Athens — Paul Hewitt has beaten Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Once, but it was a big “once.” In 2004.) He has beaten No. 1 UConn in Madison Square Garden. He has beaten a North Carolina team that would win the 2005 NCAA championship in the ACC tournament. He has taken Georgia Tech to the national championship game. But there’s one thing he hasn’t yet managed.
He hasn’t beaten Georgia at the Stegasaurus.
Which makes no sense. The Jackets who beat Duke at Duke and who played for the NCAA title came here in January 2004 and lost in overtime to a band of Bulldogs that didn’t qualify for the Big Dance. (Tech fans maintain to this day that the refs won — or lost — that game.) Three other times Hewitt has come to Stegeman Coliseum and left a loser.
He’s 4-1 against Georgia at home, but that doesn’t say much since Georgia has been in flux for more than a decade. (Mark Fox is the Bulldogs’ sixth coach — seventh if you count interim man Pete Herrmann — since Hugh Durham was fired in 1995.)
Having seen both sides in person — having seen Tech lose to Florida State and Georgia beat Illinois — I can imagine no way the drought doesn’t end tonight. Georgia has one player (Trey Thompkins) who would crack Tech’s 10-man rotation. Tech might well be the most gifted team in the ACC, which means you’re by definition among the most gifted teams in the land. But the Jackets, as we know, can do some strange things.
And now, a metaphysical question: If a drought is broken and nobody’s watching, does it count? I’m guessing 99 percent of Hewitt’s target audience will be watching another game — Thrashers at Penguins — tonight. (Kidding about Thrashers-Penguins, don’t you know.) And I figure Tech winning here won’t matter much to Jacket fans if the football team doesn’t do likewise at Land Shark Stadium.
But they’re going to play this one nonetheless, and I’ll be here to watch, report and converse with anyone who cares deeply about the lost art of repartee. Join me between Orange Bowl commercials, won’t you? Please?