Seth Greenberg is a good man by all accounts, a fine defensive coach who usually prepared his teams well. He will also one day make a terrific analyst on television, which is where he’s likely headed after Virginia Tech let him go Monday.
Virginia Tech fired Greenberg Monday after a 16-17 season in which the Hokies tied for last in the ACC. However, the school would have been justified in firing him a year ago after failing to get the Hokies into the NCAA tournament during the four-year careers of two of the program’s greatest players: Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen. They came in together and left together without ever taking part in the NCAAs. They deserved better.
Greenberg won, but didn’t win big – 170-123 at Tech. He rarely notched a quality win outside the league. He won enough to fall off the fence on Selection Sunday every year.
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Virginia Tech became synonymous for being on the fence, which isn’t exactly the reputation a program wants, especially if it misses out every year.
His “certifiably insane” comment endeared him to those who didn’t really follow the program that closely. Greenberg uttered the phrase the day before the 2007 NCAA selections, as a descriptor for anyone who didn’t think
his team was worthy of the field.
But those famous words may have come back to haunt him.
In nine seasons at the helm in Blacksburg, Greenberg led the Hokies to one NCAA tournament. In that span, both George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth of the CAA reached a Final Four, Atlantic 10 team Richmond reached a Sweet 16, and numerous other in-state, non-ACC teams won NCAA tournament games.
Last fall at ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C., Greenberg was asked about the heavy changeover in coaching in the ACC, with seven new coaches in the previous two years and eight in three years. He said it was because schools were showing less patience with coaches.
I asked what that said about Virginia Tech and how strongly it must believe in his ability to lead the program, especially given its lack of tournament success. Greenberg’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets:
“I don’t think a lot of schools would pull the trigger on a two-time ACC Coach of the Year, the third-winningest coach in the league (last five years at the time), a coach that took a team that was the worst program in the Big East that averaged 4,000 people per game and went to the ACC and became one of the winningest programs in the ACC . . .
“A coach that brought a four-hour infomercial (ESPN’s “GameDay”) to their campus. They do that because they have respect in our program. And I think our people get it. Our people got it with (Hokies football coach) Frank Beamer, and Duke got it with Mike Krzyzewski. I think, again, our people understand we’re graduating our guys, we’re winning our games, we’re playing big games, and there are certain things that are out of your control.
“Our goal every year, everyone in this league has the same goal: Make the tournament and advance in the tournament.”
Well, Duke was the attraction when “GameDay” visited, and Greenberg has offered little evidence he will achieve what Beamer and Krzyzewski have. And after going 16-17 this past season and losing two assistant coaches, it was indeed time for a change. Greenberg simply topped out.
He made Virginia Tech basketball matter to its base and occasionally put it on the radar. But it turned out that’s his ceiling. It was that way for Greenberg at Long Beach State and South Florida, as well.
He will go on and have a terrific career as an analyst. He knows the game, has a great personality, and here’s a hunch he will bring a refreshing edge to the industry as an announcer.
In the long run, this was probably a great decision for both parties.