Again we ask: With Tech struggling, where’s the coaching?

Paul Hewitt hugs Will Bynum in 2004.

Paul Hewitt embraces Will Bynum after the guard's twisting layup beat Oklahoma State at the 2004 Final Four. (File photo)

In the cold light of hindsight, it’s easy to rip Dave Braine for awarding Paul Hewitt what was essentially a lifetime contract in April 2004, but you know what? Were I Georgia Tech’s athletics director, I would’ve, too. The Jackets had just returned from San Antonio after playing for the NCAA championship, and there wasn’t a more impressive young coach anywhere than Tech’s.

Hewitt had taken his team on a breathtaking five-game run — each could have been lost in the final minute — and he’d done it despite losing his leading scorer to a sprained ankle in Game 3. (B.J. Elder wouldn’t score another point until the title game against Connecticut.) That spring offensive was a triumph of willpower and chemistry and inspired shotmaking by Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum, but it was also a triumph of coaching.

At that moment, nobody thought to ask, “What if this is as good as it gets for Hewitt?” Because there seemed no reason why a coach so savvy wouldn’t move from strength to strength, and also because there was a more pressing issue: What if a Big East school or an NBA team decided to throw silly money at him?

Tech offered lasting security for as long as Hewitt coached the Jackets — he would always be working on a five-year contract, which would be paid in full (meaning $7 million or thereabouts) should he be fired — and Hewitt would  pay Tech roughly $3.5 million if he took another job. I say again: It seemed a good idea at the time.

I say today: I have no idea what became of the Paul Hewitt of 2004.

His record since Tech played for the national title is 95-85. His road record is 16-48. His record in ACC play is 34-57. He has had three losing seasons. He has won one NCAA tournament game, that against George Washington in 2005. Since 2004, there hasn’t been a single season where he has outperformed expectations. Now this.

The ACC’s most talented team has a losing record in league play. With the conference in conspicuous flux, the stacked Jackets should be making a run at the regular-season crown. Instead they’re in eighth place, losers three times in four games. They were blown out at Duke by a team they’d already beaten. They nearly wasted a 16-point lead at home against the ACC’s worst team. They lost on a last-second basket to the league’s second-worst team. On Saturday they were beaten by Wake Forest, which they’d blown out here.

Their RPI — they’re 29th, give or take — is enough to get them into the NCAA tournament, but when you start three McDonald’s All-Americans and you’re relying on RPI, something’s wrong. (And let’s dispense with the boilerplate excuse that Tech is “young”: Three of its top six players are upperclassmen.) Stem to stern, this isn’t just the most gifted team Hewitt has had but the most gifted in Institute history. And it’s below .500 in a watered-down ACC.

Hewitt, speaking last month: “I think [his players] know how much they can do.” He said that on Jan. 9 after Tech beat Duke, which still stands as the season’s one major victory.

As critical as I’ve been of Hewitt over time, the memory of his early years at Tech have always stopped me from saying, “It’s time to take up a collection and buy him out.” He did brilliant work in taking Bobby Cremins’ leftovers to the NCAA in 2001, and three years later he topped it. Nothing since had been very good, but this season — incumbents Gani Lawal, Zachery Peacock, D’Andre Bell and Iman Shumpert augmented by a top five recruiting class — has long loomed as a final exam.

No, the proctor hasn’t yet called “time.” Tech has five regular-season games and then the ACC tournament to position itself for the NCAA, but just slipping into the field and exiting after Round 1 won’t validate Hewitt. If he can’t get these players into the Sweet Sixteen, it’ll be time to take up that collection.

340 comments Add your comment

Fire him

February 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

Long time GT fan but compare his last few years to what got Cremins fired. Pretty much the same.

Jackets all the way

February 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

First and you are correct.!!

Fire him

February 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

Fire him

February 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

Eat it Jackets all the way!

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
12:42 pm

Kudos on your “ferst,” Fire him.

stick jackson

February 14th, 2010
12:46 pm

He’s no Anthony Grant, that’s for sure.

I suppose I should let it go since you admitted how wrong you were about Fox, but I guess I’m just not that kind of guy.

dt

February 14th, 2010
12:46 pm

If he were white he’d been fired two years ago! Plain and simple.

stick jackson

February 14th, 2010
12:47 pm

I think green, as in the monster buyout, is the only relevant color here.

Too bad for Yech that it was fleeced so badly by PH’s UGA-grad agent.

Phil

February 14th, 2010
12:48 pm

I posed a question on the Hive – both Cremins and Hewitt are(or were) considered poor x’s and o’s coaches. What would 80’s Cremins have done with this bunch in 2010?

RomeDawg

February 14th, 2010
12:48 pm

Back off the Bandwagon, Mark?

James

February 14th, 2010
12:50 pm

If GT sets up some online thing where people can donate money to fire Hewitt, I would throw in 20 bucks. And I believe about 10,000 other Tech fans would do the same. That would cover…
Not a whole lot. Thanks, Dave Braine.

Chef Mentuer

February 14th, 2010
12:51 pm

what u talkin bout willis

mark is stupid

February 14th, 2010
12:52 pm

mark we know you hate TECH just stop writing about him and make all of us tech fans happy…you ruin the team with your stupid remarks…go somewhere and hate on somebodies else`s team. JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!!!

Bad Boy

February 14th, 2010
12:52 pm

Who is running the asylum? Last night’s game was an another indication of his coaching intensity. One and done will be his Waterloo

COACH FOX

February 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

The coaching is now is Athens, less talent but coached way better! Techies soon you will be second fiddle in basketball too!!! Dawgs sweep football and basketball!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
12:54 pm

About Mark Fox: I think he has done a nice job this season, but the test is still to come. Can he get enough players to win? (And I’ve written as much.)

Bill

February 14th, 2010
12:54 pm

“The ACC’s most talented team has a losing record in league play.” i am confused. You must be talking about UNC here right?

BeeLover

February 14th, 2010
1:00 pm

I agree, Mark is not the brightest star in the sporting news world but, he’s right, in my opinion, on this issue. Paul Hewitt should be fired NOW!!!!! And dt you’re also right.

Alex

February 14th, 2010
1:00 pm

The precipitous decline of Jacket’s basketball coincided with the departure of assistant Cliff Warren to Jacksonville. He has breathed life into that program just as it has been sucked out of Tech. I still think Warren was the reason the 2004 Tech team was that good. He basically took Jarrett Jack under his wing and worked with him every day to make him an elite point guard.

Dawgs!!

February 14th, 2010
1:01 pm

The coaching is in Athens!

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:04 pm

Why did you leave out the 3.5 million if he leaves?
Certainly Tennessee sould have had that in place for Kiffen.
I still disagree with the contract but that 3.5 makes it more apparent why Braine did it.
Next time give is all the info.
Or did u in the prior article?

barr12

February 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

Coaching is the last and most important element for a winnig formula.that is what made Bobby Cox a legend and a choker. That’s why GA fans were ticked Richt this year and why we still don’t if PJ is that great. He beat a medicore and fickle Clemson team.but he can’t beat the “good” guys from the best confernces. And is here Paul H. He can’t coach. Coaching in so mnay ways isn’t something that’s just taught it is something that only few guys really get and are blessed with (and gals) have. The great teams have a great coach. Most schools and teams only have good ones. The Knights, Coach K’s, Sabans,Dean Smiths, Beliichiks, Woodens, Torres are rare. I yYou are lucky enough to get one who has champions blood you are lucky. Here in Georgia we have had few (dodd, dooley, and Cox)
Go Jackets!

Biff Pocoroba

February 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

Tech’s problem is that Hewitt doesn’t have any players on this team that are any better than they were last year. And none of the freshmen have improved since the beginning of the season. These guys are more concerned about making the NBA than the NCAA tournament. Clarence Moore and the assistants coached the team in 2004 and they have been terrible since they left. Hewitt was just responsible for buying nice suits.

Ron

February 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

I still contend that signing (then extending) Gailey was even stupider. How about the idiots at UT that hired Lane Kiffin? How about anyone who hires Mora, Jr.? But, I digress. Hewitt is a bad coach, no doubt about that. Don’t the powers that be at Tech want to win at all? Can’t they see that this is not happening and is not going to happen? They need a real coach. A motivator who can coach X’s and O’s. Not someone who looks good on the bench and acts right in public (see Cremins). When you have the ball out with ten seconds left and down by one and you have a timeout, you must come out with a play that will work. When you can’t get the ball in, you are poorly coached. A good coach has ten plays for that situation that the team has practiced a million times. The coach chooses one that everyone has confidence in and then the team goes out and executes. Tech is lost in that situation. It really is a disgrace. Here we have great players and look like hell every time out. UGA does not have the players we do but they have already passed us because they evidently have the better coach by far. Well done, UGA. Tech, get off your butt and make the needed adjustments.

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:10 pm

It’s included above, Jackets2010. Fourth paragraph.

collegeballfan

February 14th, 2010
1:10 pm

I concur with the thinking that Hewitt has had his chance.

But I will argue that this is the best team ever at the institute. I would vote for the 1985-86 team of Price, Salley, Joseph, Dalrymple & Ferrell was the best ever.

GT in CT

February 14th, 2010
1:11 pm

Mark, you got some support from Eddie Fogler for your early-season (disrespected) question to CPH about Lawal and Favors conflicting. Fogler suggested the same and said that he liked having Peacock out there with either one, since he can pull a big man away from the basket.

BTW, another commenter said that we are stuck with CPH until Chan Gailey is fully paid off. Can someone provide the details on what we owe him and for how long?

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:13 pm

Derrick Favors is averaging 9.7 points against ACC competition, GT in CT. That tells me all I need to know.

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 14th, 2010
1:16 pm

Tech is Paul’s ATM machine.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:18 pm

7.2 million has DRAD hoping Hewitt would surprise us. No such luck so far.

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:19 pm

I didn’t say this was the “best” Tech team, collegeballfan. I said it’s the most talented.

campbeae

February 14th, 2010
1:19 pm

richtreignisover

February 14th, 2010
1:20 pm

Maybe the nets will hire this loser and take him off our hands.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:23 pm

I meant the article last January I think that I do not recall the part about the 3.5 million he pays us if he goes.
That provides insight into Braine’s thinking and I can understand it a little better even if I still disagree with an annual renewal under any circumstances.
It looks like a way to underpay him annually while keeping him here.
A way of staying out of a biding war for his services while he was a hot commodity.

Larry

February 14th, 2010
1:24 pm

This is a perfect example of why no one should EVER sign anyone to what amounts to a lifetime contract leaving no room for the person to “earn it,” game after game, season after season. See “Michael Vick’s 10 year contract, for example. Both he and Hewitt became overwhelmingly less successful after the incentive to be successful or be replace was removed.

Also, what irony. Cremmins, a great recruiter, was run off because he had the reputation of being a poor game coach and getting the least out of the most talented players. Maybe third time’s the charm!

GT in CT

February 14th, 2010
1:24 pm

I’m beginning to think that CPH does better with less talented players. He got little out of Bosh, if I remember correctly, but a lot out of Schenscher, maybe his best project.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:25 pm

Someone might have wanted him 2004-2006.
I don’t think we are going to be saved by a pro team now though somehow Kiffin has been hired three times. (course he has his dad as an assistant.)

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:26 pm

It was in there, too, Jackets2010. Fourth graph from the bottom.

turnt down

February 14th, 2010
1:28 pm

just an observation.. when the starters all returned to play again in 05 after playing in th 04 title game.. they did nothiing. When UF won the national title and their starters all returned, they repeated as champs.

But now it is 2010, and most fans tuned out after the 2-14 season in 09 but those who are still here had this season for any hope remaining. Now it is time for DRAD to overrule and do something, anything. It is now on his watch. The only thing fans can do is take up a collection previously mentioned and they will. But I do not see why DRAD cannot bring in a consultant, realign or something to finish out his year instead of looking the other way.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:29 pm

How do we know that the scouting ratings on basketball are not the same crapshoot that football’s are.
There should be no possibility of one star Reis making a pro team and being a hero in a small role for the Saints if the ratings were so great.
Everyone thinks Favor needs another year but because o the ratings guys, it comes across as Tech fans wanting to keep him from his money.

FranktheFalcon

February 14th, 2010
1:29 pm

As a coach of over 20 years, I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that Coach Hewitt is a good coach! All you have to do is look at the last 4 minutes of the N.C. State game. N.C. State was behind 14-16 points and started full court pressing Ga. Tech. GEORGIA TECH HAD NO CLUE WHATSOEVER ON HOW TO ATTACK THE FULL COURT PRESS!!! THEY LOOKED LIKE THE WORST PREPARED JUNIOR HIGH TEAM THAT YOU EVER SAW!!! HEWITT CALLED A TIMEOUT, BUT THINGS DID NOT GET BETTER AND THE PLAYERS DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO!!! HE CALLED ANOTHER TIME OUT AND “MADE ADJUSTMENTS.” HOWEVER, THE TEAM DID NO BETTER!!! N.C. State proceeded to whittle the score down to 1 or 2 points and had a chance to win it with a last second shot from the top of the key. Over the course of a long season, your team is going to look bad at times. But that is normally when you have an off night offensively. BUT TO HAVE NO CLUE WHERE TO LINE UP AND HOW TO EXECUTE AGAINST A FULL COURT PRESS WITH ALL OF THE TALENT THAT GA. TECH HAS IS INEXCUSABLE!!! GA. TECH NEEDS A NEW COACH!!!

The Dogfighter Returns

February 14th, 2010
1:32 pm

The s.o.b has no idea what he is doing. he can’t coach. what is his philosophy. gt doesn’t have set plays. just one on one bs.

he doesn’t even utilize simple high/low screens to create mismatches.

the guy got lucky and has been living off that moment ever since.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:32 pm

That was my mistake Mark.
Who else on these blogs will admit one?
Usually they just disappear or change their name.
You think Favors is gone you’ve said a time or two.
How long will he sit before making a starting lineup there?

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:34 pm

I might buy the “got lucky” argument, except that the 2004 run included five down-the-wire wins. Nobody gets lucky five times in a row.

messin with sasquatch

February 14th, 2010
1:34 pm

so tech has the same situation alabama football faced. show me the money if you want the best on the market. otherwise, shut up.

Mark Bradley

February 14th, 2010
1:35 pm

Remember Tyrus Thomas, one-and-done power forward on the LSU Final Four team of 2006? Check his career path. That’s a cautionary tale if ever there was one.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:36 pm

Frank. Was there any possibility that the refs refused to make or missed calls? Twice when we passed the ball in at 14 up and ten 12 up, I thought Bell or whoever got the ball was foulded.
Getting baskets when fouls are not called started a bit of a panic that increased.
Later a foul was called and then overruled by another ref who called jumpball and it went to NC State.
Iwould just like someone who had a very good view to tell me they did not miss 2, 3 or more calls which enabled their comeback.

BD

February 14th, 2010
1:37 pm

Will the person that posts a link to this on The Hive get banned, I wonder? The mods there are quick to suspend posting privileges and pull threads that say exactly what Bradley has said in this thread.

The main GT posting board and mods have no balls.

Fire Hewitt or make his life so freakin’ miserable that he quits.

scott

February 14th, 2010
1:37 pm

Maybe the players aren’t that good? You have something against PJ for sure, its like this paper is your voodoo doll for this guy, its hilarious. Mostly b/c I am a UGA fan. But lets put some blame on players too. In the past the guys has shown he can coach.

Jackets2010

February 14th, 2010
1:37 pm

MB send that on Thomas along to Favors please.
How about a cautional article on the one and doners?