On every blog I post about Georgia Tech’s basketball team the comments usually turn into a roulette wheel of all the reasons that coach Paul Hewitt should be fired. Of course, that means that athletics director Dan Radakovich must pay the $7.2 million buyout that Hewitt’s contract demands, unless a settlement can be reached.
With this season drawing to a close, I thought it might be interesting to bring up some of the most-oft used reasons and do some more research to find out what has credence and what doesn’t so that the conversation might be more balanced.
1. He doesn’t develop players/look at how well his players do in the NBA: I think these two things are related because many of you see a player like Chris Bosh, who is one of the most effective big men in the NBA, and ask “why didn’t he do more of that at Tech?”
Since Hewitt took over, seven players have made the ACC’s All-Freshmen team. Just one of those players, B.J. Elder, later made the All-ACC team in a different year(s), which is one arbitrary way to measure if players are developing. Would Ed Nelson (2002, before transferring to UConn after the 2003 season), Chris Bosh (2003), Thaddeus Young (2007) and Javaris Crittenton (2007) made a few more all-conference teams had they stuck around, in many of their cases for more than one season? Seems plausible. The same is true for Derrick Favors (2010).
On the flip side are players like Jarrett Jack and Gani Lawal, who didn’t make the all-freshman team but developed into two-time all-conference performers later.
Many of those players are having productive NBA careers.
There have been 12 Yellow Jackets drafted or signed as undrafted free agents since the 2001 NBA Draft, which would be the first draft after Hewitt had a full season to coach.
Have other coaches done more with less talent? Yes. Have other coaches done less with more? You betcha. Since many of you seem to think Tech should be the equivalent of North Carolina in basketball (and I can’t think of two schools that are more different), how many national championships did Dean Smith win compared to all the talent that came through Chapel Hill? Jim Boeheim at Syracuse is another example. How many years before John Wooden won a title? (Again, using national championships as the barometer).
I’m not saying that Hewitt is the greatest developer of talent. I have no idea if he’s good at it or not. I can see why some of you are infuriated with the results when you look at the rosters.
I also know that it’s hard to build teams and maintain expectation levels when players can leave and start their career after just one season. Which brings us to our next big complaint:
2. He recruits too many one and dones: Of all the reasons thrown out, this is the most bizarre to me. Everyone may think they know what a 17- or 18-year old is going to do, but until they do it, you can never be certain. If Hewitt weren’t trying to recruit NBA talent he would be villified for that. When he does, and gives a young man a chance to decide if he wants to continue his education, fans come down him for providing an opportunity. Yall can’t have it both ways.
Remember that until 1995, NBA teams rarely selected college underclassmen. The next year the floodgates opened on that possibility. So those teams that are held up as examples of what is possible at Tech likely wouldn’t have done as much if the NBA’s draft rules and philosophies were different.
Why do the players leave Tech? There are many reasons, including it’s a very, very hard school that offers few majors for the “right-brained” that plays in arguably the toughest conference in the country. And please don’t think that if the NFL suddenly lowered it’s “3-year rule” to more closely resemble the NBA’s “1-year rule” that players would stay in college instead of pursuing a paycheck? Please.
3. His win-loss record in the ACC is horrible. Yes, it is. Even going against three Hall-of-Fame coaches every year in Mike Krzyzewski, Gary Williams and Roy Williams, it’s hard to understand how the Jackets are 70-102 in the ACC w ith just one season with a winning conference record, since Hewitt took over. There aren’t a lot of stats that can wipe that one away. I guess had a few of those players stuck around that record would likely be much better, but who knows?
I don’t envy the decision that Radakovich must make.
On the one hand, he’s got a fan base that is in upheavel. Paid-attendance has dipped below 6,000. It’s similar to Bobby Cremins’ last year when paid attendance averaged 6,399. There are many reasons that fans aren’t coming as they once were, but dissatisfaction with the program is a popular one. And it’s understandable.
I’ll bet there’s not more than 4,500 fans at tonight’s game against Virginia.
Plus, how difficult might it be, should he decide to go in a different direction, knowing that the team doesn’t have a home game next year. Games will likely be split between Philips Arena and Gwinnett Arena while AMC is gutted and re-built. Attendance next year will likely be even lower, I would think. If you were a potential candidate on Tech’s list, would you want to start your Tech career with no home and playing in front of potentially half-filled arenas? Granted, the next year the $45-million Hank McCamish Pavilion will open, but still.
Plus, there’s the amount of the buyout itself. To fire one man would cost the Georgia Tech Athletics Association the equivalent of 13.1 percent of its annual operating budget. That sum wouldn’t be paid out in a lump, so it’s not like there’s one big hit. But remember that the GTAA is still paying former football coach Chan Gailey. The last payment on that buyout occurs Jan. 2012.
I’m sure some of you will again say that I’m a Hewitt apologist. I’m not anyone’s apologist. I’m just trying to bring some civility and level-headedness to your conversations.
– Doug Roberson, AJC