Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech tenure ended after yet another NCAA tournament miss. But that wasn’t the only thing that cost the Hokies coach his job.
His temper also got the best of him.
Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver made no secret of that during his press conference announcing the decision on Monday. He noted the recent turnover on Greenberg’s coaching staff and lamented the lack of a family atmosphere. But there’s more.
This interesting story by Barry Jacobs of ACC Sports Journal expands on those comments, referencing Weaver’s comments (“It had nothing to do with NCAA appearances.”) and two damning quotes from a former Virginia Tech assistant.
“He had run-ins with everyone,” the assistant told Jacobs. “Eventually, everybody has their breaking point.”
During games Greenberg paced the sidelines, baseline to scorer’s table, like a growling, caged predator, bald head gleaming. He was not above theatrical gestures to make a point: At Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2005, his first ACC season, he drew attention to a discrepancy in personals by seemingly going out of his way to incur a second technical foul and automatic ejection with the game out of reach.
Off the court Greenberg perpetually had a chip on his shoulder. Media members and fans gripe about the bland personalities that inhabit modern ACC benches, a product in part of wariness in an instant-communication era. Greenberg defied that norm.
In 2008 he lobbied for an NCAA bid after a tough ACC tournament loss to North Carolina by declaring, “If you don’t think this team is one of the top 65 teams in the country, you’re certifiably insane.” Later he openly shared suspicions that members of the NCAA tournament selection committee were biased against the Hokies.
Along with recently departed ACC veterans Gary Williams (Maryland) and Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Greenberg carried the venerable banner of aggrievement at perceived league favoritism towards UNC and Duke. Off the record he spoke bitterly of coaches he perceived as cheaters. He clashed at league meetings with colleagues who came to accept, or at least tolerate, his opinionated manner.
Greenberg’s demeanor was no secret. Honestly, his candor was part of his charm. But it’s easy to see how that persona would wear on assistants. Why put up with that when you can find work elsewhere?
And the NCAA misses couldn’t have helped. Greenberg won more ACC coach of the year awards (2) than he made NCAA tournaments (1) during his nine-year tenure. Greenberg probably escapes all of this if he avoids the 16-17 season this year. Or makes another NCAA tournament or two. As Greenberg notes, even jerks keep their coaching jobs if they win.
But you better win a lot.
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