After the seemingly constant barrage of bad news regarding the Virginia Tech basketball program, Tuesday’s announcement that new head coach James Johnson had finished hiring his staff surely was a welcome relief from all the negativity.
While the hiring of Andy Moore as director of basketball operations might not be especially significant, it has to at least be a good sign that this battered program is getting back on its feet.
However, this news does bring a pretty disconcerting fact squarely into focus- since Johnson’s hiring on May 1, the rookie head coach has been disturbingly quiet.
When athletic director Jim Weaver announced that the team would stay relatively “in-house” by hiring the former assistant, many assumed that his selection was designed to inspire confidence among team members and stop the mass exodus that normally accompanies a firing in college basketball.
Instead, the Hokies lost promising freshman Dorian Finney-Smith and touted recruit Montrezl Harrell in the weeks following Seth Greenberg’s firing.
While Finney-Smith had intimated earlier that he was considering leaving, Harrell’s decision seemed purely based on the change in leadership, destroying Tech’s incoming recruiting class.
Johnson was at least able to convince fellow recruit Marshall Wood to honor his commitment to the team after contemplating a change in allegiance, but it seemed as if failing to retain Harrell was a major strike against the new coach.
He had announced the hiring of Mark Byington, who had also worked at Harrell’s Hargrave Military Academy, as an assistant coach just a day before Harrell’s announcement that he was leaving, making the recruit’s decision a clear rebuttal of Johnson’s efforts.
Given Greenberg’s connection to both players, it’s difficult to blame Johnson entirely for their departure, but it was an unsettling early sign for his tenure. He was able to at least convince point guard Erick Green to stay after he had publicly questioned his loyalty to Tech, yet this seemed to be an absence of a negative rather than a real positive.
Instead, it’s his results in attempting to attract new players to the program that have been actively disturbing.
While Johnson can hardly be blamed for the odd timing surrounding Greenberg’s firing and his installment as coach, there hasn’t been a lot of good news involving recruiting since Seth’s departure.
The biggest news has been the arrival of transfer student Adam Smith, the CAA’s leading scorer from UNC-Wilmington. However, Smith won’t be eligible until next season, leaving Wood as the team’s lone signee.
Greenberg was actively pursuing several players when he was relieved of his duties, but Johnson’s prospects of reeling any of them in seem to be pretty grim.