BLACKSBURG Jim Weaver, former Virginia Tech athletics director, lauded the hiring of Whit Babcock to be his successor, preached patience with struggling basketball coach James Johnson and said he didn’t spend much time thinking about who might eventually succeed Frank Beamer with the Hokies’ football program.
Weaver was at Lane Stadium on Saturday night for the baseball team’s annual Baseball Night in Blacksburg program, an event that featured former Hokies coach Chuck Hartman.
Weaver didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought Babcock should make a change in the men’s basketball program, hours after Johnson’s team lost in double overtime at No. 25 Pittsburgh, its 10th straight defeat.
“I would like to see him be patient,” said Weaver, who retired at year’s end because of health issues. “I think James is going to be a very good coach and if they can see fit to give him the time that he needs as opposed to changing over and starting again and spending the same number of years, I think they’ll find that he’ll do just fine.”
The last-place Hokies, who play host to Miami on Saturday, haven’t won a game since the final day of 2013, when they downed Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Johnson is 21-34 as the head coach at Tech, including a 5-24 mark in the ACC.
After Babcock watched the Hokies get blown out 80-60 by Maryland on Feb. 1, Johnson said his focus is on turning around the team, not worrying about his employment status.
“My job is to try to get these guys to play as well as they could play and prepare them for the games,” said Johnson, who was hired after Weaver fired Seth Greenberg in April, 2012. “That’s my job.”
Babcock is inheriting two struggling basketball programs. Dennis Wolff’s women’s team has lost 10 of its past 11 games, including Sunday’s 72-71 overtime loss at home to No. 14 N.C. State.
“I’d like to think how I’ve handled myself here and my overall body of work as a coach and what I perceive in my mind, anyway, and I know that can be different for different people, that there has been progress in the program, that he would see it that way,” Wolff said recently. “But that’s entirely his call. I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.”
Now in his third season, Wolff has a record of 28-55, 8-36 ACC. Weaver hired Wolff, then the director of basketball operations for the men’s team under Greenberg, as the women’s coach after the 2010-11 season.
Weaver, walking with a cane because of recent surgery to replace his right hip, said he got to know Babcock in Babcock’s previous position as the athletics director at Cincinnati. Weaver said he and Babcock sat together at FedEx Field for the first half of the Hokies’ 2012 game against the Bearcats, among other interactions.
“I’ve had a chance to get to know him and I think he’s a terrific selection,” Weaver said.
Weaver, who will be paid the final two years of his contract while working as a consultant to the president on matters of intercollegiate athletics, said he’s happy to still be involved at Tech.
“Just because I love the university and I love this profession and I’m willing to do whatever I can to help keep the program moving upward,” said Weaver, Tech’s athletics director from 1997-2013.
Babcock, who starts full-time at Tech on Feb. 17, spoke of his experiences with Weaver during an introductory media conference last month.
“I came in contact with Jim a number of times,” Babcock said at the time. “Always a gentleman, always first class. I’ve talked to him on the phone a few times since this process started and we will be getting together and having coffee soon. He left it in great hands and it’s an honor to follow in his footsteps.”
“We’re going to have coffee some time in the not too distant future,” Weaver said Saturday. “I’m sure he’ll have some questions. And it’ll be one of the first times that I won’t have any questions.”
But Weaver won’t have much advice about what to do when it comes time to replace Beamer. That hire will go a long way to determining Babcock’s legacy at Tech.
“I haven’t really thought about that,” Weaver said. “My contract went through 15 and Frank’s goes through 16, so it wasn’t an issue I was going to have to deal with. I haven’t spent a lot of time to try to figure out what’s the best way to go about that. You’ve got to take into consideration the factors at the moment in time and we’re not at that moment in time.”