Here’s what caused Paul Hewitt to stop reading the AJC

Paul Hewitts exits after losing to Louisville (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Paul Hewitt exits after losing to Louisville in the 2005 NCAA. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Perhaps you heard Paul Hewitt say last week he hasn’t read the ol’ AJC since 2005. Perhaps you heard him mention he stopped because “our columnist here” — he meant me, I believe it’s safe to say — declared the 2004-2005 Jackets underachievers. And he’s correct. I did.

I believed then — and believe still — that a Tech team returning six of its top eight players from a run to the NCAA championship game (and that had added freshmen Anthony Morrow, Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey) should have done better than 20-12 overall and 8-8 in the ACC. It should have done better  than to enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed and then lose by 22 points in Round 2 to No. 4 seed Louisville.

Was U of L good that year? Absolutely. It reached the Final Four, where it lost in the semis to Illinois, which lost in the title game to North Carolina, which Tech had beaten in the ACC semifinals only eight days before its crash against the Cardinals. After that game, Hewitt opened his press briefing by saying: “This was no upset.”

OK, that’s the background. Here, presented without one keystroke of revision, is the apparently offending article that ran in our paper on March 21, 2005. Judge for yourselves if I had, as Hewitt claimed on 790 The Zone last Friday – here’s a link to the audio –  forfeited all claim to objectivity:

Nashville — Georgia Tech  has come many miles these past two seasons, but the Jackets didn’t get as far as they could have this March. Paul Hewitt believed this team was more talented than its immediate predecessor, but all that talent exited Sunday as a 22-point loser in Round 2. Louisville threw a zone at Tech, and the way to beat a zone is to shoot over it. The Jackets couldn’t. Their most renowned shooter, B.J. Elder, made one basket in his final game as a collegian.

And that was your ballgame right there. Yes, Louisville fashioned a frenzied start, making eight of its first nine shots and seizing a 13-point lead not seven minutes in, but any observer of this weekend’s doings knows that 13-point leads can be overcome. But Tech needed to make treys to pull the Cardinals out of that 2-3 zone and clear the path for drives to the basket, and the Jackets could make only six.

The knee-jerk reaction is to say that the scheming Rick Pitino outcoached Hewitt, but Tech pretty much knew Louisville would play a zone and prepared accordingly.

“What it comes down to, ” said Willie Reese, Hewitt’s assistant, “is you have to make shots.” And these Jackets, for all their skill and tenacity and seasoning, weren’t good enough shooters. There was a time when Hewitt believed Elder to be one of the nation’s best players, but as an injury-saddled senior he was never a consistent force.

Louisville smacked the Jackets hard early and sat in its zone, waiting for the run that never quite came. Elder’s lone basket drew the Jackets within nine points with 10 minutes left, but Jarrett Jack threw away an inbounds pass and Luke Schenscher walked in the lane and Taquan Dean hit the two killing 3s. “They shot extremely well, ” Will Bynum said. “There was nothing we could do.”

Well, Tech might have made a few shots of its own, but Jack and Bynum are better slashers than standstill shooters. Tech  had everything it needed to reach another Final Four, everything except a reasonable facsimile of J.J. Redick. “[Louisville] did a great job of staying on shooters out of the zone, ” said Elder, who played 24 minutes and hoisted five shots, one fewer than Anthony McHenry.

Give Louisville its due. Francisco Garcia had the same sort of inspirational performance that Dwyane Wade authored when Marquette thrashed top-ranked Kentucky in a 2003 regional final, with the point being: A splendid player can, on a given March afternoon, will his team to a higher plane. Tech had lots of players, but no one who could do as Garcia did. Bynum scored 35 points against North Carolina nine days ago; he managed eight Sunday.

The Jackets’ offense failed them too many times this season. They were fine as long as they could drive to the goal, but Louisville made them play in a confined space. The Cardinals simply wrong-footed Tech. “Today we got beat by a better team, ” Hewitt said, and then he added: “A better-coached team.”

It will come as cold comfort to Tech that the Cardinals saw this game as their test. “If you can beat Georgia Tech , you can go to the Final Four and win the national championship, ” Pitino had said Saturday, and here we pause for reflection: Louisville has won two NCAA titles and been to seven Final Fours. Louisville has been a fortress of a program for 60 years, and yet the proud Cardinals and their famous coach regarded Tech, which three seasons ago was happy to make the NIT, as their peer if not their better.

Having played for one national championship, Hewitt assembled enough players to make a run at another. The indifferent regular season can be written off to injuries, but Tech had no excuses Sunday. The Jackets needed a shooter to rise up and make shots, and nobody did. This really gifted team met a really rude end.

And I’ll leave it at that — almost. The folks at 790 were kind enough to ask for my reaction to Hewitt’s contention that it has become a “personal” issue with me regarding his program. If you’re inclined, here’s the audio link to my response. (And if you’re not inclined, here was my answer: No, it hasn’t. No, it isn’t.)

286 comments Add your comment

theriddler

March 1st, 2010
4:41 am

Readers enjoy drama.

Conyers Yellow Jacket

March 1st, 2010
4:46 am

Mark: I read your article….nothing that should have offended PH…in fact you were very kind
considering the game was a blowout. Do yo still believe GT will make the NCAA?
Will the ACC get more than 4 teams in?

Ramwreck sf

March 1st, 2010
4:48 am

Fine column on Louisville game, Mark The problem with this team is free-throw shooting. Abyssmal. The Jackets must have lost five ACC games at the stripe….if you can’t shoot free throws, you can’t win in March.

BIRDDAWGONE

March 1st, 2010
5:05 am

Mark, I think Hewitt should have been flattered by your article written back in 2005. Anyone who reads your column knows that you are wrong 95% of the time. I remember that I quit reading your column for almost ten years aftrer you predicted South Carolina would beat UGA. ( UGA WON that game). But now I read your colimn because the BLOGS are so much fun!!! I think you should keep writting with the same style, so that people will know never to take what you write too seriously.

Biff Pocoroba

March 1st, 2010
5:26 am

The problem with Hewitt is that he is too cocky and arrogant to ever change since he feels like he is always right. This has started to rub off on his team. They now feel like they don’t need to change anything since they were so good in high school so they don’t work on things like free throws. If we lose to Clemson on Tuesday, Hewitt will spend his call in excuse show on Thursday talking about how unfair the ACC schedule is and try and make Clemson sound like the best team ever instead of taking some blame. Last week he tried to make a terrible Boston College team sound like the Boston Celtics since they had won two games in a row. This is why he’d rather spend more time talking about the Yankees and the Knicks than his own team since he has no clue how to coach them to the NCAA tournament.

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 1st, 2010
5:27 am

Hewitt quit reading the AJC becuase his contract made him sooooo rich that he has it read to him.

GTGuy44

March 1st, 2010
5:45 am

Mark I am as loyal a Tech fan as there is. You have been very objective with your analysis and critisim of our program. Like Jack Nicholson said Hewitt cannot handle the truth. The truth is he cannot coach and has to go.

lanier

March 1st, 2010
5:49 am

who cares not me I enjoy real sports news not a catfight

GTGuy44

March 1st, 2010
5:50 am

Birddawgone you are crazy. Bradley gets it right far more than the other way. You must have gone to Georgia to base whose columns you read on one prediction.

drew

March 1st, 2010
6:13 am

Nothing there for Hewitt to get his panties in a wad over. As a matter of fact, the only Tech bashing I ever see in the AJC appears in the blogs, and it’s mostly addressed at CPH, and his seeming inability to “grow” his players, run and offense, or successfully inbound the ball.

And while I’ve seen enough of Hewitt (really, he needs to go), he makes a good point about fans needing to support this team. The season is not over, and if you’re a fan of this team, you need to get onboard and STFU until the seasons over. Then you can bash to your heart’s content.

If they make the tournament, they could one-and-done, or they could make it to the final four . I’m as frustrated with the lack of coaching as anybody, but fans need to dial back the Hewitt bashing and let the season play out. I suspect there’ll be plenty of time for Hewitt bashing after their season is over.

DML

March 1st, 2010
6:16 am

Mark,

Why do you feel the necessity to write this at all? You are a journalist, and you are supposed to weave your opinion with the facts. If this were New York (or any other large sports town), we would EXPECT a contentious relationship between a .500 coach and a columnist.

Baba O'Riley

March 1st, 2010
6:22 am

BirdDawgGone- You quit reading his column because he picked UGA to lose a game? I guess you don’t watch ESPN now either.

legendary hoopsjonesman

March 1st, 2010
6:27 am

where is Carroll Rogers and why did the AJC not update the Digesting The Maryland loss blogpost some 9 days ago? And why did Matt Winkeljohn write the maingame story for the BC game? Is this just normal or is something up?

ToeMeetsLeather

March 1st, 2010
6:27 am

Mark, you did what most journalist do, you left out probably the most important fact that did not support your column. Jarrett Jack, the general of that club was playing on one wheel. He had a major ankle sprain carried over from a late injury against Duke the week before. Probably his best game of the year before the late injury and would not have played if it had not been an NCAA playoff game. He made that team tick and it was painful watching him try to play that day. Combine that with a Louisville team that should have been a two seed that year and the results that day did not surprise me. You use to do that kind of crap all the time before people could call you on it like this. That’s why the AJC stopped getting my money years ago. Later.

Hoops McKay

March 1st, 2010
6:41 am

Some columnists like drama too. Mark appears frequently in his own columns.

Stinky

March 1st, 2010
6:43 am

Mark, you’ve really got sort of a dorkey telephone voice. Maybe that’s what got Hewitt so so irritated.

DE

March 1st, 2010
6:45 am

This Article is exactly what Hewitt was talking about. They Beat Boston College and you write an Article tow days later about a game that happen 2004-2005 season? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Jaime

March 1st, 2010
6:49 am

The biggest question for everyone: who hates the ajc more- Hewitt or Don Waddell?

C. Srtickland

March 1st, 2010
6:55 am

Paul Hewitt is only one of thousands that have quit reading the ajc because of Mark Bradley.

Larry

March 1st, 2010
7:23 am

Mark,

Thank you for the courage and willingness to express your candid opinion. I wish more of the AJC writers were like you by not playing it safe and politically safe to gain access into locker rooms and clubhouses, like the AJC beat writer.

I may not always agree with you, but I respect you. The simple obvious truth is Hewitt is a good guy, a good recruiter, but something less than a good game coach and the GT administration should be held accountable for awarding such an absurd contract that has an 8 million dollar buyout whether you win 30 games or 10 in a season!

Larry (1-14)

Larry

March 1st, 2010
7:25 am

Insert “Braves” and make that “AJC Braves beat writer.”

Tech Man in Dawg Country

March 1st, 2010
7:27 am

I listened to the audio of the 790 the Zone interview with CPH, and I think CPH is doing himself a disservice by making such comments to the media. CPH is an intelligent, well-spoken coach that represents GT very well. Even if the team is not performing as well as we had hoped, if CPH projects a positive image, he will remain the coach (especially given his buyout). But start embarrassing the school in any way, and I think he will be gone. So CPH, even though you say you don’t read the paper, please don’t get into a war of words with Mark Bradley. Understand that is part of his job. I don’t believe Mark ever got personal as you said. Please, CPH, stay of of the media, and continue to represent GT in the proud manner you have done in the past. Go Jackets.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
7:41 am

About Jarrett Jack’s injury: He had indeed suffered a sprained ankle in the late going against Duke in the ACC championship game. But he played against George Washington in Tech’s 2005 NCAA opener and scored 20 points. Against Louisville he had 11 points.

Marvin Mangrum

March 1st, 2010
7:45 am

He at first was a seemingly good coach. If Tech or anyone else needs me to say otherwise then thats part of the problem. He is no longer any good. Look at the roster, look at the record. Tech is no longer watched at my house. Pitiful.

suwaneedawg

March 1st, 2010
7:46 am

Damn Mark, first Smoltz now Hewitt. You got a few people in your cross hairs my friend. I’m glad I am not one of them. At least I think I am not one of them.

pws

March 1st, 2010
7:47 am

I was at the games in Nashville, and you were right on the money, Mark. Did you hear the boos when they announced Hewitt as the coach at Saturday’s game? Cheers for the players, but Hewitt was booed. I also heard saturday from a reliable source that Mark Price had volunteered to help the players with their free throw shooting and form, and that Hewitt said “No, thank you, we don’t need your help”.

Also, Mark, this is the first time in many, many years that GT has ACC tournament tickets available to the general public. And that’s after they cut down the number of tickets each school receives when they went to a 12 team format. If DRad doesn’t get the message from that, he never will.

Did you hear about Hewitt turning down Mark Price?

Ramwreck sf

March 1st, 2010
7:48 am

Exactly, why did the AJC not send a reporter other than a stringer to the Tech-BC game? the ACJ’s performance is about as consistent as TEch’s.

sleepy

March 1st, 2010
7:49 am

A writer making the news all about himself instead of sports figures in consecutive columns. ESPN should check him out.

dozer

March 1st, 2010
7:50 am

Who was it that said you should never pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel? C’mon CPH, grow some thicker skin…..

| Hard Knox Sports

March 1st, 2010
7:52 am

[...] Coach vs. Columnist beef in the ATL. [AJC] [...]

MightyQuinn

March 1st, 2010
7:56 am

With all his recent comments and tweets, seems like PH is getting a tad paranoid about losing his job, eh? (”a tad” =sarcasm)

Angus

March 1st, 2010
7:57 am

Mark – I don’t see anything wrong with what you’ve written or said. It did seem that you were not either a) excited or b) comfortable doing the radio interview – guess that’s why you’re a writer, huh?

I also found it strange that there was zero weekend coverage of the BC game. I think you guys even threw up an AP wire report shortly after the game.

Are you aware of the how and why there was no coverage? Was there a conscious decision to lay low on Hewitt this weekend?

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
8:01 am

As a rule, I don’t like making myself the object of anything. (Except an object of derision.) But when I heard the Louisville game being specified as an example of non-objectivity, I went back and checked. Because my recollection was that I had been fairly clinical in what I’d written.

Larry

March 1st, 2010
8:07 am

Addendum: And now that I have listened to both Hewitt and Bradley’s comments it is pretty clear that Hewitt comes across as very defensive, pouty, immature, and less than articulate speaker and Bradly comes off as very matter of fact, straight-forward, fair, and most sincere. An aside from the personalities and arguing, how, as Bradly points out succinctly, can anyone defend Paul Hewitt’s record since 2005?

Elmo C. Grogan

March 1st, 2010
8:11 am

The media covers the media….ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
8:12 am

Regarding the coverage of the Boston College game: Its my understanding Carroll Rogers was off last week. And I’d note that the game story — written by former AJC writer and Tech beat man Matt Winklejohn — was on the front page of Sunday’s sports section.

TROTTINGHOME

March 1st, 2010
8:13 am

Mark, the word clinical has several meanings…I believe you are refering to the meaning…PLAIN, SIMPLE AND UNATTRACTIVE

The Real YellowJacket

March 1st, 2010
8:14 am

Anyone who has to re-run an old article in a weak effort to explain why a coach doesn’t read his paper needs to get a new gig. You have every right to your opinion but that’s all it is. Also it’s not very illuminating most of the times or even right.
Perhaps Hewitt is doing what so many people in the metro area are doing, moving on to other reasonable, more thick skinned and effective media outlets.

Walker, Texas Ranger

March 1st, 2010
8:14 am

You hit the nail on the head in the article, that team should have done better all year. By the time they came in as a 5 seed they were done. What bugs me is a team with that many returning guys from a run to the finals and they didn’t recruit squat. 2 Projects and 1 pretty good player. You don’t live off a run like that, you build off of it. I think Pete Brady said in best in song. (vocie cracking) “When it’s time to change, you have to re-arrange, la la lala la la”. No wonder Marsha dug Greg.

Conspiracy Theorist

March 1st, 2010
8:16 am

Mark, Hewitt may be a Smoltzie fan, or vice-versa …

JeJe

March 1st, 2010
8:20 am

Jackets2010

March 1st, 2010
8:22 am

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need to realize what it is we’re watching. We’re watching one of the great runs in NCAA tournament history… We watching wonders stacked atop wonders.”
See Mark, Hewitt annual renewal contract is really all your fault.
You went all giddy that he was the best coach in the country.
I’m kiding.
I found your final four column of April 4, 2004 over the weekend.
Believe it or not, I didn’t use it to wrap fish but to read over again during dull moments.
I sure wish Shumpert would keep playing as he has twice this year and get us on another run like that one.

Survey Says

March 1st, 2010
8:24 am

If Paul Hewitt coaches Tech next year, it will get uglier.

More bad coaching and under 500 in ACC = upset fans = more calling out in the AJC

Keep it up Mark. He needs to go. He’s had plenty of time and the fans have been patient (till now).

Bob

March 1st, 2010
8:26 am

I cannot believe that a sports writer feels compelled to continue this childish behavior…on both sides. Then again, it is the AJC. Ever wonder why your readership has vanished?

The Dude

March 1st, 2010
8:28 am

Mark, oddly enough, as I was reading that reprint all I could think is “this article lacks some of they cynical Bradley I’ve grown to love.” I think you sugar-coated it; and I think Hewitt’s an excuse-maker. He makes excuses for not being able to coach. The trouble with that is, it has worked for a decade.

Jackets2010

March 1st, 2010
8:29 am

BTW, Tech needs to keep recruiting Australia with an Aussie helping the both the best Men’s and Women’s basketball teams in school history.

Mark Bradley

March 1st, 2010
8:31 am

Oddly enough, Jackets2010, I see that column — written after the Oklahoma State game at the Final Four — quite often. It’s featured on a page framed and mounted on a wall in the room where Paul Hewitt holds his postgame briefings.

Jackets2010

March 1st, 2010
8:33 am

Thr readership may have “vanished” because they can get the product for free. It is difficult to compete with free which all newspapers, except a few that are good enough to charge on the net, know.
Mark’s viewership is growing though many pretend they’ll never read him or others again.

T3

March 1st, 2010
8:33 am

Coach Hewitt:

There’s only one way to silence your critics: WIN.