Brian Gregory may have Tech on way to something good

Brian Gregory's Jackets look far closer to be a potential NCAA tournament team than Mark Fox's Bulldogs do. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Early season report: Brian Gregory's Jackets are going up; Mark Fox's Bulldogs are going down. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

There hasn’t been much in the way of emotional real estate for Georgia Tech to lay claim to over Georgia lately.

The somewhat diametric fortunes of the school’s respective football teams and the fact Tech’s former athletic director grew weary of squeezing nickels and bolted for Clemson sums it up nicely.

So consider Tuesday some semblance of a 180. Or at least the beginning of one. Georgia Tech beat Georgia 62-54 in a basketball game at McCamish Pavilion. There is joy in Beeville.

The Yellow Jackets are 5-2 in non-conference play. It’s a bit early to start hyperventilating and tossing out labels like “ACC threat” or “NCAA dark horse.”

But forgive Tech if it milks this just a little bit. It finally has a chance to gloat. The team’s new arena is a jewel. It was sold out Tuesday night. It was loud. The Big Foot rival fell for the second straight year, the first time the Jackets have won consecutive games over Georgia in 18 years. Both came with new coach Brian Gregory in charge.

“When you get a good win against your rival, you can at least have a measurement of where you’re at,” Gregory said.

There are two important gauges, actually: 1) Tech and Georgia (2-6) appear to be heading into opposite directions; 2) The Jackets aren’t remotely the same outfit they were a year ago, when they lived a vagabond existence, splitting home games between two arenas (neither really home) and played with a depleted roster and before a depressed (or non-existent) fan base.

This season, Gregory said, “is a different stratosphere. Everything is different. Practices are better. They perform on a daily basis. There’s better chemistry on the team, better leadership.”

Tech went 11-20 last season, going only 4-12 in the ACC.

It was a strain even for a perpetually happy, peppy guy like Gregory.

“I knew what I was getting into,” he said. “I won’t lie. Sometimes you have got to kick yourself to get going. But I also saw a lot of guys who would be returning and would try to get done the things we wanted. We had [recruits] sign early before we even got started, guys who said yes to Georgia Tech and yes to me and my staff before we had proven anything to them.

“Those guys didn’t know Brian Gregory from a man on the moon. They didn’t even know where Dayton was.”

Gregory stepped into a mess. But then, rarely do jobs open up for good reasons. Former Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich felt the program had declined so significantly and that fan apathy was so overwhelming that he was willing to sign off on the school paying former coach Paul Hewitt $7.2 million to just go away.

Hewitt’s buyout prevented Tech from paying full retail for a new coach, which at least partly led to hiring Gregory. He was considered solid, even if unspectacular, in eight seasons at Dayton: 172-94 record, including an NIT championship and two NCAA tournament berths (but only one NCAA tournament win).

But nobody can find fault with the way things are going now.

The Jackets already have beaten Saint Mary’s, an NCAA tournament team from last season. They led Georgia by as many as 15 points (39-24) early in the second half, started to transition into full meltdown mode as the lead shrunk to five (55-50) in the final minutes, but then got some key offensive rebounds and a drive-and-one by senior guard Mfon Udofia.

“He’s a key to their team,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said of Udofia. “They’re  an improved team. But he’s a difference maker for them.”

They’re going in the right direction.

By Jeff Schultz

110 comments Add your comment

Carolina gator lover

December 4th, 2012
10:21 pm

BobDawg

December 4th, 2012
10:21 pm

LawDawg 2002

December 4th, 2012
10:22 pm

As UGA grad, I had high hopes for Mark Fox, but 3+ years in and the program is still spinning its wheels. Now that Tech seems back on track, in-state recruiting gets tougher

Carolina gator lover

December 4th, 2012
10:22 pm

Go Jackets!!!! UGAG must really hate loosing in Atlanta. If only they had gotten the Peach Bowl……

job

December 4th, 2012
10:22 pm

Carolina gator lover

December 4th, 2012
10:23 pm

losing that is

gtlawyer81

December 4th, 2012
10:23 pm

We own this State! Seriously, we own it. LOL. Feels good to say it.

BobDawg

December 4th, 2012
10:24 pm

Jeff, looks like a lotta youth on UGA’s side of the ball… and I think a long season for both teams…

Gordon

December 4th, 2012
10:24 pm

Gregory has pushed all the right buttons so far. The best thing he did was hire 2 assistants who had southern and AAU connections. That got the ball rolling in recruiting. I think Fox is a very good coach, but other than Caldwell-Pope he hasn’t landed a whole lot of talent.

Jet

December 4th, 2012
10:24 pm

JACKETS RUN THIS STATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

factO

December 4th, 2012
10:25 pm

Tech bball, baseball, academics rule

jacket backer

December 4th, 2012
10:26 pm

Was at the game tonight. Great atmosphere and alot of fun. Beating UGA is always nice! We’re not there yet but I like the improvement I’m seeing in the team.

Go Jackets!!

KCP

December 4th, 2012
10:34 pm

I needz moar playerz. Coach Fox no recruit’n good no mo.

Correction

December 4th, 2012
10:42 pm

Same Jackets were leading Illinios in their house by 6-9 points all night until the last 3 minutes when Illinios got red hot and hit 3- 3pointers and another 3-point play to go from being down 6 to up 6…just like that… But Jackets were leading most of the game. It was the same scenario with California…jackets playing toe to toe and leading most of the time until the final 4 minutes. Once these Jackets learn to finish games, look out ACC (and NCAA). this is a very talented team with some scorers…but more importantly, a very very good defense.

Lady Sting

December 4th, 2012
10:42 pm

It seems like the Jackets are playing with better fundamentals under Coach Gregory. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with the program. Beating UGA his first two years is definitely a bonus. Way to go Jackets!

GTBob

December 4th, 2012
10:52 pm

I think Gregory is going to have the team exceeding expectations this year. We have a lot of talent, we just need more experience. The last two games though have been fun to watch and the team really seems to be playing together.

Paul in NH

December 4th, 2012
10:54 pm

Nice piece Jeff.
I agree with you that Gregory is starting to lay a nice foundation and the program looks on the uptrack. I expect the middle of the ACC (no offense to UGA, but they aren’t close to FSU, UM or the 3 teams in the Triangle) and an NIT bid in 2013. Next year GT needs a replacement for Udofia and an outside shooter (perhaps the Poole brothers) in order to make the NCAAs.
UGA has a heck of a player in Caldwell-Pope and Fox is a good coach, but they need to get some recruits

Techster

December 4th, 2012
10:57 pm

Are dog fans going to blame the refs for this loss too?

GT86

December 4th, 2012
10:57 pm

Great Atmosphere at the Hank tonight! 2 sellouts in 3 games! 5-2 is a solid, very solid start! Here’s to hoping we can reel off 7 in a row before ACC play begins! OH and ALWAYS nice to beat the PUPPIES! Especially 2 years in a row! CBG has ol mo in his corner for now! Let’s see where this year leads! Can’t wait to see what Stacey Poole can do in a couple weeks!

Paul in NH

December 4th, 2012
11:01 pm

“the first time the Jackets have won consecutive games over Georgia in 18 years”

That 1994 team had James Forrest, Travis Best, Drew Barry and Mart Harpring in the starting line up – quite an achievement to match those guys.

Paul in NH

December 4th, 2012
11:06 pm

Techster
I believe there was a hard foul on Caldwell-Pope that changed the game.

Shawdaddy

December 4th, 2012
11:22 pm

Anyone know what’s going on with Julian Royal. I heard Gregory raving about him this summer, but now very little PT.

collegeballfan

December 4th, 2012
11:26 pm

“I had high hopes for Mark Fox, but 3+ years in and the program is still spinning its wheels.”

Except for the Hugh Durham years UGA basketball has been spinning its wheels for 90 years. UGA basketball has been the absolute bottom of the barrel for the last decades. Fox cannot turn it around overnight. Top players are not going to go to a program that simply does not matter. It will take time.

Fox is a good coach. He out coached Gregory tonight. He usually out coaches everyone he coaches against. His problem is talent.

And you UGA grads can help by filling the home house for every game. That will help.

Unbiased Sometimes

December 4th, 2012
11:28 pm

any word on Solomon Poole and if he will enroll early to play with his bro Stacy? We are going to be very deep and young. I’m am extremely excited looking forward. Especially for the coming years.

wreckkbone

December 4th, 2012
11:35 pm

What happened to Morris is the Freshmen. Hopefully he can adjust. I like how Carter plays. Gets in there and mixes it up. G-Hunt hit some really nice shots tonight. Get rid of that 2nd half lull/drought and we will be able to compete with ACC folks. Illiniois is as good as UNC and NC State this year. Duke is still on another level…. Welcome Mr poole!! looks like you have 1 maybe 2 more games to sit and then you can contribute! The arena looked really nice on TV. Saw it in person as well. Nice to finally have that row of TV students there so we don’t see the chair backs we saw for so many years.

Tek

December 4th, 2012
11:39 pm

Fox out coached Gregory tonight; surely you jest. GT played 3 freshman significant minutes and they looked like legit ACC players – in a large part due to BG’s influence. He has his team playing together and made UGA look like an SEC team – losers!

PumkinHead

December 4th, 2012
11:49 pm

Great win but I’d really like to see this team finish strong and put away the opposition by the middle of the second half. They get up double digits and then tend to take a siesta. Seniors have to encourage the freshmen to finish. They will lose a lot of games in the ACC if they let teams get back in the game.

antietam1862

December 4th, 2012
11:57 pm

As a long time UGA fan, and having my heart ripped out only hours earlier, i found myself both enthralled and rejuvenated watching your Yellow Jackets. UGA, not me, made a spirited comeback against a favored team only to fall short at the end. Your Jackets made a spirited comeback against a favored team only to come up short as well. I gotta say your Jackets have a tough and resilient team and, not like it matters, but was very proud to watch your team. Tech had our “South Carolina” last week and could of packed it in as most, incorrectly, thought you would. Tech didn’t and had a chance to win at end. All one can ask for. Be proud Tech fans bc its so much easier to rise up when ur winning. To rise up after defeat says so much more. I just hope we can get back up 1/2 as good as you guys did against the Criminoles(lived in Tally). Here’s to GT takin’ USC to the shed with your triple option. Just make sure your guys hit the California out of them like u hit FSU. Good/bad only inches apart, no Rambo its 7-7 dif game. Aaron Murray summed up the silliness of it all when he said, “5 more yards and its the greatest comeback in Georgia history.” We two programs are more similar than different and i am more than cool with that. Go Jackets BEAT USC.

GT Grad

December 5th, 2012
12:01 am

CPJ should learn a thing or two from CBG about how to recruit…

tva1

December 5th, 2012
12:23 am

Questions about the Poole brothers:
1.) What exact date does Stacey become eligible to play this season?
2.) I read somewhere that Solomon may enroll early and be eligible to play THIS season. Anyone have an update on that? Also, if he does play this season, will he still have 4 full years of eligibility left?

Veteran Fan

December 5th, 2012
12:39 am

Coach Fox challenged his team at halftime to be more physical and they responded so they weren’t blown out. But there was never any doubt that Tech had the better team and better players and uga never led after the first minute. They were dominated by a young but very talented Tech team who, barring a key injury should get a nice seed for the ACC tournament and has a good shot at an NCAA berth! If Coach can get Julian Royal on track offensively, we will have one of the strongest front lines in the nation! Oh and Jeff, we will beat uga in football next season at Grant Field as this was Uga’s year and they came up short. They will lose a ton of starters and our freshmen and sophomores will be seasoned and ready! THWG! Go Jackets!

chuck

December 5th, 2012
12:51 am

Kind words antitiem… maybe it’s easier to halfway root for a rival after you beat them. I sure as hell can’t bring myself to even ever sympathize with dwag football.

Unbiased Sometimes

December 5th, 2012
1:01 am

antietam, kind words yes however I find a little cowardliness in taking some pride in your rival’s success. As a Tech fan I have to deal with the fact that this state is largely comprised of UGA fans. By choosing to be part of the largely bandwagon fan base you shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy and tech accolades. Try losing to your in state rivals for an entire decade and come back and tell me you are a true fan.

John

December 5th, 2012
2:16 am

Enter your comments here

mtraininjax

December 5th, 2012
2:22 am

CPJ – That is what happens when you get a top 10 recruiting class. Learn from Gregory, you can still go far at Tech, but you need better recruits than service academy recruits.

John

December 5th, 2012
2:23 am

I am a UGA fan and was at the game and the atmosphere was nowhere near what it used to be at the Thrillerdome, this crowd was DOA, and it was NOT a sellout by any means. The ticket office outside up until tipoff had plenty of tickets available. Neither team is worth a crap, Tech being a slight bit better, both teams shot in the low 30’s percentile, it was a horrible game to watch for both teams fans, If not for Tech hitting 9 3’s, it would have really been a snoozer. Long season for both programs, and even longer for UGA. Fox will be gone sooner than later. Nice win for Tech, UGA will not win 10 games at the rate they’re playing now. No scorers except KCP. Nice refurbish job of Thrillerdome, very good upgrade.

JetBuzz

December 5th, 2012
2:38 am

Thanks again, Antietem. Class.

I’ve liked CBG from Day One – his attitude, discipline, work ethic, fire, recruiting, people-skills around campus/community. Seems to be the Real Deal, and exactly who we need now. My GT freshman and his alum dad say Thanks Coach!

Stinger2

December 5th, 2012
4:58 am

I believe GT will be more competitive in the ACC this year and possibly win 6 or maybe 7 conference games. I believe by next yearGT will earn an NCAA berth. Possibly a NIT invitation this year.

UGA = Yawn

December 5th, 2012
5:45 am

John – I agree. While watching on TV you could tell it was not sold out. and the crowd was reserved. Nothing even close to the days of the ‘Thrillerdome’. I’m not sure why but assume fans are hesitant to go ‘all in’ just yet. It will take a few years of winning to get it back like it was.

FalconUGAFan

December 5th, 2012
6:46 am

I came here to congratulate the Tech fans on their win. You guys had a tough football year.

@Unbiased..you win the ignorant post of the week. Antietam was showing class in his post. Try it some time.

BobDawg

December 5th, 2012
7:07 am

Don’t you all think we should move the game to a neutral site again each year… Gwinnett Arena?? Phillips?? Make it an event. I’m tired of the Ky’s and Duke coming down here in the “Classic” and grabbing our recruits in the state by playing here….

ToeMeetsLeather

December 5th, 2012
7:07 am

Going to take the fans a little while longer to get back in the Thrillerdome mode. There was potential at times for the building to “rise up” but then we realized with Udofia playing on one wheel the game could turn at any minute, and it did. Udofia had rough five minute stretch at the end but did put the game away with a big basket and FT.

We need to get Udofia back to 100% and get Royal, Carter, Morris and Bolden comfortable with their roles and the Thrillerdome will be back when ACC play begins. Add Stacy Poole this year and his brother running the point next year, and the Hewitt exorcism will be complete.

TVFan

December 5th, 2012
7:10 am

John, I was there. I disagree. Very good crowd, good college basketball game. Both teams played very hard. Still early in the season. Both teams should improve. That arena is super.

OldTech

December 5th, 2012
7:32 am

Week before finals. I know that my son, a senior in AE, was writing a 50+ page paper and my other son, a sophomore in CS, was writing a end of term program. Students will get rowdy for ACC schedule.

Big Ol Stinger

December 5th, 2012
7:33 am

Maybe you should have been there UGA = Yawn?

If you weren’t there, don’t whine about it OK? Jeeez. I’m sure the crowd was better than anything they’ll see at the Stegosaurus this year.

FalconUGAFan, 100% agree. Unbiased showed his a$$. Uncalled for.

UGA = Yawn

December 5th, 2012
7:48 am

Hard for me to be there being in Ohio but it was pretty dull watching on TV. Only loud and somewhat boisterous at times – unlike the old days. Hewitt did this to us. Gregory will bring it back but it will take a year or two. Week before finals OldTech? That’s when I partied the most! Hell, my motto was, if I didn’t learn it during the 10 weeks of class, I won’t learn it cramming for a final. I rarely studied hard for finals. Just reviewed some notes and tests. I did quite well. You either have it, or you don’t. Students studdy way too much for finals. Hours of their lives they’ll never get back.

HA

December 5th, 2012
8:10 am

If a UGA basketball player sinks a shot in Stegman, is anyone there to hear it?

gt45

December 5th, 2012
8:32 am

GT will be back to prominance, where we belong, very soon! John, we play defense. That is what slows the game down. To the person who said Fox outcoached Gregory, really? This team is not a Hewitt led program. They hustle, scrap, pass, play defense, set plays, and shoot freethrows. I haven’t seen much of that in years! It is good to see a coach excited about his job-and his players!

DesignerJacket

December 5th, 2012
8:33 am

UGA = Yawn, I guess some people are just built to soak it all up like that, but when I was at Tech it truly seemed like Dead Week was the time to go back and learn all the stuff the professor moved WAY too quickly through but promised would be on the final. What made my life tough at Tech (aside from the material itself being so in depth and tough) was the PACE! So yeah, I missed the early basketball games if they were on weeknights, and especially during Dead Week due to all-nighters and such.

Ben

December 5th, 2012
8:36 am

I do like what I saw, which was people playing hard and trying to get better. Didn’t see enough of that in the Hewitt era, especially the latter years. That UGA kid with the ghetto Roman name (Kentavious?) is gonna be something else. Same with Thornton. But Tech… Love those freshmen, if they stick together and keep trying to get better at every stage, they could turn into something special.