Tech fires Hewitt: He had it all, and then it all went away

The last stand: A 16-point loss in Greensboro. (AP photo)

The last stand: A 16-point loss to the Hokies in Greensboro. (AP photo)

Question: Over the 11 years Paul Hewitt worked at Georgia Tech, which program had more losing seasons — his or Georgia’s?

Answer: His.

If anyone still needs to know why Hewitt had to go, there it is: His teams finished under .500 five times in 11 tries, and it’s tough for a program in a big-time conference to have even one outright losing season. Georgia has had four over that span, and that’s counting the 2002-2003 season that is now recorded as 0-8 after NCAA sanctions but was 19-8 on the floor. That’s a Georgia program that worked under three different coaches (four if you count interim Pete Herrmann) and beneath the thundercloud of an NCAA investigation and subsequent probation.

Scoreboard: UGA four losing seasons (one after forfeits); Tech five losing seasons. Amazing.

Hewitt had made a big deal of his five NCAA appearances lately, saying (incorrectly) that only Duke and North Carolina had been to the Big Dance more often over his decade-plus-one at Tech. (Actually, Maryland made the NCAA seven times and Wake Forest six.) And a school might have taken those five berths and been happy with them had the other seasons not been so wretched. But with Hewitt there was no middle ground: He either won big enough to get into the Big Dance or he didn’t win at all.

In 2008-2009 Hewitt went 2-14 in ACC regular-season play with a roster that included two McDonald’s All-Americans (Iman Shumpert and Gani Lawal), a useful big man in Zachery Peacock and the scorer Lewis Clinch. This year Hewitt went 13-18 with Shumpert and five members of a recruiting class ranked fourth-best in the nation by Rivals.

Yes, Derrick Favors was already gone to the NBA, but that’s the way of college basketball: If you’re going to recruit one-and-dones, you have to make hay while they’re there. Instead Hewitt missed the NCAA in 2002-2003 with Chris Bosh — that season marked Tech’s only postseason NIT appearance under this coach — and failed to win an NCAA tournament game in 2006-2007 with Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton. And last year the Jackets somehow lost 13 games with Favors, who was taken third overall in the NBA draft.

There are some folks who will say the doings of spring 2004 have been rendered a fluke by subsequent events. I have never and will never say that. There was coaching involved in that Final Four run, a bunch of it. I thought then that Georgia Tech had on its hands a man capable of being — dare I say it? — the next Krzyzewski. But Tech under Hewitt was never the same, not even in 2004-2005 with six of its top eight returning from the team that reached the NCAA championship game. And to this day I don’t know why it wasn’t.

Hewitt seemed to have it all: He was smart and he was good with the media and great with recruits. He made the NCAA tournament three times in his first five seasons. The rest, alas, was mostly silence — four losing seasons in his final six and a falloff in attendance that made Tech basketball seem small-time for the first time since Dwane Morrison was the coach.

Many people have asked: Why in the world would a right-thinking school hand a coach the sort of contract Tech gave Hewitt in April 2004? In hindsight that contract has come to seem the worst in collegiate history, but you know what? Had I been Dave Braine or Wayne Clough back then, I’d have done the same. Because I could never have imagined that a coach of such conspicuous gifts would fail so utterly.

He had it all, and then it all went away. And now, six years after signing him to a lifetime contract, Georgia Tech is paying Paul Hewitt to go away. It needed to happen, yes. But that doesn’t make this strange story any less sad.

By Mark Bradley

137 comments Add your comment

steverino

March 12th, 2011
12:47 pm

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2011
12:47 pm

Kudos, steverino.

easy now

March 12th, 2011
12:48 pm

Kick a man while he’s down. I’ll root for him wherever he lands. Just like Cremins.

steverino

March 12th, 2011
12:48 pm

No reason to try and pin an explanation on it. Why do some things happen? Because they happen. Roll the bones. Good luck,CPH.

gt76

March 12th, 2011
12:49 pm

maybe we should shift machelle joseph over to the men’s team…at least she has a streak of 20 win seasons going…

Buckeye

March 12th, 2011
12:53 pm

Hire Coach Jan Azar, Wesleyan girls coach. Just won her 8th State Championship in 14 years at Wesleyan.

Congrats to Grace Leah Baughn, 4 State Basketball Championships. Not even Mya Moore or Ann Marie did that. You go kid.

Techsters, join the Buckeye bandwagon. CBS, 1:40 tip. Watch and you will see a #1 seed in action.

Biff Pocoroba

March 12th, 2011
12:53 pm

Hewitt went down after Cliff Warren left for Jacksonville just like Cremins fell apart when Perry Clark left for Tulane. They both needed good assistants to help them but both failed to get decent assistants to help them in their final years of struggle. There is a reason that Kevin Cantwll had to open his own basketball school after Cremins retired. No one else would hire him as a top assistant .

SECWasteManagement

March 12th, 2011
12:54 pm

Amazed that UGA had more winning seasons. Hewitt was always the joke of the ACC.

misterwax

March 12th, 2011
12:57 pm

no more affirmative, action bailouts for “nice guys” find a man who can actually coach….He was a nice embarassment for out school. Political correctness run amok with other people’s money.

ACC HOOPS #1

March 12th, 2011
1:01 pm

Always wondered why Hewitt and Bradley had such bad blood. Bradley gets one last smear in, but Hewitt walks away with the bag of money.

groundfog

March 12th, 2011
1:02 pm

Looking forward to supporting Tech bball again. I quit watching 2 years ago as it became too painful to watch. Talent rarely overcame lack of discipline for Tech under Hewitt. I hope Tech goes after a coach that can teach fundamental team basketball that doesn’t always rely on one player.

Simon Bar Sinister

March 12th, 2011
1:05 pm

Maybe he hasn’t been recruiting players that fit his coaching. That 2004 team was made of good, not great, players who came together and played as a team, and Hewitt’s coaching fit.

Since then he’s had better talent that never came together. Maybe he just needs more good players who will be around three or four years and fewer great players who will be around for one or two.

He may be very successful in the future at a smaller program without the recruiting access.

Coach Cool

March 12th, 2011
1:08 pm

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: GOOD man. POOR coach.

CPH: Good luck in your future endeavors.

SanDiegoJacket

March 12th, 2011
1:13 pm

When coaches, football or basketball, come to TECH, they just don’t understand the absolute necessity of beating Ugag and not losing to the Kennesaw State’s of the world. I hope the first words out of the mouth of the new coach is…..

TO HELL WITH GEORGIA, EVERYDAY IN EVERY WAY!!!

Jacketbacker

March 12th, 2011
1:16 pm

Nice enough guy I guess. However, he definately had his agenda ( BCA Prez??? ). We need someone who cares about winning basketball games instead of pushing his own agenda. Most fans and alumni could care less about that crap. We just want to see a well coached team that wins.

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Due West Brave

March 12th, 2011
1:30 pm

Mark:

You indicated that at the time, you would have given Paul the lifetime contract; but as we have seen in College Football with the decline in the Coach in Waiting trend, will situations like this stop the lifetime contracts in College Basketball as well.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2011
1:32 pm

You’re right, Due West. As esteemed colleague Tim Tucker once said: “How many coaches are there that you’d be sure you’ll never want to fire?”

O'Brien

March 12th, 2011
1:34 pm

Mark,

Had I been Dave Braine or Wayne Clough back then, I’d have done the same. Because I could never have imagined that a coach of such conspicuous gifts would fail so utterly..

He did not win the ACC regular season, he did not win the ACC tournament, and he did not win an NCAA title. He got to the title game (although he did win a tournament at the start of the season beating).

But his 4 seasons at Tech would have been enough for you to give a guy coming from Sienna an automatic 5 year rollover contract? Especially at a school that does not have the $$$ like some of the bigger programs out there?

I can understand if they had given him a huge buyout/firing clause in his contract. But an automatic 5 year rollover? That was unacceptable (imo). And I think you would be hard pressed to find another AD at a school like GT to give a guy who is still fairly unproven that kind of deal.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

March 12th, 2011
1:35 pm

Could NOT develop players….team undisciplined way too often….evidence abounds: difficulty in-bounding the ball, dribble, dribble, dribble, uh oh, shoot a forced shot!!, atrocious FT shooting, atrocious defense of 3 point shooters, turnovers > assists, etc, etc, etc.

Paul in RDU

March 12th, 2011
1:40 pm

A sad but inevitable day. 2004 seems so far away.

HSV Jacket

March 12th, 2011
1:44 pm

It is sad. His comments this morning indicate he still doesn’t get it. He made a comment about the new coach getting tired of questions about whether he will be there the next year. I disagree – if the new coach does his job, the team displays fundamental skills and the players improve, the wins will come and the new coach will get a fair chance to prove what he can do.

Gordon

March 12th, 2011
1:54 pm

Hewitt may have had more losing seasons that UGA during his tenure, but he also had more NCAA appearances even if UGA gets in tomorrow (and I think they should). He also kept our program clean, and for that I will forever give him credit.

I still say what happened to him was the departure of his two top assistants, Dean Keener and Cliff Warren. After both were gone after the 04/05 season, there was a clear dropoff. Either Hewitt didn’t believe or couldn’t admit that was a problem, but he never replaced what he had with them.

I wish Hewitt all the best. Now it is time to move forward, and get our program back where it belongs.

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
1:56 pm

Mark Bradley, the happiest man in mudville today!

supermane

March 12th, 2011
1:58 pm

Grace Leah Baughn couldn’t tie Maya Moore’s shoestring and you know it. Out of all the great basketball players that attended UCONN, she is ahead of all of them. Check the stats. Maya Moore is a real GA Peach but a Buckeye Yankee who watches suburban prep b-ball wouldn’t know that

Doug

March 12th, 2011
1:59 pm

“SanDiegoJacket

March 12th, 2011
1:13 pm

When coaches, football or basketball, come to TECH, they just don’t understand the absolute necessity of beating Ugag and not losing to the Kennesaw State’s of the world. I hope the first words out of the mouth of the new coach is…..

TO HELL WITH GEORGIA, EVERYDAY IN EVERY WAY!!!”

If he beats UGA more often then you would want him to stay?

Rich T

March 12th, 2011
2:00 pm

I got my birthday present!!!

Jackets 2011

March 12th, 2011
2:05 pm

Maybe Tech only has a 5 to 7 year window of success and if you stay, you’ll regret it. Dodd was offered top money by Texas about 1956. He should have taken it. He probably would have kept on winning at the major bowl level.
Had Curry not left, he would have wound up like Goff.
Ross used his one big year to make a lot more money coaching pro teams.
Hewitt should have done something similar too.
I’m not against his firing though.
It just looks very tough to win at Tech in the long term.

Onejacketfan

March 12th, 2011
2:06 pm

Glad you call this sad, Mr. Bradley, because it has often seemed to me this firing is a cause you have been championing. Which strikes me as somewhat sad, in and of itself. Yeah– a change needed to be made… by no means do I disagree with that. But your coverage of all of this left the realm of objective journalism long ago… it has seemed more a personal crusade. When is the last time you spoke with Hewitt? Because I don’t remember a story you’ve written recently where you cited a quote he gave directly to you. Sure, we could say ‘consider the source,’ but it seems Schultz was able to have spirited debates with him and still have access. I think a lot of what you write bears some truth, but it seems this all got a little personal for you… as it did for many Tech fans. So, maybe you were just catering to your audience.

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
2:07 pm

Mark, is a Nixonian press conference coming where Hewitt says you wont have Hewitt to kick around anymore?

Ray Goff

March 12th, 2011
2:08 pm

it is hard to feel sad about a guy getting paid millions not to work. In fact, it’s great!

Ray Goff

March 12th, 2011
2:10 pm

Mark Bradley got me, Hugh Durham, Jim Donnan, Jim Harrick, Dennis Felton, Pete Hermann, Chan Gailey, Willie Martinez, Stacey Serels, and now Paul Hewitt fired.

What a record!

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
2:20 pm

what Mark had to say about:

Ray Goff- The Ray Goof nickname gives his intellect too much credit.
Jim Donnan-The guy’s almost as fat as Wes Durham.
Jim Harrick-I dont mind a cheater-just cant stand a cut rate one.
Dennis Felton-Glad i’ll never have to listen to his raspy voice again.
Pete Hermann- Wasn’t he that guy that ran the Luftwafffe?
Chan Gailey-Why would his parents name him Chan? Where they missonaries in China or something?
Wille Martinez- ’nuff siad.
Stacey Serles-ditto.
Paul Hewitt-Now I dont have to follow him any longer on Twitter!!

cantondawg

March 12th, 2011
2:22 pm

Why are all of you on jumping on Mark Bradley. He has just stated the obvious this whole time. All Paul Hewitt had to do is win and his job would have been saved. When you go 13-18 and lose to Kennesaw State you deserve to get fired.

ACC Fan

March 12th, 2011
2:23 pm

It’s harder to have a winning season in the ACC than in the SEC.

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
2:23 pm

cause thats what we bloggers do

Paul Hewitt

March 12th, 2011
2:25 pm

Now at least i wont have to wear those god awful vile yellow coats and ties.

Bobby

March 12th, 2011
2:27 pm

Glad he is finally gone. Now we can begin rebuilding GT basketball.

derek

March 12th, 2011
2:30 pm

Hire the 21 year old young lady from Horizon in Cumming who just won a state championship at age 21.

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
2:37 pm

derek, i just called that young lady at horizon to ask if she had any interest in the job and she replied “I like Cumming just fine”.

Onejacketfan

March 12th, 2011
2:40 pm

I question a journalist who makes it more a crusade than a story. I question a journalist for whom there is little evidence that he interviews his subjects. It’s easy to write these things from afar; it’s totally different to actually speak with the person and then do the writing. Think Bradley did more of the former… But, you know, I could be wrong. Often am.

todd grantham

March 12th, 2011
2:40 pm

and i believe i quoted her verbatem.

Dawg A

March 12th, 2011
2:46 pm

Great article! But as a Dawg fan I was hoping they would keep him! But we still have CPJ so we still have football under control! Tech don’t replace him too!!! BTW… John Kincaide said yesterday that you had a list of potential coaches to replace him if he got fired. He also said he felt assured that if you provided the list it was a safe bet Tech would go another direction. Actually I thought that was a harsh statement! Do you guys need to break bread and settle something???? lol
But that said…. who are the favorites to replace him?

COACH1

March 12th, 2011
2:48 pm

please mark, u on him cause he’s a black coach. what about richt, johnson, fox? they hadnt won a thing? please

hal

March 12th, 2011
2:48 pm

who will tech go after? they need a big time coach to compete in the ACC

COACH1

March 12th, 2011
2:49 pm

forget u played sports. band dont count

jfreak13713

March 12th, 2011
2:50 pm

Why feel sorry for Hewitt? He had a chance and was paid a ton of money to win and simply didn’t. I have no personal ill will towards Hewitt because he seems like a really good man but this is a business and Tech is expected to win. Period.

Larry

March 12th, 2011
2:50 pm

We both know who Hewitt was alluding to as the single AJC writer. Fine!

Please allow me to congratulate you on your courage and willingness to not say what is just popular and politically correct or, worse, not saying what is truly in your heart and on your mind. Yes, you have a fine line between reporting the facts and your opinions while trying to be as straight-forward and honest in doing so. This can’t be easy when those you must write about are those you must interact with to get the facts and details to write. Personally, I didn’t attend either UGA or Tech so my feelings toward Hewitt are utterly indifferent, but even I could tell this guy is one of the worst fundamental basketball coaches I have every seen!

There are writers for the AJC that like to ride motorcycles with the manager or watch film with the head coach. Frankly, this is almost impossible to remain objective and I believe the is crossing the line of a sports journalist simply to befriend one to get more information. What happens when the start losing, under-performing or, worse, engage in questionable activities or behavior. You can be cordial, professional and diplomatic–but draw the line right there!

Again, thanks for you what you do, your courage in doing so, and know that I for one appreciate and respect you! I don’t always agree with you, but I know that your opinion is genuine and sincere. All this does for me is make me want to go to your blogs or articles first so I know I getting the real Mark Bradley!

Touché!

Larry

Reggie

March 12th, 2011
2:54 pm

Coach,

You are a class act. Mark~ yes it was probably time to PH to move on but. your utter hate and disregard toward this good person baffles me. Why the hate. You should use your platform with respect and dignity not like some jealous 13 year old school girl !

Dawg A

March 12th, 2011
3:02 pm

Mark… I am amazed at the haters on here! Like you have enough pull to get rid of any coach! Tech fans get a grip! Hewitt was out of his league and Bradley had the guts to say it!!! I don’t always agree with Bradley but one thing is for sure…. he has a right to his opinion and regardless of how strong he feels about any coach IT WON’T HAVE A BEARING ON HIS JOB SECURITY! Geez… Tech people crack me up! And before you tell me to go back to my trailor or good luck working the drive or what not…….. save it! I am doing quite well thank you!