Tech’s Brian Gregory: Not a hot guy, but he’ll bring the heat

He's coming here to go to work. And there's work to do. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

There's work to be done. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

We’re human. We all do it. We watch the NCAA tournament and we’re smitten by the Hot Young Coach of Cinderella U. And — let’s be honest — it would have been more fun if the man behind the microphone Monday had been Shaka Smart, tapped to bring his VCU brand of giant-felling “havoc” to downtrodden Georgia Tech.

But the glow of March eventually fades, and even the hottest hottie has to go back to work. And sometimes hotness isn’t transferable. In 2007 Todd Lickliter left Butler after two Sweet 16 runs for the lure of Iowa’s bigger money and wider stage. He lasted three seasons. In 1999 Dan Monson exited Gonzaga after an appearance in the Elite Eight. He resigned from Minnesota in 2007, having never lifted the Gophers to the Big Dance.

Brian Gregory is neither hot nor all that young. (He’s 44.) He arrives at Tech having done good work at Dayton. Had he done great work there, he’d have been at a bigger job and therefore beyond the Jackets’ reach. Bear that in mind. Having to pay its former coach $7 million to leave, Tech couldn’t throw bags of money at his successor. It wasn’t shopping along Rodeo Drive. That said …

Tech didn’t need a hot coach. It needed a competent one. It found him.

Gregory wore the requisite pinstriped suit and gold tie at his introductory briefing, but at heart he’s no fashion plate. He’s a Chicago guy — “I eat Chicago hot dogs and Chicago pizza,” he said — who apprenticed in the toughest-minded program there is. At Michigan State he worked first for Jud Heathcote, who won an NCAA title with an oversize point guard from Lansing bearing the nickname Magic, and then for Tom Izzo, who took his championship with a bunch of guys from Flint.

Who’s hot? Who’s not? These aren’t questions the new Tech man ponders. He gets up and goes to work. He’ll hold individual instruction sessions Tuesday with players whose names he doesn’t yet know. “And they really will be individual instruction,” he said. “It’ll be me and whoever’s in the gym with me.”

For reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable, Tech basketball had lost its way. In this smallish man from Chicago, it has a guide. In his interview Thursday, Gregory sounded every note this search committee wanted to hear. Said Dan Radakovich, the athletic director: “He hit on all those things, and it wasn’t pre-scripted — the [need to embrace] former players, the academics, the responsibilities of our current players.”

Someone asked Gregory if Georgia Tech can make the Final Four. “They already have,” he said, not batting an eye. “That’s the first thing you have to ask: ‘Has it been done before? ‘ ”

Gregory sees Tech basketball not as some niche sport in the busy big city but in holistic terms — it’s a program with a past and a future, and it’s a vital part of the Institute and Atlanta. Even his critics in Dayton concede he was a pillar of both university and community, and that’s something this program had lost. People here stopped talking about Tech hoops, and not only because Tech stopped winning.

About winning: Is it fair to think Gregory will fare better in the ACC than he did in the Atlantic 10, where he didn’t win as big as Dayton fans thought he should? Certainly he’ll have access to better players here — even in its weakened state, Tech doesn’t carry the tag of “mid-major” — and if he fails it won’t be for lack of effort. “Nobody’s going to work harder than I will,” he said.

Work: It’s not a concept that connotes hotness. Heck, it sounds downright old-fashioned. But a program of such inherent resources doesn’t require a savior as much as a steward.

What’s the stock in trade of an Izzo team? The Princeton offense? Full-court pressure? No and no. Year upon year, the best thing Michigan State does is rebound, and rebounding is nine-tenths effort. Sometimes Izzo would break out shoulder pads and helmets to teach them ferocity. “Those days are long gone,” said Gregory, meaning the need for football gear. “But we emphasize rebounding. We get after it good.”

There are Tech fans who are disappointed by this hire. They shouldn’t be. After they watch this coach and his team play a couple of times, they won’t be.  Gregory’s guys are going to get after it good.

By Mark Bradley

181 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

March 28th, 2011
7:18 pm

Buck Commander

March 28th, 2011
7:21 pm

I may play the lottery tonight. If I win I will share with Mark!!

Buck Commander

March 28th, 2011
7:24 pm

Buck Commander

March 28th, 2011
7:26 pm

Man, I need to get a life. Sorry above the second comment but I have been drinking all day and hit the wrong button.

O'Brien

March 28th, 2011
7:28 pm

Mark,

Any idea on his coaching staff?

GTfanForerver

March 28th, 2011
7:28 pm

I’m looking forward to next year. Just the coach that we needed.

Buck Commander

March 28th, 2011
7:28 pm

Since I’m the only person on here I guess nobody will notice anyway.

William Satterwhite

March 28th, 2011
7:29 pm

Great column Mark, here’s to renewed success under Coach Gregory!

Sonny Clusters

March 28th, 2011
7:29 pm

We was in the same shape when we read about MARTA bringing back the Braves shuttle but it won’t be going by the stadium this year.

jumbeauxtiger

March 28th, 2011
7:30 pm

Maybe he’s not flashy but Tech fans have to be exciting after the lackluster results under Hewitt.

GTboro

March 28th, 2011
7:31 pm

Good luck, Coach!

Hewitt Fan

March 28th, 2011
7:33 pm

@Mark bradley What a terrible hire! No way you can spice it up..You ran Hewitt out, and I told everyone, no hot coach would want the GT job..the Dayton fan boards are happy that we took their problem off their hands..I hope this guy can at least recruit, because i watched Dayton this year and their offense looked horrible!..I wish him the best of luck, but i think you are going to have to run another coach out of town in 3 years..everyone noticed how you disrespected Hewitt, and GT student athletes..posting replacements for him before the season ended made me shake my head..i hope you feel good, but you and i know this was a horrible hire!.please don’t do Coach Gregory like you did Hewitt…good luck coach Gregory!

Huh?

March 28th, 2011
7:33 pm

This is what we were waiting for?

Hewitt Fan

March 28th, 2011
7:35 pm

@Mark Bradley
you and i know both this was a horrible hire

Hewitt Fan

March 28th, 2011
7:37 pm

The Dayton fan boards are happy, we took their problem off their hands, i told everyone, no hot coach was ever going to come to GT..

fallen program

March 28th, 2011
7:46 pm

Wow. Dayton fans and alumni weren’t happy with this guy and now he’s the coach at GT. What does that say about the state of GT basketball program? GT basketball was fun to watch back in the days of mark price and then with those great kenny anderson and dennis scott teams.

The dave braine contract decision was a major a factor in this lackluster hire. It was all about money and hewitt’s contract is going to affect Tech basketball for years to come. Too bad because Georgia is producing some of the best basketball talent in the nation and tech won’t be able to take advantage of it.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

March 28th, 2011
7:46 pm

Buzz 2010

March 28th, 2011
7:46 pm

Hey Hewitt Fan, why don’t you go visit with your Dayton friends.
The Flyers could use a good sensible fan like you while they search for a hot coach!!
Enjoy, make it a long visit……………………..

icallbs

March 28th, 2011
7:47 pm

I think TECH may have a gem. Congrats. TECH B’ball will be back. Hewitt Fan, you make our idiots (UGA, and yes, every fan base has them) look like rocket surgeons.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

March 28th, 2011
7:48 pm

HewittFan: I don’t agree with you on anything, but you were right about this one. BUT, you have the reason wrong…it’s not that a hot coach “would never come” to GT. A hot coach would have come, but not for the $$ we wanted to pay. SAD

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
7:48 pm

Here we go, multiple IDs already…and so obvious.

GT Alum

March 28th, 2011
7:49 pm

So, you’re saying Radakovich lied when he said Hewitt’s buyout wouldn’t limit what we could spend on a coach?

blazer

March 28th, 2011
7:51 pm

WELCOME TO TECH!! BRING SOME OF THOSE DAYTON RECRUITS FROM OHIO

AND INDIANA WHO CAN SHOOT,DRIBBLE AND REBOUND!

Kenny Anderson

March 28th, 2011
7:52 pm

yeah Gregory was at Michigan State as an assistant in 1990 along with Izzo who both worked for Heathcote. Bet he remembers Kenny Anderson quite well. The guy that made the last 2nd shot that put the game in OT and culminated into a win and final four appearance for GT.

mcg dawg

March 28th, 2011
7:52 pm

Congrats to Tech on a VERY SOLID HIRE…If Coach Gregory retains any of Jud Heathcote’s fire along with Tom Izzo’s game day X’s & O’s…things will get back on a good track for Tech…sooner rather than later!

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
7:54 pm

GT Alum – I’m trying to figure out who it could have been spent on. Who (other than Pearl) in the Million Dollar Club is looking for a job?

Jacketbacker

March 28th, 2011
7:54 pm

I like this guy. I really do. I will attend basketball games next year. Something I haven’t done in years. He deserves our support!

Go Jackets!!

GT Alum

March 28th, 2011
7:58 pm

Apparently, Gregory is in the Million Dollar Club. Doug Roberson is tweeting that the contract is $6M/6 years, with incentives.

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
8:05 pm

GT Alum – The best info on salaries I could find was USA Today’s list of coaches who made the NCAA last year. There were not what I would call obvious candidates among the coaches that were already making $1 million+. Boeheim? Calhoun? Roy Williams? I would exclude guys making over $2 million, like Rick Barnes (right at that point, as I recall). I’ve closed the link to the site; I’d have to Google for the info again, but I’m not really interested at this point.

Jacket Fan

March 28th, 2011
8:06 pm

After reporting from the Dayton blogosphere, Hewitt Fan has pretty much said it all. You had a good run, girl! Thanks for all of your thought-provoking drivel. Now, please crawl back into your doghouse. You’ve got a lot of licking to catch up on.

Welcome Coach Gregory, and go Jackets!

Matthew Romer

March 28th, 2011
8:11 pm

I have been a Dayton Flyer fan and watched every season under Gregory. He can recruit, i’ll give it to him, but he can not coach a lick. His teams underacheive every year and he has no idea what to do on the offensive side of the ball. GT is going nowhere. Thank you Gregory for liberating us Dayton Flyer fans from another sub-NCAA tourney season.

Matt from MN

March 28th, 2011
8:13 pm

“Dan Monson”…those words send shivers through this Minnesota alumnus!

BankerDawg

March 28th, 2011
8:13 pm

I can’t believe that most of my Tech buddies are really serious when they talk about what a bad hire Gregory is…I’m not sure who they were expecting to land, but I think ultimately this guy will be the answer.

On staff at Michigan State, eight years HEAD coach at a mid major that takes their baskeball pretty seriously, and is young enough to still connect with the kids. It sounds pretty textbook to me, and I can see why DRad pulled the trigger on the hire.

You Tech guys need to get your heads out of your collective hind parts and support your program and this coach, or you really WILL be irrelevant.

Huh?

March 28th, 2011
8:13 pm

I guess dRad figured we had to bite the bullet to break out of the Hewitt vicious circle. Problem was, it was horrible year to look for a coach. So plan B is hire the B coach and limp by 5 years until Hewitt $$s are done..then there’ll be more money in the bank to get an A coach… Pleeze someone tell me this is the master plan! My head hurts.

Herschel Talker

March 28th, 2011
8:14 pm

Mark Fox > Brian Gregory

The Elephant Man > Paul Hewitt

Mark Bradley > Terence Moore

Mark Bradley’s curly hair afro and moustache picture > Mark Bradley’s current picture

weak Buzz

March 28th, 2011
8:18 pm

Tech has lost it way. sorry this won’t help

Hewitt Fan

March 28th, 2011
8:20 pm

This was not about $…this was all about Gt being a horrible job..usually when a school loses their coach to a bigger job, the fans are sad..Dayton fans are jumping for joy..they were spoiled by Purnell, and Gregory could not keep the enjine moving..I told everyone that no hot coach was coming, once again i post nothing but facts! good luck Coach Gregory

The Norcross Hive

March 28th, 2011
8:21 pm

Close, but no cigar, Jacket Fan. Hewitt Fan’s got to get back to nurse her pups.

Poopdawg

March 28th, 2011
8:22 pm

Bradley, do you want to explain who you think the Hot Guy would be?

JacketFan

March 28th, 2011
8:25 pm

Sad thing for you negative Tech fans is that a Dawg fan makes more sense than you guys. Thanks for the slap in the face they needed BANKERDAWG.

I agree 100%.

Good luck Coach Gregory!!!!! Can’t wait to see you get after it!

NoDawgsAllowed

March 28th, 2011
8:26 pm

We’ve replaced a guy who couldn’t coach a lick & was awful in conference play with … a guy who hasn’t shown the ability to coach players up & consistently underachieved in conference play. Where’s the improvement in this? Other than in Dayton, where they’re celebrating being spared a costly buyout I mean.

Mark Bradley

March 28th, 2011
8:26 pm

Gregory wasn’t on the staff in 1989-90, the season of the Kenny Anderson shot. He joined the next year.

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
8:28 pm

I wonder who will take the Dayton job.

Paul N Destin

March 28th, 2011
8:29 pm

I think Tech now understands the status of their program. It’s no way near the status you believed…correct?

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
8:30 pm

Bryan Gregory is undefeated so far. Give him some slack.

Delbert D.

March 28th, 2011
8:30 pm

Brian, not Bryan.

JacketFan

March 28th, 2011
8:33 pm

By the way, excellent article Mark!

I really enjoyed the read. You’ve really been on your game lately. Good stuff. Keep it up! One of my favorite bloggers to read on sports.

Supersize that order, mutt

March 28th, 2011
8:36 pm

Who knows if the Dayton fans who have trashed Gregory are right or not; not all of them feel that way. But Steve Alford was virtually run out of town at Iowa, and he had considerable success there. You can’t always judge a coach by the reaction of some of the fans. A friend of mine in Des Moines told me today that if Alford hadn’t left, he would have been fired. And yet he posted successful records there. Go figure.

Hewitt Fan

March 28th, 2011
8:36 pm

Even though GT fans let Mark Bradley run Hewitt out of here, quit supporting their student athletes, scared to stand up to Duke, bashed their Student athletes, and maybe will never get another kid from the great Atlanta Celtics, i still wanted GT to at least make a decent hire.this is going to be a long 3 years.Have you guys seen Gregory’s offense?..It is terrible to see..Hewitt offense only looked bad when we were young, Dayton had a veteran team!.Wow, Gt has let Mark Bradley push them even farther down in the Coach k conference..GT fans please never listen to Bradley again..you see what it gets you!

Mark Bradley

March 28th, 2011
8:37 pm

Thanks, JacketFan. I’m obliged to you.