When James Johnson accepted an assistant's position at Clemson it wasn't big news to those outside of Virginia Tech. It only became a story a week later when he was able to back out of that hiring and in to the head coaching gig for the Hokies. Little did people know that several months later Johnson would be doing one of the most impressive coaching jobs in the country.
He could be sitting on Brad Brownell's bench, and no one would be thinking twice about it. Instead, he's brought optimism and hope to Blacksburg.
The early knock was that Tech hadn't played anyone. And that's true. They began 5-0 without once playing a team inside of Ken Pomeroy's top 200. And a couple of those games were uncomfortably close.
Still, senior Erick Green was playing like the best guard in the ACC, while Jerell Eddie and Robert Brown were both playing at a high level.
And then the ACC-Big Ten Challenge came along, and the Virginia Tech – Iowa matchup was a bit overlooked. It wasn't marquee. So not enough people watched as Virginia Tech pulled away from Iowa and beat them 95-79. And this was a team which had been killing teams from beyond the arc. Their 3-point % was likely elevated by a bit of luck. But that didn't matter against the Hawkeyes. The Hokies scored 95 points in 75 possessions and only made 4-15 3s.
Now they get two more big games back-to-back. First up is Oklahoma State, who early rolled ACC preseason favorite NC State. Then they travel to West Virginia, who is much better than their record indicates.
The Hokies aren't going to win the ACC. But it doesn't matter. They're winning. They're competitive. And for a team which just changed coaches, a team which lost two high profile recruits, this is probably more than could be reasonably expected.
Optimism in Blacksburg. Delivered by a 1st-year head coach who's yet to lose a game.