argument was then swapped to there are 200 mid-major coaches that would be candidates to replace him. I would argue that the list of viable candidates that could improve our chances of competing at the top of the ACC is significantly shorter than that and of that pool of candidates there is maybe a handful that would want to come into Virginia Tech with how the Greenberg situation was handled, how James Johnson would be handled 2 years into a 5 year contract and what the expectations versus reality is with our fan base. I wrote the column about the candidates before we closed the season relatively competitive based on the roster of the team by then.
Here it is:
http://www.thekeyplay.com/content/2014/january/30/mens-basketball-potent...

Now onto why I think giving JJ next year as his make or break season is reasonable at this point.
Lets look at this season to see why I might expect us to legitimately compete for a winning record and a .500 conference record next season. I wont touch last season because the use of Erick Greene did nothing but hamper this program not that I begrudge him wanting to put on a show to help his draft stock. This season we went a dreadful 9-21, a 9-21 that most of the analysts expected at the beginning of the season, even our own Brian M predicted this kind of record but now is the End of All Ends that we achieved it.

The out of conference slate saw a relatively healthy Virginia Tech team go 7-5. There were two really bad losses to bad teams and two bad losses to very good teams. We lost by 1 point to USC Upstate to start the season. Bad loss, bad team so a 1 basket improvement is needed to change this result. Our next loss came to the then #1 team in the country Michigan State. We were totally outclassed in this game. We followed that with another 1 point loss to Seton Hall who finished with a .500 record and just upset their conference #1 seed, Villanova, in the Big East Conference Tournament. Another game that needed a one basket improvement. The game winning free throw came with four seconds left. Our next loss was against VCU, where we couldn't seem to get out of our own way against the HAVOC defense. Blowout loss to a 24-7 team. Our last out of conference loss came to UNC-Greensboro by 3 points. This loss came down to Devin missing a free throw that would have tied it with less than ten seconds to play and the subsequent foul led to two free throws. Wood misses a three at the buzzer that would have tied the game. Five losses, two large and three by one possession. So far nothing to cry about. A solid win over WVU after a furious comeback, and then we won the other games we were expected to win, including beating a potentially NIT bound Radford by 25.

The record in the ACC is bad, it would require a seven game improvement in conference to reach .500 so lets focus on this year against the ACC. First Miami game, competitive, win, team health though has just become a major problem.

Injuries/Missed Games
Adam Smith's first game back from his original injury, will play in five total ACC contests before being shut down. He was averaging 11 points per game which wasn't there for most of ACC play.

Barksdale sits out this game as it was the first after his initial injury, misses six more ACC games and plays less than 10 minutes in another four. Despite this, he still averaged 7.6 PPG during ACC play so you were missing that for approximately half of the conference slate.

Raines is solidly in JJ's doghouse and will not play in seven of the eighteen ACC games between discipline and injury. In the eleven games he played, he was in for a grand total of 182 minutes so less than half of each game from a Senior. He contributed 60 points during this stretch, or 5.5 per game.

Emelogu missed six ACC contests with injuries. That's about 11 points per game sitting on the second row for a third of the conference slate.

Marshall Wood sat out five games of the ACC slate, that's 4 PPG missing almost a third of the conference slate.

There were a few other onesies here and there on the seven other guys on the roster which includes three walk-on athletes in Beyer, Johnston, and Donlon. Those three represented a grand total of about four points per game this year, so you had to rely on four players in Eddie, JVZ, Wilson and Thompson to provide you the majority of your scoring during ACC play. A senior, a sophomore and two freshmen and throw another body on the court.
This is how much of a different team we were OOC versus ACC slate.

ACC Slate

We beat Miami twice. Only wins. Nothing to write home about.

We lost to Syracuse, FSU, BC, MDx2, Duke and UVA by at least 17 points. All very ugly, the four game stretch the most so. It was this same four game stretch though when the majority of the above players were all out at the same time so JJ had four scholarship players to try to play against ACC opponents. One loss to GT by 11 was out last double digit loss. That's eight really bad losses. Pretty tough.

We lost the rest of our ACC slate by three possessions or less, most of these games that went down to the final minutes and free throws. BC by three. One possession. Clemson by 7. Three possessions. Notre Dame by 7. Three possessions. Wake Forest by 6. Two possessions. Pitt in 2OT by five. Two possessions. UVA by four. 2 possessions. NC State by 7. Three possessions. UNC by 4. Two possessions and a really bad charge call.

All through this, especially towards the end, I saw JJ coaching and if anything showing more fire than at any point in the previous two years. Did it end in results that we wanted as fans? No, but were there obvious improvements, especially in the younger players. Yes to everything other than JVZ at the foul line. But JVZ in the paint did improve dramatically. He averaged over 10 points per game the final eight games of the season. He started to show flashes of getting the ball to the hoop. Devin was named to the ACC All Freshmen team. Most of this was because of how well be improved during ACC play.

The last point that seemingly is being argued is why the new players are so important. Well, next year with the exodus of Eddie and Raines, you will have five new players to help fill the gap. Will the three new freshmen necessarily play major roles like the three this year did? I hope not but its possible since they are pure shooters. What they will do is provide guys like Emelogu, Thompson and Wood those ten to twelve minutes a game rest that can mean the difference in three possession games in the final minutes. I don't know what to expect between Wilson and Mueller next year but I cant see Devin averaging 34 minutes a game again either. How will Kirby play into supporting JVZ and Barksdale? I am not sure but it will be nice to have someone backing them up. Do the walk-ons get crazy ovations because they just barely make it into a few games? I hope so. We haven't even discussed the potential for Isiah Ford to impact ACC play because I don't know what they will work out there but the kid did score 59 points in at least one game this year in high school.

Having the legs to play JJ's style of play over the course of an entire season because the team isn't exhausted will be a huge improvement. Will we then get to see JJ's identity? I think we will, especially in the out of conference slate. Do I think that setting the bar for JJ at a .500 record is realistic? Yes, if he cant get us competitive with a full roster finally at his disposal then its time to find the coach that will.

Look at the rest of the ACC and how they finished the season this year to also show why I think we can be middle of the pack next season. The top four teams in the conference finished with 13 conference wins or better (coached by all three legends above and Tony Bennett, who I put up there with Dixon as a working towards status) Dixon brought Pitt in with 11 conference wins. The only other team in conference with a winning record was Clemson at 10-8 behind the play of K.J McDaniels, who I expect to skip his senior season and go pro. They don't have a solid back up behind him in my opinion. I would expect Louisville to finish in this higher group of teams next year.

The rest of the conference finished at .500 or worse. That's nine out of fifteen teams at an even mark. Eight with the removal of Maryland. Six of those teams finished 6-12 or worse including us. Do I think that with a full roster and already having played over half the conference slate this year to within three possessions that JJ and his staff can get this team to .500? I think they will come daringly close if not do it. Is this optimism? Sure. But its also possible that with a high pressure defense that should create turnovers and lead to more fast paced offensive possessions that this team will run some people out of the gym or at least overcome a three possession difference.

According to 247Sports, JJ has the 55th class in the country with Justin Bibbs now showing as a four star recruit. Is 55th something to toot our horn about? No, its 10th in the ACC. Is that more impressive considering how bad we have been? Absolutely, it shows that he is able to convince players that could have gone to any Division I school on a full ride that Virginia Tech is the place to be. These three aren't home grown fans either. All three are from out of state.

Next year he already had one commitment from an in state three star and is working on two more kids at Oak Hill, perennially one of the top academy's for talent in the country. One of those kids is the little brother of current NBA player Brandon Jennings and is supposed to be a better ball handler than his older brother who is averaging 16.5 points and 8 assists a game for the Pistons. So there are signs of life under all this dramatic negativity. I say give the man a chance to deliver results next year along with a top 30 recruiting class.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Thanks for putting in the time to write this. Better said than I could have, as well as more insightful.

I have one question that I havent been able to find. Whats the rumor about JJ burning bridges with the AAU coaches around the state?

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

Do you think James Johnson is the guy who can take Virginia Tech Men's basketball to the place we want it to be?what over the last two seasons has convinced you of this?

If the position was open right now, would you hire James Johnson to be the head coach of Virginia Tech?

What do you think the record of Virginia Tech basketball will be one year from right now, assuming we keep James Johnson?


Do you think James Johnson is the guy who can take Virginia Tech Men's basketball to the place we want it to be?

Do I think its likely that JJ will miraculously start outrecruiting Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Louisville with their Hall of Fame coaches and basketball pedigree? No. At least not next year.

Do I think that there are many coaches in America that would outrecruit those schools if they came to Virginia Tech?
No. I listed the handful that have proven they can do it. Tony Bennett managed to win the ACC this year by developing his team over FIVE seasons. Guess what his first two years were like? First year full squad 15-16, 5-11 ACC Second year with a full squad 16-15, 7-9 ACC. Third year he started winning 20+ games. This was after he already had a successful stint as a head coach elsewhere before coming to LOLUVA and he came into a program that was not bereft of talent. His team this year had two seniors, three sophomores as his primary starters. UVA had eight players average at least 10 minutes a game and one more with 9.4 mpg. They played a full fifteen man roster this season. The sophomores are from two recruiting classes. JJ hasn't even gotten to his second full recruiting class being in the door.

Look at Miami last year with Larranaga, had an amazing run but that was with four seniors and a point guard that's in the NBA right now. Look at this season, they fell to 17-16, 7-11 in the ACC. That's with a senior coach, three seniors and two of Larranaga's incoming recruiting class. This was with no injuries to the starting five. They had nine players average at least 10 minutes a game. The had a twelve man roster with only one injury to a backup.

Tech didn't have eight or nine healthy players for the majority of the season.

Do I see JJ on this same kind of track to get us to 20 wins consistently? I don't know. Bennett had two 20+ wins without facing Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville every season. He did win this year though. Even the comparison's back to Greenberg should be thrown out the window. Greenberg didn't face those three stalwart's each season either or not at the same time as Duke, UNC and the rest of the ACC.

The thing about almost every coach that has the pedigree to do this: THEY WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH THE VIRGINIA TECH JOB. What reason have we given them to want it? What about how our program has gone the last five years would make someone want to give up even a good thing at a mid major to come into our current potentially poisonous environment? The Challenge? You aren't going to bait many people with that.

If JJ isn't the guy, I think we are going to have to earn our way back in with coaches over time before we can hope to lure one of the next up and coming coaches unless we miraculously have NBA coaching kind of money to throw around. Not necessarily Coach K type money but $2+ at least with an additional $1.5 mil for his staff. We don't pay the assistant football coaches that kind of scratch so I don't see us giving it to the basketball coaches. Besides it is money we don't have right now.

Could we get someone that will perform better than JJ has? Sure. Its possible but we could also hire someone and they turn out worse. And in firing JJ after two years with all the surrounding circumstances we had better hope that whoever it is plans to be the coach for a long time because we will be giving ourselves another big black eye by firing JJ so soon. You can cite all the Utah examples out there and if I wanted to go look I would be able to find an example of a coach that failed miserably more often than those shining stars after two years. Several people have pointed out how badly Coach K failed his first two years. Fortunately for him that was before the internet was available to people and twitter didn't exist. You got your box scores through the newspaper and bad seasons were a slow burn. That was also before Duke was really a power house. It takes a mighty coach with a dedication to the school to build something like that.

The last two season's have been miserable but predictably so. Most people coming into this season projected Tech to be exactly where they were because of the roster shortfalls along with the talent that is the ACC. Do I think that JJ with the roster that he is projected to have right now can be more successful next year? Absolutely. Can I point to all the wins to back this up? They aren't there. Am I predicting we are going to miraculously win the ACC next year? Nope


If the position was open right now, would you hire James Johnson to be the head coach of Virginia Tech?

Guess what? It doesn't matter. The position right now isn't open. James Johnson is our Head Coach right now. Given our schools reputation in the basketball community right now after how Greenberg went out, firing Johnson might backfire on us, making us appear to be toxic. There is something to be said about honoring a contract or at least honoring the spirit of the contract. I know in today's....me, me, me, right now, got to have it world of what have you done for me lately it seems ok to just can someone when they go through a rough patch. In this case though, I would hope that Virginia Tech is better than that especially with how much of the rough patch was of the administrations making more than the coach.

Did JJ agree to take the job? Yes for FIVE years. Will he be given that entire time? Probably not if he doesn't deliver a noticeable improvement next year. He might be gone tomorrow depending on what Whit decides to do. I just think that with the fact that he lost the top player from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 classes for varying reasons not of his doing (three starters out of five) its a bit much for him to be expected to deliver top quality with the additional challenges we have outlined in nauseum in the several threads going on right now. I put up a chart on a previous post with the production the players that left have had. Those are the kind of things that happen to program's that perpetually run through coaches. We need to stop the cycle, give the coach that we hired a chance to deliver and see what happens.


What do you think the record of Virginia Tech basketball will be one year from right now, assuming we keep James Johnson?

If I have to put a figure on it right now, I think next year JJ will probably come up just short of a .500 record. I think that we will likely go 8-4 or 9-3 potentially in OOC scheduling (depends on who we face in the ACC/BIG10 Challenge and the holiday tournaments). I then see us probably going 6-12 or 7-11 in the ACC with the addition of Louisville. Reality is that would be a 30% improvement on wins which is unheard of in the ACC.

If we are going to give the women's coach a FOURTH season who also finished in last place in the ACC with a 14-16 record, and a 4-12 mark in the ACC then we shouldn't be hypocritical about a coach that has had one true recruiting class come in that scored almost half the team's points as freshmen and say sorry Coach but last place isn't good enough. You get two classes of JJ's in scoring 20 points each plus 10 from Smith, 8 from Barksdale, 6 from Wood and 10 from JVZ and all of sudden you aren't scoring 63 points per game, you are scoring 70+ PPG consistently.

The last criticism about why wait I think was succinctly answered in the potential of buying a car. Give Whit another full year to fundraise. Get boosters on board with what he sees as the vision for basketball as a whole and if he has to fire JJ and/or Wolfe next year we will have honored at least the spirit of their contracts, have a war chest from which to make a "compete with the legends" type decision, and be further removed from the Weaver/Greenberg disaster.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

You literally didn't answer a single one of my questions. In doing so, I think you answered all of my questions.

We all know he's not the Freaking guy for the job, the difference between you and me is that you have 10 paragraphs of excuses and half hearted rationalization a why we need to wait another year to make it official.

You're educated in this sphere, you wouldn't have researched 10 viable candidates a month ago if you thought this guy was the guy for the job.

What are we waiting for exactly? Let's fish or cut bait here.

I specifically answered your question as to what I think the record of this team will be next year under this coach. Can I say without a doubt that it will be 15-17, 16-16, or 17-15 without knowing whether we will play Michigan or Purdue in the BIG10(first vs last) or run into a buzzsaw of Kansas in a holiday tournament? Not comfortably and that would be the same answer if we had Calipari coaching this team or if I was making predictions for how Duke will do next year.

As to your hypothetical B.S. of other questions, they don't wash in the actual environment. If JJ had to go up against the other candidates in my other thread right now head to head I doubt he would be Whit's first choice based on two years of losing compared to a list of highly successful NON-ACC coaches. Whit will still have had to guess how those coaches might do in the ACC.

The fact is JJ doesn't have to compete head to head though, he is in the job, so you have to ask if Whit will replace him with one of those other candidates and what impact does that have on the program short and long term? I have laid out several reasons JJ and this team have underperformed, call them pages of excuses if you will but if I had been the head coach in the same circumstances I would hope my brand new Athletic Director weighed all of the information when making a decision about what I put so much effort into doing. One of the articles in the last couple weeks speaks to how little JJ has been able to sleep trying to find something to balance the scales. That to me is a coach that cares about what he is doing and I legitimately think with the players he will have next year that he CAN be close to a .500 team and the year after that with a third class, have a chance to compete against the legends you refer to.

If we fire him, I think you will likely lose three or four players from the current roster. You can never be sure about recruits but if things go the way they have recently, we would lose Bibbs which would be a major blow. We would be worse off than when Greenberg got fired and have to hope the next hire could put it together fast. I would rather fish with the equipment I have now and see if I can steal a Bass Fishing National Championship in a couple years than have to start over and hope The next guy is the guy.

PS: You didn't answer my questions either in your sweeping generalities of FIRE, FIRE, FIRE

The thing about almost every coach that has the pedigree to do this: THEY WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH THE VIRGINIA TECH JOB. What reason have we given them to want it? What about how our program has gone the last five years would make someone want to give up even a good thing at a mid major to come into our current potentially poisonous environment? The Challenge? You aren't going to bait many people with that.

Where is your answer without throwing a ton of big giant bundles of cash at the problem? Cash the Athletic Department doesn't have right now. And personally, putting the big, giant bundles of cash out there as the primary reason for taking the job doesn't give me confidence that the coach will stay if they have a good year or two. I do believe that if JJ is able to right the ship next year that he does have strong feelings for Virginia Tech and could be a long term coach at Tech. Otherwise he would be sleeping like a baby regardless of his record. He has HOKIE pride, wears it on his face in some of those really tough losses down the stretch. I personally want that kind of coach leading our team.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Is a borderline .500 record and no postseason enough to keep his job next year? Enough to get an extension or are we having this same conversation again?

I'm not sure I buy the "mass exodus of players reason. Did we have a mass exodus of players when we fired Ricky Stokes? No. Players want to win too, firing a losing coach and replacing him with someone who has a history of winning as a head coach at any level will bring excitement back to this program.

What do you think is James Johnson's ceiling here? Do you think he's the guy to take this program where we want it to go?

Girls finished 12th this year in which they were predicted to finish last. Everything else is spot on, especially

There is something to be said about honoring a contract or at least honoring the spirit of the contract. I know in today's....me, me, me, right now, got to have it world of what have you done for me lately it seems ok to just can someone when they go through a rough patch. In this case though, I would hope that Virginia Tech is better than that especially with how much of the rough patch was of the administrations making more than the coach.

And without having a schedule out yet, just looking at the roster and the potential, I'd gladly take somewhere around .500 and flirting with the NIT. Those extra practices would be great for the young guys coming in.

Thanks for clarifying on the girls. I forgot they got those last couple of big wins to move up the rankings. I don't disagree with Whit's decision to retain Wolff either. He has a solid core right now and several good recruits coming in. They showed competitiveness down the stretch and look to be in position to have a winning season next year. Replacing Ugoka will be tough but they should be all right. I see many of the same signs on the men' s team.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

I think losing Ugoka will actually benefit more of the team. It will make Tajah play harder and Dennis said he has possibly 7 recruits coming in next year with 2 being JUCO players. The biggest loss I think is from Tellier as she was the best defender on the team. If they can finish with the same or better OOC record next year, there is a good chance since now a lot of the younger players are battle tested and know what they have to do now to get those ugly wins.

So borderline .500 and you extend JJ after next year?

I'm no expert on basketball, so I'm largely staying quiet on this issue, but in my mind, if JJ can get us back in the neighborhood of 15 wins, that's a +6 differential, which is 67% more wins than we had this year. Doing that with mostly the same cast, plus any new recruits that he is bringing in, shows me that he's developing the existing talent and identifying new guys that fit in. Fundamentally, that's what I want to see in a coach. At that point, I expect continued improvement, but going from cellar dweller in the ACC to middle of the pack in one year is good progress.

I would extend him a year so his deal still has three years on it especially if he brings in a top 40 recruiting class because it will point to stability and improvement.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

Where's your line? Do you see where I'm going with this? Does he get an extension for one game below .500? Two? Three? 12 wins next year is still an improvement, right? Then people will be on here talking about how we were just one or two close losses away from being .500, and injuries this and in it till the end that...

It's like I said in the other thread, at what point does the guy actually have to start winning here?

What's to please? We're having a discussion on an Internet board. You got something else to talk about right now?

Several contributors have listed their reasons for why it is a good business decision to give JJ another year.
Circumstances: not having enough time, lack of ACC talent, injuries, poor player execution, etc
Positives: player development (Thompson, Wilson, JVZ), defensive changes, upward recruiting, overall personality, continuity, players
Money: Lots of cash to get rid of him. This is my biggest factor if I were Whit. If we were financially handcuffed when we hired JJ, imagine how problematic this is when we will be paying greenburg, JJ, and the new guy.

Your defense: I havent seen him coach like legendary coaches and we probably wont win a national championship with him so we should move on. You bring up a good point as to not seeing his offensive identity.

I believe our program is one that should strive for the NCAAs every year. I have high expectations as a fan. Can JJ get us there? I hope he can but I will know more about that after one more season. Will he win us a national championship? Resounding no; but I have the same answer for if we had Shaka Smart or even Jim Calhoun

West Virginian by birth, Hokie by choice

I don't expect him to coach like K or win a national championship, that's a strawman. I don't even expect this program to make the tourney every year. I think that making the tournament twice per "class" is a reasonable expectation on the high end for this program.

It's been two years and he's done nothing to show us he can even get there.

Hooray, let's "save money" and lose again next year. Maybe the Cassel guard can work in a "This is fiscally beneficial to the department!" Chant into the rotation, that always energizes people.

When I say "cut!" You say "costs!"

"cut!"
"Costs!"

:)

Okay. I'm sorry. But that's made me giggle!

How about we steal from PSU?...half says "We Are". Then the other half says "Fiscally Responsible!"

Of course there will only be about 75 people (approximately double the number of UVA fans at they spring game) in the stands to cheer it.

We put the K in Kwality

No more than one game below .500 is where I am mentally, however it breaks out between OOC and ACC

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

I'm holding you to that when we finish with 11-13 wins next year ;)

If we finish with 11-13 wins next year, nobody is going to be wanting JJ back.

Oh you'd be suprised, tech fans seem to have a knack for finding reasons to retain underperforming coaches...

I don't really know anybody other than Frank B that wanted to keep Stiney as OC.

No, I don't think you extend unless he is above .500. After next year Seth is off the books and Weaver has one more year on it. Unless you can lure a Bruce Pearl to Blacksburg right now or this time next year, no reason to fire JJ and get some other unknown that can either win one or two more games or lose one or two more games.

But...but....multiple threads all saying the same stuff :( it's like Logan-is-a-tight-end-and-should-be-benched-for-Leal Round 2!!! :D isn't that exciting?

/sarcastica

Just another gut-wrenching, can't breathe, I lost my voice, not now, did that just happen, just gimme this one, Virginia Tech Saturday

Count me as one of those who strongly believes that James Johnson deserves another year.

First of all, everyone needs to remember that VT is still paying Seth Greenberg. If JJ is fired and we have to pay him the remaining years on his contract as well, then that means that VT would be paying THREE head basketball coaches next year. I doubt that Whit Babcock is going to think that this is the wisest way to be investing the athletic department's money. We could use that money to be hiring more assistants for the football program, for example.

But my main reason for wanting to stay with JJ is that I really don't think the guy has had a fair chance yet. He walked into a total mess when Seth was fired and he had a very short time to put together a recruiting class for 2013. Even so, he and his new staff, in my opinion, did an excellent job. Three of our five best players this year were freshmen and one made the ACC all-freshman team.

He lost two players he was counting on having this year before the season even started. Donte Clark didn't make grades and Malik Mueller was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. That left him with exactly one true point guard this year and that one point guard was a true freshman. That's not a recipe for success in the ACC.

Then after the season started, his team was devastated by injuries. Things got so bad that he was forced to give two walk-ons significant minutes just to be able to field a team. Again, you're not gonna win many games in the ACC that way.

Although the W-L record doesn't show it, his team played significantly better for the last 1/3 of the season, coming very close to upsetting some nationally ranked teams. Most importantly of all, his kids never quit on him. They kept playing hard through all the losses. That says a lot to me about what kind of coach and motivator he is.

The fact is that VT simply needs better players, and I think they're on the way. JJ signed a very solid class for 2014 with Bibbs, Hudson & Lang. All three have the offensive skill sets that were sorely lacking on this year's team, plus we'll have Adam Smith, Maurice Kirby and Malik Mueller next year as well.

So I think the best move is to retain him for another year. Now if we finish 9-22 again next year, then obviously change will be needed. But JJ deserves a fair chance.

My gut says he had his "fair chance" and that I wouldn't miss him if he were dropped. That's me. But, knowing the way Tech does things, I'm pretty sure JJ will be back for another go at it. But if he doesn't make NIT at least, he's gone.

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech

Fosterball

As hard as it has been to watch Tech basketball these past two seasons, we are better off without Greenberg. We had a massive amount of players transferring out under him: Nigel Munson, Tyrone Garland, Ben Boggs, Dorian Finney-Smith, Robert Brown (all of which have been very successful on their new teams, except for Robert Brown.) He was not popular amongst our players. I will preface this statement with an "I don't have an exact name of a source" but I have heard rumors swirling around that Greenberg was fired so abruptly because Eric Green, JT Thompson, and Dorian Finney-Smith walked into Weaver's office and asked to transfer out of VT because of Greenberg. That, coupled with JJ leaving for a "lateral" move to Clemson potentially prompted Weaver to make this all-of-a-sudden decision. If these rumors were to be true it would completely qualify and explain Weaver's knee-jerk decision.

As far as JJ is concerned, he should have one more year to show progress. He has been dealt a team riddled with holes and no depth. He is bringing in a very good recruiting class for us and we should see if he can pull a .500 or above season next year. If we have another abysmal season, we should then search for a new coach.

I can not speak for the monetary aspects of keeping JJ etc but anyone who sees some sort of a silver lining or improvement in the last half of the season is wearing rose colored glasses. We were repeatedly embarrassed and down by double digits in so many ACC contests I cant even remember the number.. down by 20 in some, so there was no improvement whatsoever. We won 1 game in 2014 and finished like 1-17 in the last 18 games or so.. these are horrific results.. downright embarrassing really. In fact, this team was like last years.. it got worse as the season progressed.

We got what we paid for in JJ... look he is a great guy, my kid went to his BBall camp this summer and loved it.. it was a ton of fun.. he was great, the players were great but this is big business and you cant give a completely unproven coach the keys to the amusement park in the ACC w/o any HC experience.. it is crazy. I read earlier today only 2 HC's have been hired in the ACC in the last 20 years w/o first being a head coach elsewhere. JJ very well might be qualified.. after he cuts his teeth at another lower level school and first proves his ability to do it all.. recruit, coach, administer, manage and WIN! Totally premature to hire him and we got what we paid for.. there is a reason he only makes a third of what many other ACC coaches make.. he has not proven he is qualified!

Here is the question to answer, knowing what we now know.. would JJ be hired again under the same circumstances.. the answer is a resounding no so we need to cut bait and move on because we are delaying the inevitable. Clearly that is what Whit Babcock is considering seeing how no public endorsement has been made like was made for the women's BBall team.

I am not sure what second half you watched but there was progress. Win-Loss progress no, but it doesn't require your pinkie glasses to see that several of the key players for next years squad made significant improvements. I have detailed many of these improvements in a litany of posts over the pastfew weeks.

Knowing what we know now about Weaver and what went down I think there is a good chance things would have happened the same way. Even if they hadn't we have a better than average chance to be having this same conversation about a different coach brought in instead of JJ because 1. The good available coaches were mostly off the market by the time Greenberg was fired 2. Any coach in the ACC would have been challenged to win any more than JJ with what occurred between transfers (10) disqualified (2) and injuries(5). There seems to be a broad brush that wants to sweep all those details under the rug in the hurry to fire JJ.

The transfers this season averaged more than the entire Tech team. Tells how much talent JJ was robbed of. Since we all want to get into the h ypotheticals How many games do we think JJ would have won this year with Harrell, Finney-Smith, and Garland alone? 10 more would be my conservative guess. Too bad none of that matters either. The fact is JJ played most of the ACC slate with no more than five healthy scholarship players this year. For the stretch of twenty point losses you referred to, it was four scholarship players going up against full rosters. No coach in the ACC, Coach K included is going to win many games with that decimated a roster. The fact is JJ had this team at 7-5 when he had a healthy team. Could it have been 9-3? Sure, they lost three of the five by one possession. But it wasn't 1-11 either.

As to the public endorsement of the women's coach. That came the day after the Women's ACC tournament ended and after Whit met 1-on-1 with Wolff. I anticipate that now that the men's tournament is over Whit will plan to meet with JJ today weather permitting and by the end of the day we should have either a public endorsement or an announcement of a buyout. The ACC frowns on public announcements that distract from the tournament.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

"Any coach in the ACC would have been challenged to win any more than JJ with what occurred between transfers (10) disqualified (2) and injuries(5). There seems to be a broad brush that wants to sweep all those details under the rug in the hurry to fire JJ."

To me, this is the most frustrating part of this debate. All of the legitimate reasons that analysts used in the preseason to predict a last place ACC finish for VT are now the same reasons that people are using to explain the results of our season. We pretty much did exactly what was expected of us based on the circumstances. Peter has been tirelessly outlining this to anyone willing to listen with an open mind. Yet some people think that calling these reasons "excuses" somehow makes them invalid. You do not get to wave them away as "excuses" just because you do not like where we are as a program.

What I haven't seen is a reasonable solution that involves firing JJ this year. Firing him now is not only bad financially, it also makes VT a school that is not attractive to potential candidates. What attractive coaching candidate would want to come here knowing how we treated our last two coaches and knowing that we cannot afford to pay them very well. Not only that, it would make it seem as though the new AD is just as bad as the old AD in terms of not truly "supporting" the men's basketball program. Bad behavior across two separate ADs would then define a bad culture for basketball and no worthwhile coach would want to be part of that.

In my mind, giving JJ another season will answer the question of whether or not JJ is "the guy". Right now, due to the circumstances we just do not know either way. If he brings us back to a .500 record then he has earned another year. If not, then we will truly know that it is time to move on. In the meantime, we will have been able to generate more money for a possible replacement, or if JJ does improve significantly, we will have been able to generate more money for other improvements within the basketball program. We will also have shown that, as a program, we are willing to give a potential coaching candidate a fair shake at coming in and turning things around. Coaches aren't dumb. They talk to one another. They want to coach somewhere that will give them a realistic chance.

Firing JJ now completely negates the image of a program that treats coaches well that we need to build in order to attract quality candidates. Firing JJ now decimates our ability to financially lure quality candidates to our program. Firing JJ now could possibly lead to us losing the respectable recruiting class we have coming in, leaving us right back where we started. I just do not see the logic of firing JJ now.

I get it. Losing sucks. Coming in last place three years in a row is frustrating beyond belief, but firing JJ doesn't fix the problems that the basketball program has. It just exacerbates them.

Never make eye contact while eating a banana.

Jim Weaver was the reason why we were an unattractive coaching position. It was clear that he didn't care about basketball and didn't want to spend any money on it. No one can give a brand new AD a hard time for firing an incumbent coach coming of conseuctive 9-win seasons. Firing him and spending the money to bring in a coach who is actually qualified to coach in the ACC would send the exact opposite message that you think it would. It would mean we are committed to actually winning, and are willing to extend the resources necessary to do so.

Guess Whit has an ace up his sleeve (I.e. Big time coach).

We put the K in Kwality

It's decided.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!