New Georgia Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory took some time before visiting a recruit Tuesday night to share a bit more about his thoughts on the Good Word, being a plebe at Navy and Tech’s fans.
This is the second part of a two-part Q&A. Here’s part I.
AJC: Can you sing a few bars of “(I’m a) Ramblin’ Wreck”?
BG: I’ve not been taught that. I’m also looking forward to learning that. How does it go?
AJC: I’m a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech…..[ a bar or two later]
BG: Got it.
AJC: Do you know what the Good Word is?
BG: Something like [rhymes with few] Georgia.
AJC: [Laughs]. Close. When someone asks, “What’s the good word?” You say “To hell with Georgia” or “THWG.”
BG: OK, got it.
AJC: Do your kids play sports?
BG: My oldest one Isabella plays soccer and Elyse is in basketball. Both are involved in dance.
AJC: Do you coach them?
BG: Noooo. I never say a word about anything. I’m a distant observer.
AJC: At one point at Dayton you seemed to have a different substitution pattern, kind of like a hockey pattern where a lot of kids would come in at the same time. Why?
BG: Not so much last year, but the two years previous our strength was we had 11 guys whose separation in terms of talent and skill wasn’t that great. We played a lot of bodies. We played at such a pace …those two teams were best served by playing 11 deep. When you play 11 deep your two or three quality guys, there’s not a clear separation between them and their backups. You use younger guys and energy guys who wouldn’t play as much but would definitely provide a spark.
AJC: One of the few less-than-positive things Paul Hewitt said after he was let go was the next coach is going to grow tired of being asked, “Are you going to be here next year?” Does it surprise you that there’s already a thread on one of the boards asking how long fans should wait before they start judging you?
BG: Well that’s part of the business nowadays. That comes with the territory. Obviously the program is not where the administration and our fanbase would like it to be right now. With that said, we’re excited about undertaking the process of changing that. There’s a lot of different factors that will go into doing that.
AJC: I’ve read you left the Naval Academy because you wanted to get into coaching. But you seem to have the type of personality that would appreciate and enjoy that type of education.
BG: I loved it there, and not many people say that about plebe year. It was the first time I got a glimpse of basketball-wise, just how successful a team could be that had unbelievable chemistry and leadership. From David Robinson to Vernon Butler and Kylor Whitaker. Those guys were the stars on the team and were the most unselfish guys I’ve seen. Everything was about the team.
Militarily I loved that aspect; the discipline, the sacrifice, the leadership skills you were taught, the camaraderie that almost becomes innate.
At the same time, I realized teaching and coaching were what I wanted to do. I made the tough choice to follow that. It was nothing to do with basketball or military.
I hung in there academically, but I wasn’t on the dean’s list. [He did become an Academic All-American at Oakland].
AJC: What would you say to the fans of Dayton? Naturally, some fans liked you and some were happy to see you go.
BG: When you look at the full body of work, we had to more or less completely rebuild the program after the first year because it was such a senior-dominated team. The three classes that followed the senior class, two of them only had one player that was ever recognized….only one 1,000-point scorer and he was the only guy who ever received all-league recognition. We stubbornly did it. We had to create a new culture there. The four years that we had all the players that we brought in were the four most successful years in the history of the program. I think there’s only 13 non-BCS schools that have made four consecutive postseason tournaments with at least one being the NCAA tournament. We were ranked in top 25 three of those four years.
Most important to me was we got the former players back involved in the program. My wife and I really engaged ourselves in that community. We graduated every single senior.
I feel good about where that program is at and what we accomplished. In this day and age, not everybody’s going to be satisfied. The important people to me were more than satisfied. We did everything the right way and we had a lot of success.
I’m not ashamed to say I loved the place, I loved the program, I loved the kids. The challenge at Georgia Tech at this particular time was right on the mark. That’s why this decision was made.
– Doug Roberson, AJC