Seth Greenberg was a fine coach. But as too many coaches have discovered, being fine isn't good enough for the ACC.
On Monday, Virginia Tech fired its long-time coach after nine years, despite a solid 170-123 overall record. Greenberg's recent history, however—and his 61-67 mark in ACC play—tells a different story.
Last season, Virginia Tech went 16-17 overall, 4-12 in the conference, and it missed the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year. In fact, the Hokies danced just once during Greenberg's time at the helm. The Hokies finished in 10th place in the conference, and when North Carolina, Duke and some of college basketball's bona fide powerhouses call your conference home, there needs to be a change.
That isn't to discount Greenberg's work, or the way Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver handled the firing. Rumors had been circulating for days before Greenberg was informed of his termination, and Weaver even admitted in a press conference on Monday that his decision had been made a week prior.
Before the decision was made to let go of Greenberg, three staff members—including two assistant coaches—had departed from Virginia Tech. A fourth would soon follow. With four members of the coaching staff leaving, it made sense, in a way, to clean house rather than plug in the holes to form a makeshift staff.
As a result, Greenberg, who had four years remaining on his contract, will receive a $1.2 million buyout.
The decision came as a shock to Greenberg, who told ESPN.com's Andy Katz:
I was completely shocked and blindsided by the decision of Jim Weaver and the administration. These past nine years have been some of the most rewarding for me both personally and professionally.Our program was built on family, trust and relationships. I leave the program in far greater shape than when I was hired nine years ago.
And Greenberg has a point. There was a time when a matchup against Virginia Tech was little more than an automatic win. In 2002-03—the season before Greenberg came on—the Hokies went 11-18, 4-12 in Big East play. In his first season, Greenberg led the Hokies to a 15-14 overall record. They were 16-14 the next season, and shortly after joining the ACC, they finished 22-12 and made the NCAA tournament in 2007.
A lack of consistency, however, did Greenberg in. The Hokies weren't championship contenders—or even ACC title contenders—every year, and unfair as it may seem given the level of competition, that was enough to lead to his demise, whether Weaver admits it or not.
Greenberg shouldn't have been the last to know of his firing, but in the end, Weaver's decision was right. Nine years is a long time for one person to commandeer a program that has spent too long being simply mediocre. Mediocre isn't good enough in the ACC.
If the program wants to land the type of recruit that will allow it to compete with the Duke's and the UNC's, it first needs to show it is capable of winning consistently. It's a catch-22, but it can happen. And in order to make it happen, there needs to be a change in personnel.