Mar 6, 2014; Richmond, VA, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Shaka Smart gestures from the bench against the Richmond Spiders in the first half at Robins Center. The Rams won 56-50. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Athletic Director Whit Babcock and the Virginia Tech Hokies made the decision today to fire men’s basketball head coach James Johnson after his second year as the head coach for the Hokies. A second straight season at the bottom of the ACC and a total of 22 wins over two seasons are the most obvious and biggest reasons why Johnson has been fired. Now, Whit Babcock will be looking to find the right man to replace Johnson and rebuild Virginia Tech men’s basketball after a rough 2013-2014 season.
Virginia Tech is arguably the best job available along with Auburn and the Hokies will be able to find a very good head coach. However, AD Whit Babcock will have a few guys at the top of his list that are going to be reaches and unlikely to come to Blacksburg but will be worth checking in with. So here are three dream candidates who are unlikely to come to Blacksburg but could possibly consider the chance.
Mar 14, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin during the first half against the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference college basketball tournament at FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin
Mick Cronin is one of the most underrated head coaches in college basketball and the job he has done at Cincinnati is quite impressive. Cronin is one of the most respected guys in all of college basketball and is the type of person that any university would want to represent their men’s basketball program. The main reasons why Cronin is on this list is the fact that AD Whit Babcock came from Cincinnati and might be able to bring Cronin to Blacksburg. This type of connection has been the reason for college basketball hirings in the past and could bring Cronin to Blacksburg.
However, Mick Cronin is highly unlikely to end up in Blacksburg due to a lot of other circumstances that could keep him at Cincinnati the rest of his career. Cronin grew up in Cincinnati and is an alumni of the University of Cincinnati so his loyalty to the Bearcats is likely to be very strong. Cronin also has a quite strong basketball program at Cincinnati and while the AAC got very little respect from the NCAA Tournament committee. There is a chance that Cronin could leave Cincinnati for Blacksburg but it seems unlikely.
VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart would be a great head coach for the Hokies and is an obviously a guy that Virginia Tech would love to have as a replacement for James Johnson. VCU’s Havoc defense is one of the most ferocious and feared in all of college basketball while his history of succeess speaks for itself, especially the Final Four banner that hangs inside the Siegel Center. Shaka Smart also is a very good recruiter and developer of his talent which is the total package that you want in a head coach.
However, Shaka Smart is almost certainly not coming to Virginia Tech unless the big reason why he didn’t go to UCLA was his love of the state of Virginia and not his loyalty to VCU. Virginia Tech is not the same level as VCU and it will clearly take a whole lot to get Smart to leave VCU but Brad Stevens proved that it might be possible when he went to the Boston Celtics. However, Virginia Tech is not going to get Shaka Smart unless something crazy happens.
Mar 1, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers head coach Josh Pastner reacts after a play during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner
Josh Pastner is the third and final guy on his list and Pastner is another great young coach like Smart that would be a big-time hire for the Hokies. Pastner is a very good recruiter just like the man he used to work under at Memphis, John Calipari. Pastner also has a done good job at developing his players and only missed the NCAA Tournament in the first of his five seasons as Memphis. Pastner has done a quite impressive job building the Tigers into a solid program but a new challenge at Virginia Tech might be something he wants to do, especially with the Hokies in the ACC compared to Memphis in the AAC.
However, Pastner is unlikely to come to Virginia Tech because Pastner has a lot of stability at a Memphis program that can attract big time recruits. Pastner also has a very loyal fan base just like the other two names on this list and Pastner has tons of job security. It seems unlikely that Pastner would leave Memphis for Virginia Tech if offered but Pastner might just be the most likely of the three names to take the Virginia Tech job if he was offered it. However, Josh Pastner is a dream candidate for a reason and nobody should get their hopes up about any of these three guys coming to replace James Johnson.
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