BLACKSBURG, Va. — When he left Virginia Tech three weeks ago to take an assistant coaching job at Clemson, James Johnson said his goal was to turn that into a head coaching job.
He had no idea he would get that opportunity so fast.
Johnson was introduced Tuesday as Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball coach. He replaces Seth Greenberg, the man he worked for as an assistant the past five seasons.
“I don’t think there was any better person for the job than myself,” Johnson said. “I know this university, I know these players. I’ve recruited every one of these guys in some respective and we have everything in place to take this program to the next level.”
The biggest difference, he said, will be his role in the process.
“I go from now being a suggestion-maker to being a decision-maker,” he said.
For athletics director Jim Weaver, who said in dismissing Greenberg on April 23 that the decision wasn’t based on wins and losses, the choice of the 40-year-old Johnson made sense on several levels, including keeping some continuity in the program.
“I believe that you hire the right person at the moment in time,” Weaver said.
Several players talked of possibly transferring after Greenberg was ousted, and they also recommended in a meeting with Weaver that the school give Johnson a chance.
“We considered very strongly their opinions,” Weaver said of the meeting.
And the players already in the fold really like their new coach.
“We just have a lot of faith in him. He’s coached a couple of times in practice and we really liked what he did, the methods he did, some of the styles he did,” said Erick Green, the Hokies’ top returning scorer.
“We haven’t been this excited in a long time,” Green said.
Johnson, whose departure for Clemson was part of an exodus that had seen six assistants leave in four years, will be paid $680,000, and will benefit from a policy Weaver got approved when the Hokies were trying to keep him. Virginia Tech will pay its assistants the same money that Clemson pays its assistants, a total of approximately $475,000.
WAC officials vow conference will remain viable
Western Athletic Conference officials expressed confidence that the league would remain viable despite rumored defections.
Utah State and San Jose State both acknowledged this week they are in discussions with the Mountain West Conference over realignment for 2013. Conference USA already is set to bring aboard Texas-San Antonio just months before the school was to begin its first season in the WAC.