Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

March 13, 2014

Johnson’s future unclear at Virginia Tech

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock faces a tough question about the future of men’s basketball coach James Johnson.

When Babcock took over in mid-February, there were already questions swirling about Johnson and women’s coach Dennis Wolff, whose teams were struggling at, or near, the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

On Thursday, Wolff said Babcock told him he will be back as coach next season.

Johnson’s future is less clear.

A former athletic director at Cincinnati, Babcock said after arriving at Virginia Tech that experience has taught him that he needed to let the basketball seasons finish, then assess the entirety of the programs before making any determinations.

Johnson believes that assessment will grant him another year.

“I’m sure we’ll sit down and talk and continue to evaluate the program, me and where we go from here,” Johnson said after losing 57-53 to Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday. “I’m optimistic that I’ll be back and I’ll be the head coach here at Virginia Tech and I look forward to coaching these young men and us moving forward.”

Babcock said in an email to The Associated Press Thursday that he will meet with Johnson next week.

“We should have a next steps or course of action after that within a reasonable time frame,“ Babcock said in the email.

The Hokies men (9-22, 2-16) finished last in the league for the third year in a row, the last two under Johnson. In two seasons since he replaced Seth Greenberg and became a head coach for the first time, Johnson’s teams are 22-41, and just 6-32 against the ACC. They lost 17 of their final 18 games this season, and saw several games get away in the closing minutes.

Babcock said when he took over at Virginia Tech that a team’s record is crucial, but not the only factor. He said his father, his college baseball coach at James Madison, taught him to look at everything — the record, community engagement, academic standing and recruiting — in making decisions.

Johnson hopes the development of the two recruiting classes he’s brought in, the four players named academic All-ACC this year and the idea that the team was decimated by injuries in each of his seasons weighs heavily in Babcock’s assessment.

But he also knows his bottom line — 22-41 — doesn’t work in his favor, especially not with the transition at Virginia Tech also including a new president, Timothy Sands, who starts June 1.

“At the end of the day, I do realize that we have a new administration, a new president, a new AD, and those are not the people that hired me,” Johnson, who spent 20 years as an assistant coach, said. “I know that.”


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