In defense of Seth Greenberg

The Hokies made the NCAA tournament one time under Seth Greenberg. Bob Donnan/US Presswire

Here's why I would be a lousy athletic director: In evaluating coaches, I would measure performance versus realistic expectations for any program (not performance versus the narcissistic wishes of big-money boosters and premium ticket-holders). This would be professional suicide, of course, but it might at least temporarily change the conversation about what is and is not important in college sports.

Seth Greenberg has been with the Virginia Tech Hokies for nine years. It is well documented that the Hokies made only one NCAA tournament appearance in that span, a fact that had to have been a major factor in Greenberg's being pink-slipped Monday in Blacksburg. (Hokies AD Jim Weaver cited other reasons, but you tell me whether we'd be having this conversation if Greenberg had earned a few more tourney bids during his tenure.)

Yet it seems that such a decision, when it involves a perennial bubble team, is less about institutional review and more about the isolated votes of a selection committee with no direct connection to the school.

And that's nuts.

Look, I've had more on- and off-air arguments with Seth Greenberg than I have with any other coach. In recent years, the Hokies have made more appearances in my "Last Four In" and "First Four Out" lists than any team in the country. I can only imagine the frustration in being a serious Virginia Tech basketball fan. But to dismiss a coach whose greatest failure is having an NCAA "bubble team" every year makes absolutely no sense.

Because realistically, that's his job.

Virginia Tech joined the ACC in Greenberg's second season (2004-05). After reaching the NCAA tournament in 2006-07, the Hokies hardly wavered from that level until this past year, when a staggering number of injuries dropped them to 4-12 in the league. In five legitimately "measurable" seasons from 2007-11, Tech was 45-35 in the ACC and in the NCAA conversation pretty much all the time. In other words, Greenberg put the Hokies exactly where they should be.

I know this because the ACC standings for those five seasons (with accompanying NCAA bids) confirm it:

Duke (58-22, five)

North Carolina (57-23, four)

Florida State (45-35, three)

Maryland (45-35, three)

Virginia Tech (45-35, one)

Clemson (44-36, four)

Boston College (38-42, two)

Wake Forest (33-47, two)

Virginia (32-48, one)

Georgia Tech (29-51, two)

Miami (29-51, one)

North Carolina State (25-55)

Not to shock anyone, but Duke and North Carolina own the ACC. In just about any time frame, those two programs are the big dogs of Tobacco Road. In just about any given season, every other school in the league is playing for third. So what do the numbers say? In the five seasons that should matter most in evaluating Greenberg, Virginia Tech finished in a three-way tie for third.

The fact that the Hokies have only one NCAA bid in that span while Florida State and Maryland have three apiece is more a matter of luck than coaching acumen. It's when they won certain games, or selected nonconference opponents turned out worse than expected, or an individual committee member watched Tech on the wrong night.

One can interpret the firing of Greenberg as Virginia Tech saying that being in the next tier of the ACC after Duke and Carolina isn't good enough, that the program should be something more than that. And I'm here to tell you -- and anyone in Blacksburg -- that decades of basketball history strongly suggest the opposite.

Unless Greenberg has done something we don't know, or there is genuine reason to believe his program is in a permanent downward spiral, Virginia Tech doesn't need a new coach. It just needs a little better luck at the end of the season and some fewer injuries the rest of the time.

If any athletic director or new hire can guarantee those things, more power to them. The facts from here simply don't support this move at this time.