After nine seasons of scowling, stomping and sweating his way through games on Virginia Tech's bench, Seth Greenberg was fired Monday from his position as Tech's men's basketball coach.
Tech athletic director Jim Weaver and associate director of athletics for internal affairs Tom Gabbard made the announcement Monday afternoon in a news conference on Tech's campus. Weaver said the decision to fire Greenberg was made last week.
The decision involved consideration of a combination of factors, including future athletic department expenditures, the recent departures of assistant coaches and the absence of a "family environment" Weaver said is present in the rest of Tech's athletic programs.
"I did not like, quite honestly, the way things unfolded with coaches leaving an (Atlantic Coast Conference) program that had the promise on the court that this program has for next year," said Weaver, referring to the fact Tech lost three full-time staff members, including two assistant coaches, in the three weeks prior to Monday's announcement. "I felt after talking at length with Mr. Gabbard that we needed to make the decision now, and that's why it was made."
Unbeknownst to Weaver at the time of the press conference, John Richardson became the fourth member of Greenberg's staff to leave the program when he decided to return to an assistant coaching job at Old Dominion, where he was a staff member from 2005-10. Before going to ODU, Richardson led Woodside High to Group AAA state championships in '04 and '05.
Richardson's departure came on the heels of April decisions by assistant coach James Johnson to leave Tech for a similar position at Clemson, and assistant coach Rob Ehsan and director of basketball operations Jeff Wulbrun to leave for comparable positions at Alabama-Birmingham. Weaver said Johnson decided to go to Clemson even though Weaver received approval from Tech president Charles Steger to match what Clemson will pay Johnson.
Weaver said he and Gabbard reached the conclusion last week they wouldn't extend Greenberg's contract after next season or after the 2013-14 season. Greenberg had four years left on his contract. He'll receive $1.2 million in accordance with his buyout.
Greenberg, who developed a reputation for his animated coaching style in Blacksburg, finished his career at Tech with a 170-123 overall record, which included a 61-67 mark in the ACC. Tech was 16-17 this past season — its second losing season under Greenberg, including a 14-16 mark in '05-06. He led Tech to the NCAA tournament just once in '07, and to the National Invitational Tournament five times.
Weaver said the decision to dismiss Greenberg wasn't based on wins and losses or lack of NCAA tournament appearances. Weaver added Greenberg's firing "in all likelihood" still would've been carried out even if the assistant coaches didn't leave.
"Because we have three vacancies on our staff [prior to Richardson's departure] now on our staff, it made all the sense in the world to us to move forward and change that direction of our program and hire a new staff that's going to be here, rather than bring in some staff that are here possibly for a year," Weaver said. "If we'd have had this press conference a year hence, then we'd end up paying for two staffs for three or four months. We did not think that was the way to go and the direction we wanted to head."
While at an annual Tech athletic department workshop last week, Weaver said it dawned on him that a change was needed in the men's basketball program in order to foster the family atmosphere he sought.
"If you could've been at our compliance and staff workshop and seen the camaraderie that we have, it would be easily understood," said Weaver, who added the search for a new coach will begin Tuesday and that he's already received calls about the opening. "Let me say it this way. (Tech football) coach (Frank) Beamer has terrific continuity in his program. I happen to believe continuity goes a long way to establishing successful operations, whether it's in athletics or the business world or wherever."
Greenberg was informed of the decision to fire him at 1:30 p.m. Monday, according to Weaver, two hours after the news conference was called. Weaver said the meeting with Greenberg took place at a time that was agreeable to all involved parties.
"I was completely shocked and blindsided by the decision of Jim Weaver and the administration," Greenberg said early Monday evening to ESPN.com. "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."