Paul Hewitt may have same fate as Georgia Tech’s arena

Was Paul Hewitt's last win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum also his last on campus? (Vino Wong/AJC)

Was Georgia Tech's victory Sunday also Paul Hewitt's last win on campus? (Vino Wong/AJC)

A wonderful final act, wasn’t it? The home team won. The building was full for its last breath before the wrecking ball. Fans were loud and sometimes even on their feet. When it was over, Paul Hewitt stood and soaked it all in as the band played the school fight song, followed by “Auld Lang Syne.”  Everybody smiled.

It was almost like a time warp.

Ever visit the back lot of a movie studio, where they have fake building fronts with no back? That’s sort of what Georgia Tech resembled Sunday. Great curb appeal. Just don’t peak around the corner.

The Yellow Jackets had a cool and perfect ending to their regular season. They drilled Miami 66-57. They had a pressure defense that forced 21 turnovers. They had four players score in double figures. Then afterward, when Hewitt finished his post-game news conference, he walked briskly down the hall at Alexander Memorial Coliseum because he had an important guest waiting.

“I really don’t have time – I’ve got a recruit waiting,” Hewitt said.

When asked if this game and the crowd reminded him of better times, Hewitt said: “When we win, that’s how people react. We’ve just got to win. It’s no different than any other year.”

One thing is different. This might have been Hewitt’s final act on campus. Georgia Tech will go into the ACC tournament as an 11th seed. The Jackets’ stay in Greensboro could be brief. The coach’s future may be next to feel the wrecking ball.

I want to start with this, because it tends to get lost amid the swarm of bitter folks who seemingly are taking glee in Hewitt’s demise: The man is not an idiot.

Basketball coaches don’t just luck into four NCAA tournament berths and three 20-plus wins seasons in their first seven seasons. So please, enough with the proclamations about Hewitt’s limitations.

Here’s a coach who understands the mission of college athletics, doesn’t cheat and doesn’t embarrass the university. He has succeeded at the highest level, taking over a program that failed to reach the NCAA tournament in four straight years and getting the Jackets to their first ever national title game in his fourth season. He never has projected anything but caring about his players, his program and the university. In college basketball, that puts him in special company.

The win totals obviously have been a problem of late. There is no excuse for losing to Kennesaw State. There is no excuse for going 2-14 and 5-11 in the ACC in two of the last three years. In many ways, it’s mind-boggling how far Tech has fallen.

But understand that if Hewitt loses his job — and that appears likely – this will be about much more than wins and losses.

When athletic director Dan Radakovich fired football coach Chan Gailey, it wasn’t because Gailey couldn’t coach. It wasn’t even because he couldn’t win. Fact is, Gailey never had a losing record. He won seven games every season – save the year he had nine. He went to a bowl every year.

But fans were divided on Gailey. Radakovich felt the need to galvanize and ignite the fan base. He believed the only way to accomplish that was by changing coaches.

Perception is reality. If Hewitt meets the same fate as Gailey, it will be less because of a belief that Hewitt can’t win any more than it will a belief that not enough folks around the program are buying in.

When presented with the Gailey comparison at halftime, Radakovich said: “You’re accurate to say it’s part of the overall evaluation of the program, and the direction of where we are and where we’re going.”

Radakovich repeated the usual sound bites of evaluating Hewitt after the season. He acknowledged the importance of having Tech fans excited before the arena reopens in two years, saying: “I want to be able to open this building on an uptick rather than a down tick.”

He was gratified by Sunday’s crowd. But when asked about declining attendance, he said: “There are certain factors that aren’t pointing in the right direction.”

Hewitt was asked how he is dealing with everything swirling around him.

“I’m just coaching the team,” he said.

Tunnel vision probably is wise in this case.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

191 comments Add your comment

Lee

March 6th, 2011
6:54 pm

It’s time for a change.

Paul

March 6th, 2011
6:54 pm

Gordon

March 6th, 2011
6:54 pm

MattyB

March 6th, 2011
6:54 pm

Fire this loon ASAP!

Paul

March 6th, 2011
6:55 pm

Jason

March 6th, 2011
6:55 pm

Basketball coaches don’t just luck into four NCAA tournament berths and four 20-plus wins seasons in their first seven seasons

uh yes they do. compare the other 11 teams. it’s the acc. making a 64 team tourney is like making a bowl game. BFD

Rock Preston

March 6th, 2011
6:58 pm

Good Luck coach

Matt from MN

March 6th, 2011
6:59 pm

Please, please, please, please, please let this be the end of Hewitt.

Lee

March 6th, 2011
6:59 pm

Gordon

March 6th, 2011
7:01 pm

Oh well, like Hewitt I tried my best but didn’t get the result I wanted.

Anyway, what Jeff wrote about all of the good things about Hewitt are very true. It is regrettable that some take it to a personal level. Many have accused Hewitt of “laughing all the way to the bank” and other ugly things, but the truth is he is a fine man who has represented our school well.

He is in a business where the results are there for everyone to see, and the results the last 6 years are just not good enough. There are lots of people who would represent our school well, but we don’t pay them $1.4 million. I don’t think it is unreasonable for Tech fans to not have confidence that Hewitt can get it going – as Mark Bradley wrote the other day it is a BODY of work, not just one season, one injury, one unexpected departure or any other single thing. He will be fired because he just doesn’t win enough games, and there is no reason to believe he will start doing so.

Gordon

March 6th, 2011
7:03 pm

“Perception is reality. If Hewitt meets the same fate as Gailey, it will be less because of a belief that Hewitt can’t win any more than it will a belief that not enough folks around the program are buying in.”

I just don’t agree. Why would there be a belief that Hewitt can win, at least at Tech, given the results of the last 6 years?

Adams

March 6th, 2011
7:04 pm

1 road win this year.
losing acc record in his career.
another losing season.
how many nba players were on his teams
how many all americans did he have
how many players stunk at tech and have flouished in the nba
should have fired him 3 years ago

ACC Basketball

March 6th, 2011
7:04 pm

You are 100% correct. People are not buying in!!!!!
ACC tournament being over cannot happen quick enough!!!!!
Get him out of here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adams

March 6th, 2011
7:06 pm

forgot about the wondeful loss to kenn st. how embarassing especially how bad a team they were this year.

JoeFan

March 6th, 2011
7:07 pm

The only way he saves his job is to win a couple of games in the ACC Tournament and renegotiate his contract eliminating the perpetual rollover provision and working for a reduced salary over the next season or two, while he attempts to rebuild the reputation of the program. None of that is likely to happen, so it’s fairly safe to bid CPH adieu.

Jacketbacker

March 6th, 2011
7:10 pm

Time for a change. Go Jackets!

JoeFan

March 6th, 2011
7:12 pm

The only way that CPH saves his job is to win a couple of games in the ACC Tournament and renegotiates his contract to eliminate the perpetual rollover provision while working for substantially less over the next two season while he attempts to rebuild the reputation of the program. Since none of this is likely to happen, it is fairly safe to bid adieu to CPH.

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
7:18 pm

Fire Paul and call him in 2 weeks and see if he wants to coach TECH for $1.2 million with big Bonuses. Winning the ACC or playing for the ACC Turney Championship and making the NCAA all make big pay days. What Tech is paying for now doesn’t cut it. If Hewitt was so classy he would just let Tech keep some of the money and renegotiate his contract to reflect the job he has been doing.

James H Newsome

March 6th, 2011
7:23 pm

I’ve always wondered why people compete to write “first.” Who cares, and what does it have to do the the article? I’ve also wondered why people throw stones from the position of anonymity? Frankly, I think the AJC should require anyone posting to state their name, same as a letter to the editor.

As far as Hewitt, it’s obvious he did (past tense) some good things for the GT program, but as Adam pointed out, ” 1 road win this year, losing acc record in his career, & another losing season” doesn’t mean he’s done well recently.

Anyone can expect an off year. Just look at NC. The trick is that you have to bounce back with success. Hewitt and GT have not done this. You can’t claim that GT is too hard academically for star HS athletes to be recruited. Just look at the overall caliber of the ACC. This argument doesn’t hold water.

The problem is that Radakovich has treated Hewitt the same as Gailey, and the problem may lie as much with the AD as the coach/coaches. What would have helped was a “come to Jesus meeting” after last season, or the previous season, and some realistic goals made public or a resignation would be expected. Now if Hewitt is fired, he walks away with a sweetheart deal that no coach should have.

Of course it's the contract

March 6th, 2011
7:28 pm

He was smart enough to have an excellent agent.

louisville slugger

March 6th, 2011
7:38 pm

JS, I don’t disagree with your statement that CPH is not an idiot. However, the objective view is that his offensive strategy (if there is one) simply doesn’t work. He gets the players to play hard, and defensively they play quite well. But, offensively, this is not a good coach.

sidewalk74

March 6th, 2011
7:47 pm

Hewitt was smarter than Braine. But he has not won enough games to keep his job. Fire him tomorrow and start looking for the replacement. There is no logical reason to wait till after the ACC Tourney. The sooner the better.

His last game, and Hewitt knew it

March 6th, 2011
7:47 pm

Brian Loome

March 6th, 2011
7:49 pm

Jeff: Will DRad take the Miami job?

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
7:55 pm

Schultz you called the NFL Owners Pigs at the trough in your last article, but what do you call Hewitt for how he is treating TECH then? He know he has the Golden Calf by the Tail so to speak. He has to know 80% of Tech people want him gone. He knows how much it will hurt TECH to buy him out. So, He just keeps getting fatter and fatter on the Tech money and earning about 40% of what he gets paid.

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
7:57 pm

Brian I doubt it. Miami has some very different problems than Tech, but DRad has fixed or started fixing many of Tech’s issues.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 6th, 2011
7:59 pm

“I’m just coaching the team,”

haha, that’s a good one Paul.

David

March 6th, 2011
8:00 pm

Just spit it out…..
I bet most of you live and die for these articles, because you could never play any sport in School. Chipper Jones said it best about you cowards:
“Tweeting and blogging are the best thing to happy to nerdy little boys like yourselves! Most of you aren’t man enough to really say what’s on your mind when you’re face to face with these people you criticize. You sit in your parents basement blogging, while bragging to your little ‘girlfriend’ about what a tough guy you are, and that if you were that athelete or coach, you’ll show ‘em!”-Larry ‘Chipper’ Jones

LOL You clowns are hilrious!

RambleOn84

March 6th, 2011
8:05 pm

Coach Hewitt is a very nice man and I believe a class act. With that said, his time at Tech is out and we have to go in another direction. Coach Hewitt, thank you for your hard work and we wish you the best in the future.

RambleOn84

March 6th, 2011
8:07 pm

Chipper Jones is a mentally deficient, debaucherous misanthrope.

Worm

March 6th, 2011
8:07 pm

Ironic, that the next thing that thrills Tech fans will be, YOU’RE FIRED!

RambleOn84

March 6th, 2011
8:09 pm

Chipper is also made of glass…he’s more worried about making it to Hooters after the game than staying off the DL

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
8:10 pm

@ David then why are you on here too? You feel like you are better than the rest of us? You just lowered yourself by commenting and calling people you don’t know CLOWNS from behind your computer. Pot or Kettle?

Kim

March 6th, 2011
8:26 pm

PH does not deserve all of the negativity that has surrounded this year’s season. His players took longer to follow-through with the staff’s plan. Remember, we should still have Favors and Lawal with this crowd. Imagine what could have happened with Iman and buds if these two hadn’t left early….Surely Paul can’t be faulted for that!

Michael

March 6th, 2011
8:26 pm

So Rambleon84, you gonna call out Chipper to his face or what?

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
8:29 pm

Kim he recruited them and should have talked to those players to know what they were thinking before he signed them. UNC, DUKE, Wake, BC, and UVa don’t have the number of 1-&-Dones Hewitt gets.

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
8:30 pm

Michael are you going to call out Rambleon84 to his face? Or WHAT. You are doing the same thing. RambleOn doesn’t live in the Media spotlight making $30k a day either.

Veteran Fan

March 6th, 2011
8:32 pm

Enough talk. This team forced 21 turnovers and shot 46% and won by 9. Should have won by 20. Didn’t go to the game and really wanted to go! When Coach Hewitt leaves, I will buy either two or more likely four season tickets and even consider a VIP section and renew until I die! All the Tech fans I know will buy too and we will fill Alexander(McCamish) just like we used to and cheer our team.

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
8:32 pm

Michael you are right! We don’t know what players go through, but they don’t act like they know what the average fan has to do to pay to see them play a game.

Dawg Fan

March 6th, 2011
8:32 pm

Paul Hewitt is the best thing to ever happen for Georgai fans! Please keep him!!

freehome dawg

March 6th, 2011
8:39 pm

Anybody get mugged on the way to the game? Anymore athelete DUI arrests down on the flats? You guys started it, so quit complaining.

Biff Pocoroba

March 6th, 2011
8:41 pm

Jeff, you are wrong when you said that Hewitt cares about the kids and hasn’t embarrassed the program. If he cared about them, he would make sure they graduate instead of always being at the bottom of the ACC in graduation rates. Hewitt embarrassed the program when he got the school on probation two years ago for his pitiful graduation rate being at the bottom of the nation. He got to keep his job because fans were afraid that Favors might go to UGA if we fired him. Favors came and “coach” did nothing with him and under achieved again. Hewitt was smart enough to surround himself with some good assistants when he first got here. Once he got that guaranteed contract, he just used his position to give his buddies a job and proved he is a horrible leader. Time to send him packing and let him go back to his beloved New York since that is all he wants to talk about with Wes Durham each week.

The Nature Boy

March 6th, 2011
8:47 pm

“turn out the lights….the parties over”- dandy Don Meredith. Appropo dont you think, Hewitt Fan?

RambleOn84

March 6th, 2011
8:48 pm

I thought the best thing to ever happen to a Georgia fan is finally receiving your father’s permission to date your sister.

cattle dawg

March 6th, 2011
8:53 pm

If Tech makes a deep run in acc tourney could Hewitt keep his job, or his he getting the ax no matter what?

Lil' Barry Bailout

March 6th, 2011
8:53 pm

How DRad blew the opportunity to push Hewitt out last year, I’ll never know.

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2011
8:57 pm

cattle dawg I don’t think short of a Final 4 there is noway Hewitt can keep his job. To get to the Final 4 Tech would have to win the ACC Tourney first and that ain’t going to happen.

Hayseed Dixie

March 6th, 2011
8:58 pm

The Hewitt apologetics come in this article come across as self righteousness and/or useless contrarianism.

Fact is, Tech baskeball took the marquee position in Atlanta sports during the Falcons – Braves gap, with competitive, if not dominant, teams.

Now, you have to ask for the game to be even turned on. That’s pathetic.

An ACC school in the city if Atlanta deserves far better than Hewitt, end of story.

Jeff Schultz

March 6th, 2011
9:15 pm

I’m not doubting the offensive issues. Also think some of the problems have centered on PH trying to do too many things within program, which has hurt his xs-and-os.

cattle dawg

March 6th, 2011
9:18 pm

It seems that Hewitt and Richts coaching careers have alot in common.