BLACKSBURG, Va. -

Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock relieved basketball coach James Johnson of his duties on Monday.

Babcock held a press conference Tuesday morning, saying it was time to move in a new direction. He also outlined realistic expectations for the program.

“We better get it right because I'm going to give them some time to get it right. I won't have unreasonable expectations,” Babcock said. “I will look for improvement but ultimately we want to be in the NCAA tournament. In this league with 15 teams, if you can get to the top half of the league, if you can get to number seven, not that that will be our banner that we carry around, we want to be number seven, but if you get to number seven then you've got a shot to be in the NCAA Tournament. So I would see it as a stair-step progression.”

Johnson took over for Seth Greenberg following the 2012 season. In two seasons he had a 22-41 overall record and was 6-30 in the ACC.

Babcock said he made the decision to fire Johnson because he didn’t feel like the staff could lead the Hokies to the NCAA Tournament.

“I felt that our current status as a program was at a point that a new direction was needed sooner than later,” Babcock said. “This was not an easy decision and I fully realize that it may be and has been criticized. However, my job as a leader is to do what's in the best interest of the whole, in the best interest of the department and my job is to make very difficult decisions, the decisions I feel are best for the long term.”

Virginia Tech had its share of attrition in the last five years, so addressing the current Hokie players and urging patience was a significant priority, Babcock said.

“I met with the team yesterday and heard directly from them,” Babcock said. “I wanted to assure them that we were going to get them the best coach and that there was a lot of people here that cared about them, that I did not want them to transfer, that we want to build around their nucleus.”

The new coach will enter a league that includes some of the best coaches in the country, and where the competition is fierce.

“I'm looking for somebody that's a grinder and a scrapper and is not afraid to compete and get in here and go head to head with at least four Hall of Fame coaches in this league,” Babcock said.

As far as a timetable, Babcock said the search could last a week or go through the Final Four, which is the first week in April.