BLACKSBURG — Seth Greenberg no longer has to look for new assistant coaches.
That’s because Virginia Tech is looking for Greenberg’s replacement.
Nine years after hiring Greenberg to be the Hokies men’s basketball coach, athletic director Jim Weaver fired Greenberg on Monday.
Weaver informed Greenberg in a 1:30 p.m. meeting, about two hours after Tech alerted the media that Weaver would hold a 4 p.m. news conference about an unnamed topic.
“I was completely shocked and blindsided by the decision of Jim Weaver and the administration,” Greenberg told ESPN.com.
In late January, Weaver said Greenberg was not on the hot seat and would “absolutely” be back for a 10th season at Tech.
But three weeks ago, assistant coach Rob Ehsan and director of men’s basketball operations Jeff Wilbrun left to become assistants at Alabama-Birmingham. Two weeks ago, associate head coach James Johnson left to become a Clemson assistant.
“I did not like, quite honestly, the way things unfolded with coaches leaving an ACC program that had the promise on the court that this program has for next year,” Weaver said at his news conference. “We needed to make the [Greenberg] decision now.”
This is the fourth straight year that at least one of Greenberg’s assistant coaches has left to become an assistant at another school.
“I can certainly understand some coaches leaving, but to have as many leave as we had sat the wrong way with me,” Weaver said.
Weaver said he and associate athletic director Tom Gabbard decided last week to fire Greenberg.
Tech had a losing record this year for the first time in six seasons. Tech has not made the NCAA tournament since 2007. But Weaver said those facts had nothing to do with his decision.
“It had something to do with people leaving and it had something to do with me wanting to change the direction and leadership of the program,” Weaver said. “I want to change the leadership such that the person at the top of the program has same kind of family environment that the other part of our department has. And it became crystal clear to me last week when I closed our [athletic department] workshop that we didn’t have that in the men’s basketball program, especially with people leaving.
“I was standing in front of the 182 full-time personnel that we have in our athletics department and it hit me. … The relationship of that program to the rest of the department is what hit me.
“If you could have been at our compliance and staff workshop and seen the camaraderie that we have, it would be easily understood.”
Weaver praised the continuity that football coach Frank Beamer has with his staff.
“Continuity goes a long way to establishing successful operations,” Weaver said. “That’s what I’d like to see in our entire department.”
Greenberg did not attend the annual workshop, but Greenberg told ESPN.com he was away recruiting at that time.
Weaver said he informed Virginia Tech President Charles Steger of his decision Thursday and confirmed it with him Monday morning.
Greenberg, who was 170-123 with one NCAA tournament bid and five NIT berths at Tech, had four years left on his contract.
“One year from now, in 2013, we were not going to extend the contract at all, nor would we extend the contract the year after that,” Weaver said. “Because we have three vacancies 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.
“If we’d have this press conference a year hence, then we’d end up paying for two staffs for three or four months, and we did not think that was the way to go.
“The first and primary reason that we’re making the change is because … we made the decision that we’re not going to increase [the contract] next year or the year after. And with three full-time vacancies on our staff, it became clear to us that we might just as well make the decision now.”
Greenberg had not asked for another contract extension, said Weaver.
Greenberg, who declined comment to The Roanoke Times on Monday night, earned $1.2 million in total pay this year. He will reap a buyout of $300,000 per year for the next four years.
“Our program was built on family, trust and relationships,” Greenberg told ESPN.com. “I leave the program in far greater shape than when I was hired nine years ago.”
Would Weaver still have decided to fire Greenberg if the two assistant coaches had not left this month?
“In all likelihood, yes,” Weaver said.
Assistant coach John Richardson said after the news conference that he was now unemployed. But Old Dominion, where Richardson once served as an assistant, announced after the news conference that Richardson was rejoining its staff.
The (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot reported Monday that an anonymous source said Richardson had agreed Thursday to return to ODU. Gabbard said at the news conference that Richardson was still on the staff “as far as we know.”
Tech paid Richardson, Johnson and Ehsan $406,651 this year, less than the sum paid to the three assistants at Maryland, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia or Georgia Tech.
The day after Johnson opted to leave for Clemson, Weaver got permission from Steger to pay next year’s assistants the same sum of $474,750 that Clemson paid its assistants this year. Johnson left for about a $50,000 raise, according to Weaver, but Weaver said Johnson told him his exit was not because of money.
Ehsan will make $122,666 in total pay at UAB, including a car allowance. His Tech salary was $120,000 .