ESPN still giving Seth Greenberg his college basketball ‘fix’
For some coaches, an ESPN gig serves only as a short pit stop between coaching jobs.
Not for Seth Greenberg.
The former Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach is in his sixth season as a studio analyst for ESPN. This is his fourth season as part of the crew of “College GameDay,” which will originate from John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday morning, prior to second-ranked Virginia’s home game Saturday night against Tech.
“It’s been rewarding. I’ve got a great platform to talk about the game I love,” Greenberg said this week in a phone interview. “I didn’t come in with any preconceived notion, but I did come in with a commitment. Moving here [to Avon, Connecticut, near ESPN’s Bristol headquarters] was the commitment, saying, ‘If I’m going to do this, I need to have both feet in.’
“I was wondering if I could get a feeling of ‘team’ doing this, and I’m a member of a really good team right now. Everyone pulls in the same direction. … That’s the reason I think it’s been six years. I feel like I’ve gotten that fix per se of being part of a team — and I still get my fix of my passion … for college basketball.”
Greenberg steered the Hokies to 170 wins, seven winning seasons, four winning ACC records, one NCAA Tournament bid, five NIT berths and three wins over No. 1 teams in his nine seasons at Tech before being fired by the late Jim Weaver in April 2012. Greenberg, who was replaced by James Johnson, was hired by ESPN three months later.
“If I ever did get back in coaching, I get the best seat in the house for the best games and the best practices, which keeps me in tune with the game today,” he said.
Greenberg, who will be 62 years old in April, has a “never say never” philosophy about returning to coaching.
“I’ve had some opportunities the last few years that I just didn’t think were right,” he said. “It would have to be something really intriguing to move me because I do really love the people I work with. I can trust them, which is so important to me. No one has a hidden agenda. Everyone is on the same page, from the producers to the directors to our management. There’s no surprises. After what I experienced, that’s important to me.”
Greenberg serves as a pregame and halftime studio analyst for ESPN’s “Big Monday” and “Super Tuesday” doubleheaders. He appears on “College Basketball Live” late Monday and Tuesday nights. He offers analysis on “SportsCenter” Mondays through Thursdays.
He teams with Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Jay Williams for “College GameDay,” which will air from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday before resuming at 6 p.m., leading into the 6:15 p.m. game between the Hokies and Cavaliers. This will be the third time in four years that “College GameDay” has originated from John Paul Jones Arena.
“Being at the site of the game, the energy you get from the crowd, getting a chance to see the best teams practice is big for me. I enjoy that,” Greenberg said.
It was always a safe bet that Greenberg would move into broadcasting after his coaching career ended. While at Tech, he worked as a guest studio analyst during the NCAA Tournament for ESPN and for what is now called CBS Sports Network. He even had a clause in his Tech contract about how much he would have to pay Tech if he ever resigned to take a broadcasting job.
But Greenberg never imagined he would wind up with such a prominent role at ESPN.
“Not everyone gets to do it on this stage — ESPN, ‘College GameDay,’ ‘Big Monday,’ ‘Super Tuesday,’ a prominent place in doing … ‘SportsCenter,’ ” he said. “Probably that’s why I look like I’m enjoying it so much, just because I appreciate it.”
Since Greenberg left the commonwealth, UVa coach Tony Bennett has turned the Cavaliers into a national power.
“He’s totally committed to his core beliefs,” Greenberg said. “They do a great job of recruiting to their system. There’s a great trust that they have in what they do.”
Thanks to its stingy defense, UVa has lost just once this season.
“They score more out of their defense [this year],” Greenberg said. “They’re turning people over at a high rate. … They’ve got a toughness about them.”
The Hokies have made their mark offensively this season. They rank third nationally in field-goal percentage (51.7 percent).
“When they spread you out, they’re really good,” Greenberg said. “Now, can you spread Virginia out to the point where they can’t get back to their close-outs? That’s not easy to do.
“They’ve got to take care of the basketball. They’ve got to be shot-ready to have a chance. And they’ve got to be disciplined defensively.
“For Tech to be good, [Kerry] Blackshear’s got to be good. He’s got to stay out of foul trouble.”
Virginia Tech has not won at UVa since January 2012 — Greenberg’s final visit to John Paul Jones Arena as the Hokies’ coach.
Greenberg will be back at UVa on Saturday, doing a different job but one he also enjoys.
“Why wouldn’t I be having fun? At the end of the night, I’m still undefeated,” he said.