With his Yellow Jackets safely in the NCAA tournament and his contract rolled over for another six years Tuesday, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt fired off at what he thought were unfair shots taken at him this season in the media.
He said he resents the suggestion that the reason he’s still coaching at Georgia Tech is because it would have cost too much to buy out his contract.
“I think it’s pretty cheap that anybody would make an issue out of it,” Hewitt said. “I think it’s really underhanded. It’s the lowest form of journalism there is. … I really resent the hell out of somebody trying to insinuate that it’s like I’m stealing money from somebody and that the only reason I have my job is because of this contract.”
Hewitt has a six-year deal with an automatic rollover, which is triggered each year 30 days before April 15. Tech would have had to notify Hewitt by Tuesday if it planned to terminate his contract, or it would have cost an additional $1.375 million on top of the $7.1 million required to buy him out.
Any doubt about Hewitt’s future at Tech was all but erased last week when his Yellow Jackets won three times in the ACC tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Tech (22-12) plays against Oklahoma State on Friday in Milwaukee. But it became all but official Tuesday with the passing of an annual deadline.
“There was no action taken, as has been the case since the contract was signed,” Tech associate athletics director Wayne Hogan said Tuesday. “Today is business as usual. We move forward.”
Hewitt wasn’t quite ready.
He said criticism over his on-the-court strategy is one thing, but he has had fans ask him to his face if he kept his job because of his contract. He said those fans are getting their information from the media, including the AJC.
“If we’re going to put information out there, put it in its proper context,” Hewitt said. “Don’t throw this contract thing out there like I walked into somebody’s office with a gun and a mask and said ‘Hey you better sign this.’ We all knew what we were getting into.”
Hewitt signed his contract after Tech made the Final Four in 2004 when Dave Braine was athletics director. He said at the time he had two other college coaching offers.
“Not that it’s important to anybody, but I could have made at least a half million dollars more going some place else,” Hewitt said. “But I felt really strong about the philosophy and the mission at Georgia Tech. And I thought it was really cheap and deceitful, really, to act like I pulled one over on somebody. And that’s the way it was presented.”
“… I didn’t pull one over on anybody,” he continued. “We went into this agreement eyes wide open both sides. And if Georgia Tech doesn’t want me to be their basketball coach, that’s their decision. I’m confident enough in my ability because of how hard I’ve worked and my reputation in the game, I think I’d have a decent chance of landing another job some place else.”
But if left up to him, Hewitt said, he didn’t want to go anywhere. “I like it here,” he said. “My family likes it here.”
Hewitt came under fire after a last-place finish in the ACC last season at 2-14 and took his share of heat through a seventh-place finish in the ACC this season at 7-9. Athletics director Dan Radakovich acknowledged as such last Thursday in his bi-monthly e-mail to Tech fans and alumni.
“Please understand that I hear all of the comments and opinions about our men’s basketball program. …,” wrote Radakovich, who alluded to the financial part of the equation as well. “… There are many parts to any discussion, issues which are visible and not so visible. By now I’m sure you know that there are factors which make our men’s basketball situation unique.”
Radakovich said both in that e-mail and in a response to a media query last Tuesday, he would “not get into a discussion regarding the evaluation of a program while there are still significant games to be played and goals to be reached.”
Hewitt said at no time this season has he asked Radakovich about his job security. He did call Radakovich after hearing about his response to the media query on Tuesday, but Hewitt was upset only that reporters asked about his job status.
“To blow it into something that was almost a national story, and I’ve got recruits calling me, ‘Coach what’s going on?’ I thought that was really cheap,” Hewitt said. “Unless President [G.P.] Peterson or Dan Radakovich says ‘Hey look, we’re not sure if we want this guy to be our basketball coach, why make a story out of it.”
The job discussion is all but moot now with Tech heading to the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in 10 years.
“Should we have been there more? Yeah, no question,” said Hewitt who is 176-143 at Tech, including 67-93 in the ACC. “I think acceptable would have been seven or eight, but five out of 10 is pretty doggone good.”