How Hewitt can win back Tech fans – and win games, too

Yes! There's still a chance win friends and influence people. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Yes! There's still a chance for Paul Hewitt to win friends and influence people. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Paul Hewitt is still Georgia Tech’s coach. At issue is whether Hewitt can again be the people’s choice. His dialogue with St. John’s extended hope to many disgruntled Tech fans — and there are many disgruntled Tech fans — that they might not have to witness the same underperformance next season. Those folks are now in a curious position: They’re sorry their coach is still their coach.

The onus is now on Hewitt to win back his constituency. For that to happen, these steps need to be taken:

Stop the excuses: Hewitt often acts as if circumstances are beyond his control. He’s paid to control circumstances. If somebody gets hurt, coach up the next guy on the bench. If a talented player leaves after a year, find someone to replace him. If your guards can’t feed the post, teach them how. Tech people no longer want to hear about point guard Austin Jackson choosing the Yankees and baseball over playing for the Jackets — that happened in 2005, but Hewitt brought it up just last week — or about your team being “too young” or “snakebit.” They just want results.

Shore up his staff: Is it only coincidence that the Jackets are 81-78 since assistant Cliff Warren left to coach Jacksonville after the 2004-2005 season? (Fellow Tech assistant Dean Keener departed for James Madison a year earlier.) Current assistants Peter Zaharis and John O’Connor came to Tech not as coaches but as directors of basketball operations. Both have known Hewitt from his days at Villanova. Former Tech player Darryl LaBarrie was hired as an assistant last summer after stints at Campbell and East Carolina. Put simply, there’s a need for stronger voices and new ideas on the bench.

Coach offense as hard as he does defense: With few exceptions, all Hewitt’s players have defended at a high level. His offense has functioned less well. Too often Tech doesn’t seem to know what it should be doing. Chris Bosh averaged only 9.7 shots his season as a Jacket; seven years later, Derrick Favors averaged 8.1 shots. If you’re going to recruit one-and-done talents, you’d better figure out a way to get them the ball. A creative assistant with an offensive background would be most welcome here.

Reach out to fans and alums: Hewitt doesn’t appear to have any idea how unpopular he has become. (His stock response is something along the lines of, “Everyone always tells me we’re doing great when they see me in the airport.”) But Tech hasn’t done great, or even all that good, for five years now. Hewitt needs to cultivate his base — as opposed to challenging it via Twitter — through brunches or dinners  or fan-appreciation outings. He can be charming and persuasive. He needs to be both now.

Offer to renegotiate his golden contract: It’s hard to ask anyone to put guaranteed money at risk, but this would do wonders for Hewitt’s image. Too many people have come to believe Hewitt is still coaching Tech only because the athletic association can’t afford to pay him $7.1 million to go away. Hewitt should go to Dan Radakovich and offer to relieve some of the financial burden. He should say, “I’ll waive the perpetual rollover if you’ll give me a five-year deal worth $8.75 million.” That would offer Hewitt a nice salary bump — from $1.375 million per season to $1.75 million — but would remove the most oppressive aspect of his never-ending deal. And it would earn him a mint’s worth of good will.

Win more games: It sounds simplistic, but it’s a time-honored panacea. Win big and people like you. Win big and we in the media sing your praises. Nobody complained about Hewitt’s offensive sets or the new contract Dave Braine handed him in 2004. Nobody was hoping he’d leave for St. John’s back then. Indeed, Tech fans were terrified he wouldn’t stay.

Six years have passed, and there’s no way for Hewitt ever to be as beloved as he was then, but he can reclaim some of those folks who’ve grown disenchanted. He can gripe less. And win more.

623 comments Add your comment

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:25 pm

GTHorsie

March 25th, 2010
4:25 pm

Too late. We want Paul Hewitt gone.

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:25 pm

Kudos, Jackets2010.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:26 pm

I swore I’d never play that game.
I’ve just dropped over 30 years of maturity at least.

GTBOB45

March 25th, 2010
4:26 pm

Enter your comments here

GTBOB45

March 25th, 2010
4:26 pm

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:27 pm

But kudos from me trumps maturity. Does it not?

groundfog

March 25th, 2010
4:27 pm

Well stated Bradley.

GTBOB45

March 25th, 2010
4:29 pm

The best thing Hewitt can do for GT and its fans is to take the ST John’s job. Please,Please,Please reconsider.

Scott

March 25th, 2010
4:31 pm

Great article Mark! Too bad Hewitt wont read it…

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:31 pm

Thanks, groundfog. (Nice screen name, BTW.)

Tale of Woe

March 25th, 2010
4:32 pm

Can’t you write something that would make him just go away. Blast him more often so he runs and cries back to St. Johns. He needs to coach somewhere up in the Northeast anyway. That is where he gets a lot of his recruits.

96 Jacket

March 25th, 2010
4:35 pm

Mark, good article. Except for the contract bit, I agree with everything. If he wins, no one will complain or care about the contract.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:35 pm

Liked the article Mark.
But Orlando Sentinal’s Fowler is now leaving you in the dust.
Seriously I think I can patch things up with folks even after heated words and that was what you did with this article if someone will get CPH to read it.

All I'm Saying Is...

March 25th, 2010
4:36 pm

Bradley, all your suggestions are valid and well stated…and then you had to go and put out the “renegotiate his contract” line—that recommendation is stupid, makes no sense, reads like you’re being petty, and is completely out of bounds. Changing those terms is not going to change the view of Tech fans and if a school needs to fire someone, then that rollover provision will not prevent what has to be done from being done.

Also, your last comment was the best one and should have been listed first: win more games as that’s always the cure.

(And, by the way, I told you in several posts that PH was not going anywhere.)

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:36 pm

Ouch, Jackets2010.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:37 pm

I try to drop my materity at the beach and it’s nearly that season so thanks.

S Uga Fan

March 25th, 2010
4:37 pm

Great article, Mark! Thank you Coach for staying!

no_more_tickets

March 25th, 2010
4:37 pm

Or like me you can not buy season tickets next year. Eventually, 0 people showing up will be more costly than the $7 million this douche is owed.

Cornfuzed

March 25th, 2010
4:37 pm

Good article, Mark. Agreed on all points. Most of us still want to like and believe in Hewitt, but he keeps giving us reasons not to. Some changes are definitely needed.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:38 pm

I am not sure I would want to be in Fowler’s shoes myself.

kenbud

March 25th, 2010
4:38 pm

Man, i cannot wait to hear how you get ripped (unjustly) for this …… This is a really strong AND FAIR list. Especially the efforts at good will (not saying you don’t already try goodwill Coach Hewitt!!! See you have to say these things or he will go off the deep-end about you again.

Strongest ones are the coaching staff (keep LaBarrie bcuz you need that former player) and not understanding how badly he is portrayed by Tech fans and alum.

Hewitt may not read it, but I guarantee you someone will read it TO him or give him the highlights. That’s how coaches get around the “never read the media” statements.

BO

March 25th, 2010
4:39 pm

I hope that Paul Hewitt makes another run in the next year or two and then leaves this program high and dry. The man has done nothing but run a clean program with good kids…and he should’ve left after the 2004 season. Tech fans need to realize that Duke, UNC, Maryland and arguably Virgina and Clemson are better bball programs than Tech. I’m a Tech fan but all of you all that expect multiple Final Four runs are fooling yourselves. I wish they’d have won more games over the last few years…but this program would be fooling itself to think that a great coach would ever take over at this school.

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:40 pm

Clemson is a better program than Tech? Really?

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:41 pm

In fact Fowler must be crazy to bring up a negative quote about Tebow. A reporter sitting on a controversial quote?
The one about Tebow not being a good QB I might think about forgetting.
But I’m not a reporter.

midatlantech

March 25th, 2010
4:41 pm

Well said, but I think you need to add “drop player development from his contract with recruits”. Hewitt went too long with Lawal as the first offensive option. Lawal was a tremendous rebounding power forward, but Favors was the star. I think Hewitt makes promises to players, like Lawal, that get in the way of “TEAM”. You point out that Favors was shooting the ball 8 times a game and there’s why. Meanwhile check out Vasquez at Maryland or other stars of the ACC. They carry the team, which is what’s best for the team. Hewitt has to drop individual promises and do what’s best the first month of the season, not the desperate last month.

tbake

March 25th, 2010
4:42 pm

Does Hewitt’s contract count as a toxic asset so that the government can buy it up under TARP?

Just an idea.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:42 pm

Clemson hasn’t been anything but one and done in March madness when they have even made it.

acowa

March 25th, 2010
4:42 pm

Jackets2010 What exactly did Fowler do other than interview a kid and publish his quote. CUM seems like a bully IMO. Is this just the last straw? Did he do something prior?

Kay

March 25th, 2010
4:42 pm

Good article, Mark.
As Jacket fans, we just want what is best for Tech.
Hopefully this will inspire Hewitt to do what is needed, to do what is best for the basketball program.
Think you covered it all very well, starting with some good assistants.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:43 pm

Mark, isn’t Virginia program in serious trouble with a number of players dropping out for the pros after not attending classes.

tbake

March 25th, 2010
4:44 pm

Clemson isn’t a better program than Tech, but it isn’t markedly worse.

Tech is middle of the conference pack at best, a la UGA when it comes to SEC football.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:45 pm

Purnell, who some of Hewitt’s critics tell us is a better coach, has six straight one and done’s in March madness at two different schools.
Clemson must have thought it bad luck but then he put three more on them.

americus jacket

March 25th, 2010
4:45 pm

OK. I’m starting fresh next year. I’m going to give Coach Hewitt my complete support, and I would really rather have him than Tubby Smith anyway…

Why? Because of any other criticism, his players play hard. They’re usually good citizens. I even thought Clinch handled a bad decision with class when he made a boneheaded decision to cheat and got caught. He paid his dues, got back on the team, and played hard without offering any lame excuses. (Much better than an apology. Boy, am I sick of having to forgive someone just because they apologized. I’d much rather watch them work hard to make me forgive them.) And his players like him. That does wonders with recruiting.

And I would agree with most in MB’s article except the assistant coaches. I think it’s a little unfair to criticize a group when it’s very difficult to know what they have been doing to make the program better or worse. If I am going to support the head coach, I also need to support his personnel decisions. We shouldn’t hold him responsible while at the same time dictating who he should hire as his assistants. I grade Paul Johnson on his wins and losses — and I’m quite confident both he and Hewitt will hire the people who he thinks will make the program more successful.

acowa

March 25th, 2010
4:46 pm

I think you’re probably persona non grata next season at AMC Bark.

Helena Engineer

March 25th, 2010
4:46 pm

OK – when I thought he was leaving I threw out the name of Mike Anderson. Now that he is staying, I think he should take a hard look at that style of play. With Shumpert, Rice, Oliver, Udofia, Miller, Foreman and Jason Morris coming in – he will have a ton of backcourt / wing players to run and press with. The brand of basketball is entertaining, and he would have the type of athletes to pull it off.

I know football coaches often get together in the off-season and go through offensive and defensive systems. I think Hewitt should visit Columbia, MO and tap into a bit of what they have going on there. The team could forge a new identity that they could recruit to and carry on consistently. We could be like Paul Johnson’s team – a unique style that no one wants to play against.

Helena Engineer

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 25th, 2010
4:47 pm

Dead on Mark, but he will do none of the above.

Billy Howard

March 25th, 2010
4:47 pm

I think asking him to renegotiate his contract is ludicrous. Why should he renegotiate it? He got his money and contract and TECH is obligated to pay him, if they don’t like him then they can fire him and pay his buy out. Mark if you had a few bad years of writing would you renegotiate your salary to a lesser amount? I don’t speak for MB, but I know I sure as hell wouldn’t!

I agree with the other 5 steps but the money issue is simply a non issue to me and it should be for TECH as well.

Thanks!

GT in CT

March 25th, 2010
4:47 pm

Mark: Abosolutely fantastic, constructive, right-on-the-money column. Thanks! I hope it works.

BO

March 25th, 2010
4:47 pm

Hey Mark…

One could argue that Clemson does have a better program thes days…maybe it Hewitt’s fault in that they”ve been better the last 3 years in the regular season. They’ve just not been able to carry the regualr season success over to the post season.

Mark Bradley

March 25th, 2010
4:48 pm

Thanks, GT in CT.

GT Alum

March 25th, 2010
4:48 pm

Mark, I don’t often say this about your articles, but you’re right on target with this one. I used to be one of Hewitt’s biggest apologists, but even my patience has worn thin. His unwillingness to acknowledge that he hasn’t lived up to expectations is infuriating, and the excuses have to stop. The comment about not being Duke or Carolina really drove me nuts. Most of us aren’t asking for ACC titles every season and a top seed in the NCAAs. We do expect a winning conference record most years and for making the tournament most years with the occasional deep run. I would be satisfied with Maryland or Wake Forest-level results, but he hasn’t even delivered that.

Jackets2010

March 25th, 2010
4:48 pm

I know one thing for sure.
Kansas’ fans are far more miserble than we will ever be.
Maybe the disappointment of Price and Salley team losing to LSU might compare.
Those folks are miserable and only not in rebellion because of the past championship.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 25th, 2010
4:48 pm

americus jacket, I guess you weren’t around when Jermis Smith admitted the team quit in some games.

Of course it's the contract

March 25th, 2010
4:49 pm

I think “coach” will live to regret this day. He may leave Tech one day with a sack full of money but with a less than stellar reputation as a coach.

BEEFENSE

March 25th, 2010
4:49 pm

Everthing you wrote is true. There are MANY fans who are SICK that he did not leave–I am one. I don’t hate Hewitt–I hate his offensive offense. Teach fundamentals, FT shooting, inbounding and accurate passes. Every game I went to this year TECH won and I left with a headache and a sour stomach due to the “way” they played.

TomB

March 25th, 2010
4:50 pm

Spot on Mark. Great article. Ignore Jackets2010, he’s a homer for Hewitt. He believes Hewitt has won as many ACC championships as Cremins.

grumpy

March 25th, 2010
4:50 pm

been saying for 5 years he needs an pffensive coordinator rad make him go get one

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 25th, 2010
4:50 pm

excuse me Jeremis Smith.

pws

March 25th, 2010
4:50 pm

I agree that he needs to get rid of the entire group of assistants and start over. Why doesn’t he try to rehire Dean? He’s not coaching anymore, and he was a great asistant coach. What Paul needs to do is swallow his pride and admit that he needs help. If he doesn’t then the boos will be gone next year, because those people won’t be paying for the tickets any longer…..