After Bruce Pearl finally got smacked by the karma train the other day, I mentioned how Georgia Tech could be hurt by the fact so many high profile jobs were open. The Yellow Jackets may not be able to survive a bidding war for the most attractive basketball coaching candidates for two reasons: 1) Athletic department economics; 2) The $7.2 million contract payoff to former coach Paul Hewitt.
But this also is about how good the Tech job is considered. If say, Richmond’s Chris Mooney considers Georgia Tech a better position than Tennessee or Arkansas, money becomes less of a factor. So how good is it? I’ll give you my rankings shortly. But at least one national writer does not rank Tech highly.
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News ranked six current openings. They are (listed alphabetically): Arkansas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah. Rank them in your mind and then look at how he stacks them up: 1.) Arkansas; 2.) North Carolina State; 3.) Utah; 4.) Georgia Tech; 5.) Oklahoma; 6.) Tennessee.
Here’s DeCourcy’s comment on Georgia Tech: Upside: Atlanta annually is loaded with superb high school talent. Downside: Higher academic standards, middling interest in program, substandard arena. Tech doesn’t really have a place for at-risk students. If not for the concern about Tech’s academic demands, this job would be near the top of the list because of the great talent the region produces: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Jelan Kendrick. Should pursue: VCU coach Shaka Smart. What might invigorate the Jackets is Smart’s dynamic style of play – which keeps lots of players involved and contributing – rather than a constant reliance on short-term players and roster overhauling.
DeCourcy’s actually one of the better college basketball writers in the country but he’s off base on a few things here. If there was “middling interest” in Tech basketball, fans and alumni wouldn’t have been so passionate (and occasionally nasty) in their criticism of Hewitt. This is still one of the higher profile programs in the ACC, which is one of the highest profile basketball conferences (even in down years like this).
The “substandard arena” comment doesn’t take into account the planned renovation. And about Shaka Smart: He might be a great coach but a lot of assumptions are being made about a guy who’s only in his second season.
My biggest issue with the rankings is having Utah so high, which is based primarily on the fact that the school is moving into the Pacific 12. It’s still hard to imagine recruits flocking to Salt Lake City, any more than they’re flocking to Pullman, Wash. (Washington State, another Pac-12 school).
Here are my rankings, with a brief comment. Let me know what you think.
♦ 1. Arkansas: A lot of money and support, a great tradition under Nolan Richardson and a significantly improved basketball conference. (Update: There are several reports that Missouri’s Mike Anderson will take the Arkansas job and get a seven-year contract worth $2.2 million annually.)
♦ 2. Georgia Tech: Great recruiting basis, a fan base thirsting for success again, new practice facility and a renovated arena on the horizon.
♦ 3. N.C. State: Money to spend and in the heart of Tobacco Road, but a program that always will be dwarfed by neighbors Duke and North Carolina.
♦ 5. Tennessee: Baggage aside, Pearl did an amazing job building the basketball program and helped raise the SEC’s basketball profile.
♦ 6. Utah: Not saying Utah won’t have an impact but the job isn’t that big yet.
OK, now it’s your turn. How high (or low) should the Tech job be ranked?
By Jeff Schultz