With Dan Radakovich’s decision to fire Paul Hewitt as Georgia Tech’s basketball coach, who could become the 13th leader in the program’s history?
It’s an interesting question because Radakovich has made some interesting hires since coming to Tech in 2006.
He has taken what could be considered chances in many of the sports, from the non-revenues to football.
He plucked assistants from other schools to lead softball and volleyball. He promoted an assistant to lead the swimming and diving teams.
Even the hire of Paul Johnson as the football coach surprised some. While Johnson was an established coach with a proven history of success at Georgia Southern and Navy, his experiences at Annapolis weren’t what would be considered the usual in college football. Agents and players leaving early or transferring, for example, weren’t things Johnson had to deal with often. But that move, like the others, has worked well.
But, with a $45 million arena set to open in 2012, will Radakovich gamble and continue his interesting pattern of hires or will he do what Virginia and Clemson have recently done and try to lure a winning coach from a mid-major program? Or will he try to hire to a big name to ensure the McCamish Pavilion stays filled?
Also keep in mind that the Georgia Tech Athletics Association isn’t flush with cash, and that was before the decision to fire Hewitt, which will cost $7.2 million, per his contract. But what’s an extra million when you’re building a new arena, especially if it will draw fans. Don’t forget that Tech’s average home attendance (6,095) in 2010-11 was its lowest in years, and that the GTAA projected an $1 million decrease in ticket and seat-related revenues compared to 2007-08. A new arena will draw fans for a while. But eventually the team has to win consistently.
So, who will be the new pied piper?
Here’s a recap of what colleague Mark Bradley wrote a while back. I’m going to cut-and-paste the good stuff below with some paraphrased editing. If you want to the read whole thing, click on the link.
A couple of these candidates fit the pattern Radakovich has at Tech. A few don’t.
Mike Anderson, Missouri: He presides over a Top 25 program in a major conference. (And Missouri can throw money at him to stay.) But he grew up in Birmingham and coached at UAB and worked under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, and he might have a hankering to return to the South. And I for one would love to see his full-tilt style shake up the rather staid ACC.
Scott Drew, Baylor: He coached under his famous dad Homer at Valparaiso and has worked since 2003 in Waco, where he inherited a program leveled by a scandal involving the murder of a by a former player. Last spring he took the Bears to the Elite Eight, after which he signed a 10-year extension. Not sure he’d leave for Tech, but how much longer is a coach this young (40) and skilled apt to stay in Waco?
Brian Gregory, Dayton: He doesn’t fit the definition of a Hot Young Guy. He’s 44, which isn’t that young, but he’s 167-89 in seven-plus seasons at a mid-major that takes the sport seriously, and he apprenticed under Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Cuonzo Martin, Missouri State: Here’s your Hot Young Guy. Martin was Glenn Robinson’s wingman at Purdue when the Big Dog was the best player in college basketball. Martin played in Europe and survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has become a coach of growing portfolio. He won 24 games last season at Missouri State, which as Southwest Missouri State perpetrated a memorable NCAA tournament upset of Clemson at the old Omni. Another reason to like Martin: He worked under Gene Keady at Purdue, and Keady assistants do well. Think Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt, Bruce Weber at Illinois and now Matt Painter with the Boilermakers.
Chris Mooney, Richmond: Good young coach — he’s 38 — at another pedigreed mid-major. He played under the legendary Pete Carril at Princeton, which means, surprisingly enough, that he runs the Princeton Offense. Mooney led the Spiders to the NCAA tournament last season.
Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M: Played under Larry Brown at Kansas, coached under both Brown and Roy Williams there. Turgeon also signed a contract extension after last season, in which he took the Aggies to the NCAA tournament for the third time in three tries. Not sure he’d leave for Tech, either, unless he just wants out of College Station and into the ACC. (A&M is rumored to be bound for the SEC, which might or might not be a consideration.)
Craig Neal, New Mexico: Known as Noodles when he played at Tech, where he first served as Mark Price’s backup before becoming an outstanding point after Price departed. He has been Steve Alford’s chief assistant in Albuquerque since 2007, and last season the Lobos were 30-5 and entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which Neal would not crawl to Atlanta for a chance to coach his alma mater.
Herb Sendek, Arizona State: He’s the dullest guy in the world, and he’s not a great recruiter. He left N.C. State in a snit because Wolfpack fans weren’t satisfied with five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. There’s a chance Sendek could get fired this season. It’s not often a big-time program hires a coach who has just been canned at another school, but Sendek does have a history of winning in the ACC. He was 46-34 in league play his final five seasons at State.