Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt approved a series of tweets from GTCoachHewitt on Wednesday to fans and those who have questioned his team:
With what many analysts and opposing coaches say is the best frontcourt talent in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets are 18-9, 6-7 this season, which puts them seventh in the ACC this season. Depending upon which NCAA tournament blog you read, they will either safely make the field of 65 for the first time since 2007, or they are on the bubble. The team is 1-6 on the road in the conference this season, including last week’s last-second 76-74 loss to Maryland. After hosting Boston College on Saturday, the team will play at Clemson and will host Virginia Tech as it tries to secure its spot in the NCAAs. The ACC tournament starts March 11 in Greensboro.
Hewitt is 172-140 in 10 seasons at Tech, including 67-89 in the conference and 6-5 in the NCAAs. His salary is $1.375 million a year, with a buyout of close to $7 million that rolls over every year.
Tech had media day on Thursday, and Hewitt spent about 10 minutes discussing the tweets and why they were sent out. I’ve transcribed the discussion below so that Hewitt’s words will be out in cyberspace, unfiltered and mostly unedited (I cleaned up run-on sentences and thoughts that were started and then stopped).
In italics I’ve included the facts that Hewitt refers to regarding statistics for the team and other items of note, either confirming them or clarifying them.
I’ve only interviewed Hewitt three times, but he’s always come across as very cool and collected. Today was the same. It may appear that it got loud, for a lack of a better word, but it didn’t. I think in some cases Hewitt used you to refer to me, and other times he used you to refer to people in general.
Me: Can you clarify the tweets that went out yesterday?
Hewitt: Everybody’s entitled to think what they want to think. But at some point you have to protect the effort of your staff and I think we are on the verge of getting to the NCAA tournament.
We are the youngest team in the ACC. You can choose to look at it as they are underachieving. You can choose to look at it as they are performing to expectations. You can choose to look it as they are overachieving. However you choose to look at it, support the team.
These guys work extremely hard. They go out and represent their school with tremendous class, in the class room, in the community and on the court. Quite frankly, I think some of the coverage is reduced to cyberbullying. But never question what these guys are doing and the effort they are putting out.
Really, what it comes down to, which is unfortunate I think, because I’m such a fan of journalism, a lot of the coverage is reduced to cyberbullying as opposed to giving some objective facts. Someone pointed out to me the other day that 41 percent of our minutes are played by freshmen. That’s the highest of anybody in the ACC in the top half or on the verge of the NCAA tournament. North Carolina and N.C. State are the other two over 35 percent of their minutes played are from freshmen. That’s got to be worth something.
*The four freshmen average 31 points per game and average 41 percent of the available minute, according to Tech basketball assistant SID Mike Stamus. That percentage leads the ACC.
You’re talking about a team that’s one of the top 10 defensive teams in the country. Defense is all about teamwork, effort and dedication.
* Tech is tied for 85th in points allowed (64.6) and fourth in field-goal percentage defense (37.2).
Now, free-throw shooting…the San Antonio Spurs have trouble with free throws. If you want to start bash guys for free throws, you don’t know how hard some of these guys work at it to the point I have to throw them out of the gym to go and do their homework.
* Tech is 285th in the NCAA (.647) and 12th in the ACC (.647).
I just think that it’s unclear what I’m saying is not lashing out. I’m asking people to pick a side. Either you’re with us or against us. But pick a side. Don’t degrade the effort, the intelligence the dedication of anybody associated with the program.
If you choose to pick a side, that’s you. I’m not lashing out at anybody. The overwhelming majority of people I come in contact with are like “Coach, you guys are working your tails off. We appreciate how hard you guys work. Your guys are class kids.”
But again, I do think there are times, when it’s unfortunate because journalism is such a powerful tool and coverage is powerful, that it’s cyberbullying. That’s all it is.
Me: When you say cyberbullying, are you referring to…
Hewitt: Some of your writers. Some of your writers. Doug, I haven’t read your paper since 2005. After the 2005 season, when that team that went to the ACC finals and went to the second round and lost to Louisville was absolutely bashed, I said there’s no objectivity here. But, one of your former colleagues came by to see me the other day and said “I guess they went after you again, after a road loss.” I said “Really?” It’s just to the point of what are we looking at? Are we really that bad? We’re on the verge of the tournament. But yet, anything I hear out of your paper I hear is a negative slant.
We’re young, we’re a great defensive team. I’m not sure what else I can say. As far as the people who write in or comment, that’s fine. Just pick a side. If you want to come and help this team get over the hump, that’s what it’s about. There’s nothing better than when a team wins, how it brings the whole community together.
This team really goes out and plays hard to make the community proud. If you choose to be negative, and choose not to support, that’s your prerogative too. Just pick a side.
Me: If may ask one more question, when you ask about picking a side it seems most of the people who responded on twitter are dividing the players from you. They say they support the players but don’t support you for a variety of reasons.
Hewitt: That’s your perspective. The guy who runs the account for me says a variety of them are supportive of me and the team.
I’m just telling you what the guys tell me.
Me: There were a few that supported the coach, but there are equally dividing it up between you and the players.
Hewitt: Why does it have to get down to the issue of blame and judgment?
Me: Well, the tweets went out, telling people are you a critic or a supporter.
Hewitt: It’s not lashing out, believe me. It’s about simply, you’ve got to protect your staff and players. Especially when you know, and I hope you write this, that you’re not letting the facts get in the way of the true story. Again, we’re the youngest team, one of the top defensive teams. We just played a killer game against the second-best team in the league right now and lost on a tough shot. Now, because you can read a scoreboard and because the scoreboard doesn’t come out the way you want to, you can criticize what’s going on with the team. I’m not sure that’s objective. Anyone who saw that game or was at that game would say they played their butts off and took a pretty good shot to beat them.
If it’s about reading the scoreboard, my 11-year-old can read a scoreboard and come down on one side.
Coley Harvey of the Macon Telegraph: ….Were you thrown off by this reaction?
Hewitt: I had a couple of people who follow us, some in the media, who are friends of mine said this stuff’s out of hand right now. I was like “What?” Again, I don’t read you. You have to decide. This type of cyber-bullying undermines recruiting, not with this group but I can see where it undermines the fabric of a team.
[Hewitt told an anecdote about Vinny Del Negro]
We’re recruiting here. We have people who are trying to determine between us and other teams. The truth is we have a young basketball team that’s playing really well. You mean to tell me that if Cliff Tucker misses that shot it changes the reality of where we are going?
Now, if we come out on Saturday and play flat, don’t play hard, turn the ball over all over the place and don’t look prepared, that’s different. Second half of Miami, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Maryland, those are the best stretches of basketball we’ve played, gosh, in two yearas. At least be objective and say there’s something going on right here.
The scoreboard is important, don’t get me wrong. Even if you read the scoreboard, we’re the third-ranked APR team in the ACC. People pretty much have us solidly in the field. Am I wrong? So then, why all of this ‘The plane is going down.’
Paul Griffin, my assistant AD, says we have the toughest strength of the schedule in the ACC and perhaps the nation. Come on now, tell the truth at least. your thoughts of me, your opinion of me might be one way. That’s fine, I understand that. But at least tell the truth of what’s really going on with the team.
*Tech’s SOS is 14th in the nation and the RPI has their non-conference SOS is fourth in the ACC.
I’ll make one last point, and what your guys don’t understand, when you undermine a program you’re not hurting the coach. You’re hurting the kids that have a chance to play this game. The coaches go on. Those kids have 1-4 years to have a great experience. I can list guys who had to deal with it and went on and they’re doing fine. But what about the kids who are on the team in the program in the heat of a season and allow doubt to creep in from outside.
That’s what Bill Parcells always talks about, you fight three things: you fight the vision from within, you fight the other opponent and you fight outside influences. You’ve got to address those outside influences at some point, especially during critical junctures in the season, especially when they’re not true.
Me: He also says you are what your record says you are, and you’re less than .500.
Hewitt: That’s the NFL. There’s balanced schedules in the NFL. Everybody plays two times. You’re not going to tell me that our schedule isn’t the same. It’s just not true. There’s a classic example of understanding the facts and not reporting the facts. There’s a big reason why Strength of Schedule is a big part of the NCAA equation. That quote about ‘you are what your record is,’ that’s the NFL. That’s the NBA.
Years ago, that was the ACC. That is not college basketball today. You guys very well know that. Am I right or wrong?
Now again, personal feelings aside, report the facts. Report the facts. That’s all I’m asking.