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Greenberg Offers Impressive Debut

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

  March 15, 2004 BLACKSBURG — Last March, Seth Greenberg could've been a new professor in the university's renowned College of Engineering. Virginia Tech fans wouldn't have known any better. He was just another name, just another city slicker. Now Greenberg has the most recognizable bald head in southwestern Virginia, and maybe the most underappreciated coaching mind in the Big East this season. For providing hope to a basketball program as hopeless as any in the nation, Greenberg could've been recognized as the Big East's coach of the year. He didn't get the award, but the mere fact that his name was mentioned in the same breath with the distinction without being accompanied by side-splitting laughter was nothing short of amazing. Greenberg is proud of his work. Many sources have said he is a little bit more of an ego-driven guy than he lets on in public. When asked prior to the Big East Tournament if this season's result was the most impressive of his 14-year coaching career, Greenberg was unassuming. “That's not my job, I don't rate my coaching career,” Greenberg said. “I just try to do the best I can. I know I'm no rocket scientist.” There was really no reason for Tech fans to assume that Greenberg represented the savior of their basketball program before he was hired last April by athletic director Jim Weaver, who often referred to himself as “a search committee of one” during the interview process. Fans gasped when Greenberg, a relative unknown, was handed the keys to former coach Ricky Stokes' office, after Weaver had interviewed Rhode Island's Jim Baron, East Tennessee State's Ed DeChellis and Chattanooga's Jeff Lebo for the job. They aren't gasping anymore. DeChellis ultimately jumped to Penn State, which finished 9-19 this season. Baron and Lebo both had impressive seasons, but they had as many freshmen on both of their teams combined (three) as Greenberg had in many of his starting lineups this season. If Weaver needed validation for his hiring of Greenberg, he got it this season. Of course, a great deal of Greenberg's success hinged on the maturation of senior forward Bryant Matthews. A first-team all-conference selection, Matthews was the biggest surprise in the Big East, leading the conference in scoring (22.1 points per game) and finishing second in steals (2.48) and third in rebounding (8.9). One can only wonder how many more wins a healthy Carlos Dixon could've brought the Hokies. He would've provided another senior presence on the court, and another bonafide scoring threat. But Matthews and Dixon, who was shooting and practicing on his own and showing no ill effects from his broken left foot the week before the Big East Tournament, had little to do with the development of freshmen Coleman Collins, Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon. Greenberg stressed the importance of good perimeter defense and ball protection to his freshmen, all the while allowing them to shoot at will. The perimeter defense is still a work in progress, but the overall results were superb. Gordon and Dowdell both finished in the Big East's top 10 in steals, with Gordon leading the conference (2.75 per game). Gordon was sixth in assists per game (4.46) and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.98-to-1). Dowdell, Gordon and Collins were the team's second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers, respectively, paced by Dowdell with an average of 10.8 points per game. Each freshman averaged about 30 minutes per game. So, how did Greenberg miss out on the Big East coach of the year honor? Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon took it, becoming the first coach to capture the conference's coach of the year honors in his first season as a head coach. Sure, Dixon's first year at Pittsburgh was impressive. The Panthers finished 13-3 in the conference for the third consecutive season and won the league's regular-season title. But Dixon also rode the coattails of former coach Ben Howland's success. When Howland bolted Pittsburgh to head to UCLA, he left behind a very strong foundation. Brandin Knight, an All-American point guard, graduated last season, but the Panthers had senior guards Jaron Brown and Julius Page, sophomore guard Carl Krauser and junior forward Chevon Troutman returning. Also, Howland already had gotten a signed letter of intent from prized recruit Chris Taft before Dixon took over at Pittsburgh, which won 57 games in Howland's last two seasons. Greenberg had three consecutive losing seasons, a depleted roster and major injury problems to build on when he came to Virginia Tech. End of story. Laying the foundation for a winning program in his first season was critical for Greenberg, as the Hokies prepare to head into ACC play next season. Now he's way past the foundation. Next up is re-doing the entire house. Accused Can Play But Not Talk Weaver recently confirmed that wide receiver Brenden Hill, tailback/kick returner Mike Imoh and quarterback Marcus Vick will be allowed to participate in spring football practice. The fact that the three Virginia Tech student-athletes are scheduled to appear in Montgomery County Juvenile and Domestic Court on May 14, to be tried on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, won't factor into their spring participation. Of course, the only time the three players will be spoken about by the coaching staff in the spring will be according to how they factor into the all-important depth chart, and Hill, Imoh and Vick will be off-limits for interviews. It's all an effort to put a good spin on a bad situation, an attempt to refocus the spotlight on the accused. It's also wrong. Given the circumstances of their cases, these three young men shouldn't be anywhere near a football field until the cases against them are closed. Everyone agrees that the players are innocent of all charges until proven guilty. But most also agree that extremely poor judgment should be punished regardless of the legal outcome. To review, two teenage girls accused the players of giving them and a 15-year-old friend rum and vodka while they were at Vick's apartment in Blacksburg on Jan. 27, according to a police search warrant. The girls also told police Vick, 19, had sex with their 15-year-old friend, and that Hill or Imoh took pictures of all three girls as they stripped from their clothes. Vick was charged with four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor on Feb. 17, while Hill and Imoh each were charged with three counts of the crime. Charles Steger, Virginia Tech's president, said he is certain the situation would have been handled the same way if it involved non-student-athletes. “We believe that the university should and does treat all students the same within our judicial system,” Steger said in a statement released more than a month after Hill, Imoh and Vick were arrested. Steger's assertion is debatable, but it's clear that Tech has missed its first opportunity to take a stand on this situation. If the players are found guilty, hopefully the university won't botch its next chance to send the right message. And even if they are found not guilty — the term “innocent” doesn't apply very well to this case — they should learn that horrible judgment won't be tolerated, regardless of the legal repercussions.