Rx for Hewitt: Coach more, Tweet less (new Tweets added)

GTCoachHewitt, shown pondering his next Tweet. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's "GTCoachHewitt", perhaps pondering his next Tweet. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I understand what Paul Hewitt is trying to do. He’s trying to foment belief in a team that, after losing four times in six games, has cause to doubt. But I’m not sure Twitter is the vehicle for that. I’m not sure a coach who’s under .500 in a diluted ACC with three McDonald’s All-Americans in his first five needs to be daring Georgia Tech fans to prove their fanhood.

Tech folks have been patient with Hewitt. He hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2005. He has had four losing seasons in his first nine years on the job. He has a losing record against Georgia. Since Tech played for the national championship in April 2004, his record is 96-86 overall and 35-58 in ACC regular-season play. At a place that cared deeply about the sport, he’d have been gone long ago, his $7 million golden parachute  absorbed as the cost of doing business in big-time basketball.

But he’s still here. Does he have critics? Yes. (I know. I’m one.) Is he booed when introduced before home games? Not so you’d notice. (And I try to notice.) But when a coach challenges his constituency on his Twitter account, it’s a signal he’s feeling the heat. A sampling of Hewitt’s latest Tweets, all offered in the past three days:

• Clearly we are playing our best basketball of the season. Don’t believe what you read from the “experts.” Believe what you see.

• As we are coming to the latter part of the season, now is not the time to be judgmental. You all need to come out and support this team.

• Are you a critic or a supporter of this team? Supporters will continue to watch this team fight.

• To you critics: when athletes say some of the things you say, then you condemn them as quitters. Are you quitting?

• I believe in this team!

And here are three that arrived Thursday afternoon:

• Our team deserves to be treated truthfully. This young basketball team is on the verge of earning an NCAA [berth].

• We realize we still have work to do but no one should ever question the effort, intelligence, or dedication of our program.

• Their effort and level of commitment should never be questioned.

I don’t think anyone is questioning the team. (Questioning the coach, yes. Is that not allowed?) But saying the Jackets deserve “to be treated truthfully”? Has someone miscalculated the record? Is Tech really 25-2?

And that tired old bit about this being a “young basketball team”? Tech starts a fifth-year senior, a junior and a sophomore. Its sixth man is a senior. In contemporary college basketball, that’s a fairly seasoned bunch.

But that’s not the way Hewitt sees it. Before practice Thursday, he told reporters that coverage of his team has been reduced to “cyberbullying.” He also claimed he hadn’t read the AJC since 2005 because the team that went to the ACC finals and lost to Louisville in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament was “absolutely bashed.” (Given that I covered the ACC tournament and the loss to Louisville, I assume he was referring to me.)

He also contended that the past 3 1/2 games have been the best stretch of Tech basketball in two years. Yet Tech has won only once in that span, and to claim that this team is better than last season’s isn’t saying much. Those Jackets were 2-14 in ACC play.

I should stipulate that, for as critical as I’ve been regarding Hewitt, he and I have never had a heated exchange. I was surprised he took umbrage at a question after Tech nearly wasted a 16-point lead against North Carolina State. He’s usually the essence of professionalism. But he has to know that this season is his last real chance to win back those who’ve lost faith in his stewardship. That said, do you win anyone back via a dare?

If it doesn't finish strong, what should Tech do with Hewitt?

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Some folks laughed when, after losing at Maryland at the horn Saturday, Hewitt said he believed Tech was on the verge of something big. I didn’t. I remember how I laughed six years ago when, after a home loss to North Carolina State that took the Jackets’ ACC record to 6-7, Hewitt said Tech was “playing as well as anyone in the country.” But seven days later it won at Duke, and a month later it was in the Final Four.

Former assistant Dean Keener once told me: “You know Paul — he’s the most optimistic man in the world.” And I submit there is reason for Tech to keep the faith as it heads into March. It is playing better. It could well have a nice tournament run. But it isn’t “critics” and “experts” who have lost seven of the past 14 games. It’s Tech, as coached by Hewitt.

Believe what you see, Tweeted GTCoachHewitt, but I’m not sure he means that. Because some Tech rooters might say, “Know what I see? I see a coach who’s 6-7 with the most talented team in his league asking why I’m not rooting harder.”

That’s the trouble with a dare. Ask someone to look hard at your program and that someone might decide your program isn’t half what it should be. If several such someones band together, it might not be your program much longer.

275 comments Add your comment

coach

February 25th, 2010
1:18 pm

Benjamin

February 25th, 2010
1:20 pm

First? From my cell phone!

F-105 Thunderchief

February 25th, 2010
1:21 pm

First from northwest Ga.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:21 pm

Kudos, coach.

And Benjamin, I admire your effort. As someone who occasionally posts a comment via iPhone, I can vouch for its difficulty.

Benjamin

February 25th, 2010
1:24 pm

Coach got me by a solid two minutes. Bradley, you have a job that I would not want, criticizing high-ego personalities one day and having to share the room with them the next. That said, I think your point in this article was both on point and timely…

F-105 Thunderchief

February 25th, 2010
1:24 pm

But it isn’t “critics” and “experts” who have lost seven of the past 14 games. It’s Tech, as coached by Hewitt.

Amen. That’s what I see, too. Tech has enough talent to have not lost four games all year, but has again underachieved to this point.

Fillin' up @ Juniors

February 25th, 2010
1:24 pm

yeah that pretty much sums it up. Love the guy, and I think most fans have been incredibly patient, more patient than you can ask for a school with so much basketball pride…He has the rest of the season to do something special, otherwise this alumni is turning into a hater, but only on a professional level, I still like the guy on a personal level…

bob

February 25th, 2010
1:25 pm

top 5? i go nascar style.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:26 pm

Why, thanks, Benjamin.

Blewitt Must Go

February 25th, 2010
1:27 pm

Mark….have you been reading the Hive again? Glad we are giving you so many good ideas and you did do a good job of summarizing the feelings of the majority of GT fans!

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:28 pm

I hear from a few Tech fans in this job, Blewitt Must Go. (And one or two UGA fans.)

Gordon

February 25th, 2010
1:30 pm

Great read, Mark. There is really nothing left to say. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out. If it doesn’t go well, I would assume we would see staff changes at the very least.

KennyP

February 25th, 2010
1:31 pm

I love him, best thing to happen to that school since Reggie Ball.

Angus

February 25th, 2010
1:32 pm

If this wasn’t already a do-or-die season, CPH may have just assured it.

Survey Says

February 25th, 2010
1:33 pm

Where’s the fan poll?

Fire him
Keep him
Keep him only if he adds better assistants

wes

February 25th, 2010
1:34 pm

Mark, this was just a nice way of saying, “Coach more and STFU”.

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
1:36 pm

I only started watching Tech’s games since ACC play started.

“Clearly we are playing our best basketball of the season” – wow – how crappy were they playing before? Amazingly the Tar Heels games don’t count.

GT in CT

February 25th, 2010
1:39 pm

The tweets sound like he’s using his players as human shields, which is not so good.

Mark, if Hewitt is fired and takes another job, would that lessen what Tech would owe?

azcat225

February 25th, 2010
1:41 pm

Is Chris Klaus a basketball fan? Maybe he could be persuaded to write the check that rescues Tech men’s basketball.

gcs

February 25th, 2010
1:42 pm

How about “coach some”? That would be more than he’s doingnow.

.

Joe Fan

February 25th, 2010
1:42 pm

Lets give PH credit for recruiting but if you can’t coach, it is just a waste of talent. A coastly lesson for GT but if there isn’t a change after this season, there might not be enough fans attending games to pay the electric bill

nickj0321

February 25th, 2010
1:43 pm

FIRE PAUL HEWITT

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:43 pm

You know what, Survey Says? You talked me into it.

Bob in SF

February 25th, 2010
1:45 pm

Fire Blewitt. It’s past time. Eat the money and move on.

Gordon

February 25th, 2010
1:45 pm

GT in CT,

The answer is no. It’s not like Groh’s contract, where UVA pays a lesser amount because of the income from Tech. We would owe him the whole thing, just as we owe Gailey the full amount despite the fact he is on his second NFL job since leaving here. We would be able to pay it out over time, as if he were still working, rather than as a lump sum.

the anti-clutch

February 25th, 2010
1:47 pm

If he can’t finish at least .500 this year in the ACC, he never will. Time for a change

SCBee

February 25th, 2010
1:47 pm

CPH = CCG

bland to the extreme, no leadership ability, hides behind players…and I like the man, just not the coach. coaches down to competition, a really terrible trait for any coach.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:50 pm

OK, poll’s up. Thanks to Survey Says for the prodding.

GT in CT

February 25th, 2010
1:50 pm

Gordon: Thanks. I read a post some time ago that Hewitt would not be fired until we are done paying Gailey. Do you know how much we still owe Gailey and for how long?

Gordon

February 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

Mark, if you’re going to do that poll, please add “I trust Radakovich to do the right thing”. He knows more about the financial situation with GTAA than any of us. It might not be in Tech’s best interest to fire Hewitt, no matter how bad a coach he is. As I said earlier, I would think he could force Hewitt to make staff changes, but again, that is his call.

Gordon

February 25th, 2010
1:52 pm

We owe Gailey about a million a year for 2 more years. Braine signed him to a 5 year deal just before he left. He then coached 1 year under Radkovich and Johnson has been here 2 years. I have often wondered if Radakovich will just replace Gailey with Hewitt in the “Former Coaches” line item of the budget.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:53 pm

I believe Tech has another year left regarding Gailey, GT in CT. Which only made his hire of Giff Smith that much less palatable.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
1:54 pm

OK, I stand corrected. It’s two years on Gailey, as Gordon notes.

But let me say something here: The money to buy out Gailey didn’t all come from the operational budget. Some private individuals wrote checks. If you get my meaning.

JD

February 25th, 2010
1:57 pm

I have never seen someone who gets paid so much money – win so little. Dude, wears a nice suit and talks a big game though. Kind of reminds me of Obama.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 25th, 2010
1:58 pm

dont tell anyone but I almost enjoy watching tech basketball when they are good , and i was hoping they would make a deep run in the tourney , I think he should be gone no matter what happens tech should have been no lower than a 2 or 3 seed this year and they are a bubble team , and i agree with you Mark keep the tweets to your-self win a title and then you can tweet your butt off . rick pitino may be available who knows ?

GTman

February 25th, 2010
1:59 pm

He’s got three games plus the ACC tournament to prove he knows what he is talking about. He is paid very well to know more about basketball and this team than the rest of us. He has made the statement. The next 2-3 weeks will prove or disprove his credibility as a basketball coach – and define his future as GT basketball coach.

Paul in RDU

February 25th, 2010
2:00 pm

Mark – Nice column. You’ve written exactly what I thought when I saw Doug’s blog talking about Hewitt’s “tweets”.
You are also correct that if GT really cared about b’ball CPH would have been bought out some time ago. Herb Sendek has to look at GT and wish he had been there and not NCSU

BarrelORum

February 25th, 2010
2:02 pm

No one got a dig in at Dave Braine for making several poor decisions that are financially handcuffing Georgia Tech. Thanks Dave Braine for all you did for Georgia Tech while being one of the top 5 highest paid AD’s in the country. You are a joke and quite honestly, I could have given better results than a catastrophic debt, a poorly renovated football stadium, and two coaching contracts that we will be paying for for years long after the mediocre coaches you hired are gone.

You’re a ****ing genius!!!!

Paul in RDU

February 25th, 2010
2:02 pm

Mark – I think we get your meaning on “private individuals” writing checks to buy out Gailey. Sounds as if CPH needs to keep Taz Anderson happy.

Gordon

February 25th, 2010
2:04 pm

Mark, I believe you have also stated in the past that Hewitt might offer to leave for a reduced amount. You know him better than any of us. But maybe we’re in for a surprise like we were 6 years ago and all of this is moot. I just wonder 2 things: 1) What, in Radakovich’s mind, is the minimum this team must achieve for Hewitt to stay?, and 2) How serious is this talk about a new $45M rebuild of the arena? Surely the people underwriting that would rather have a $38M arena with a new coach if things don’t go well with Hewitt in the near future.

DawginLex

February 25th, 2010
2:04 pm

My prediction:

1.) Tech finishes under .500 and misses NCAA’s
2.) Tech fires Hewitt
3.) UGA hires Hewitt as Recruiting Coordinator/Asst Coach
4.) Favors goes in the draft
5.) Lawal transfers to UGA
6.) UGA brings in top 5 recruiting class for 2010-11

GT in CT

February 25th, 2010
2:04 pm

Thanks, gentlemen. I agree with Gordon that it’s difficult to make these calls without considering the money … although it might make us feel better … and that’s what this blog is for, right?

The Dude

February 25th, 2010
2:12 pm

Hewitt has needed to exit stage left since before the Final Four run.

Mark Bradley

February 25th, 2010
2:13 pm

I don’t know what D-Rad is thinking regarding Hewitt, Gordon. But I know he’s serious about his stated desire to refurbish the arena.

Cosmo

February 25th, 2010
2:15 pm

I hope he’s right about being ready to win. Did the free throw fairy show up last night? Did he hire an Offensive Coordinator? What’s changed? I want this team to win despite my opinion that Hewitt is not the right coach due to a lack of fundamentals and development of players, but I believe we are stuck with him until the contract is up or Buzz wins the powerball.

Paul in RDU

February 25th, 2010
2:17 pm

DawginLex -
UGA brings in top 5 recruiting class for 2010-11 – ROFL

You know that just about all of the top b’ball players commit BEFORE their senior year right? Meaning that most have committed already. Or do you think that Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock are going to tell Roy Williams that they would rather play in Stegeman than the Dean Dome.

Survey Says

February 25th, 2010
2:18 pm

Next Category: Replacement Coach Poll?

Mark Price
John Salley
Mark Bradley
Tubby Smith
Johnny Dawkins
Steve Wojciechowski

Cosmo

February 25th, 2010
2:19 pm

BTW- I am supportive of the program and players but critical of the results. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Paul in RDU

February 25th, 2010
2:21 pm

BTW – Today’s ESPN b’ball podcast has Andy Katz interviewing Hewitt

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/

techster

February 25th, 2010
2:21 pm

I would like to see an article on just what DRAD is thinking regarding tis matter. Like you stated, this is a culmination of the last few seasons of nothingness, not just this year.