Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said it’s highly unlikely that he would leave Georgia Tech for St. John’s.
Tech athletics director Dan Radakovich has given the Storm permission to speak to Hewitt about its vacant men’s basketball coaching job. Hewitt grew up in New York, and is one of the Storm’s top targets for the job, according to several New York newspapers. St. John’s declined to comment about its search until it is concluded.
When reached on Tuesday, Hewitt said he wouldn’t rule out talking to St. John’s if athletics director Chris Monasch called.
The Storm tried to woo Hewitt in 2004 after he led Tech to the Final Four, but former athletic director Dave Braine countered with a contract with a unique automatic annual buyout of $7.1 million. Hewitt recently said that he actually had two other college job offers at the time of the negotiations. Should Hewitt resign, the contract also stipulates that he would owe the Georgia Tech Athletic Association one-half of the remaining term of his contract, which would be $3.4 million.
The 2004 season remains the pinnacle of Hewitt’s success in 10 seasons at Tech. He is 177-144 overall at the Institute, including 67-93 in the ACC. He has led the Jackets to the NCAA tournament five times, including this year when they were knocked out in the second round by Ohio State.
With a lineup featuring two projected NBA lottery picks in Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, Hewitt led the Jackets to a 23-13 mark this season, including a seventh-place 7-9 finish in the ACC. Tech lost to Duke in the ACC tournament championship game.
Some fans have expressed their displeasure with Hewitt the past few seasons, particularly after the 2008-09 team, beset by injuries, went 12-19 overall and 2-14 in the ACC.
The Jackets bounced back this season and jumped out to a 11-2 start and eventually rose to as high as No. 19 in the Associated Press poll. Tech had some bad luck once ACC play began, losing on last-second shots at Miami and at Maryland that jeopardized its chances of making the NCAA tournament.
A few days after the loss to the Terps, Hewitt approved a series of tweets in which he asked people to either support his team or leave it alone. He later said that those tweets were meant for the media, and not the fans. Nevertheless, after the messages his relationship with the Atlanta media took center-stage in print, online and on radio shows as his team was trying to secure its place in the NCAA tournament.
That died down after a week or so but reignited on March 15. Hewitt’s contract stipulates that if Tech were to fire him, he must be notified at least 30 days before April 15. On March 16, he was asked if he had any comment on his contract being rolled over. He responded by expressing his displeasure that anyone would presume his contract is why he is still employed at Tech.
“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 later said that he and his family are happy at Tech and in Atlanta.
The GTAA recently oversaw construction of the Zelnak Center, a practice facility that opened last year for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. It also recently received a donation that will help pay for as much as $15 million of a proposed $45 million renovation to Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
St. John’s reportedly offered Florida coach Billy Donovan a contract worth more than $3 million a season but were turned down. Hewitt’s base salary was $1.375 million this season.
Monasch fired coach Norm Roberts last week after going 17-16 overall, 6-12 in the Big East this season. They weren’t invited to the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season. They last won the Big East in 2000. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament 27 times, including two Final Fours.
Carroll Rogers contributed to this report.