Kennesaw, Tech and Georgia State: Assessing hoops hires

At Kennesaw, Lewis Preston walks into a difficult job. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

At Kennesaw State, Lewis Preston walks into a difficult job. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Here I sit, smack in the midst of what was, at least for six weeks, the Coaching Vacancy Capital of the Basketball World, and now the positions have been filled and darned if I can find cause to criticize any of the three. Have I lost it or what? (Don’t answer all at once.)

Georgia State hired Ron Hunter. Georgia Tech hired Brian Gregory. Last but not in any way least, Kennesaw State hired Lewis Preston, who was introduced at the school Tuesday. I’d give solid B’s to Tech’s and KSU’s new men, and I’d give something better to Georgia State’s. Here’s a look at each case.

Kennesaw State: This was the trickiest of the three hires. The Owls had to first find an athletic director, and they landed an impressive one in Vaughn Williams, who apprenticed at Boston College and UConn. Then Williams, whose official start date isn’t until May, had to identify someone willing to take a job that pays less — Preston will earn $145,000 — than many major-college assistants make. And that same man would have to agree to work year-to-year. (Because it has no athletic association, KSU doesn’t offer long-term contracts )

Williams found Preston, who has spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Penn State and who’d worked under Mike Brey at Notre Dame and under Billy Donovan at Florida when the Gators took their second of two NCAA titles. As Williams noted: “That’s the Big East, the SEC and the Big Ten.”

No, Preston hasn’t been a head coach, but almost nobody who has had any success as a collegiate head coach would have dared to take this job. KSU hasn’t yet slogged through the transition from Division II to D-I, and the Owls are facing scholarship losses due to academic issues besides. Yet Preston, who’s 40, agreed with eyes wide open. “I’m confident in my abilities as a coach,” he said.

To his credit, Preston had actually heard of Kennesaw State. “I stayed at the SpringHill Suites [off Chastain Road] when I was going up to Rome to see Tony Woods,” said Preston, recalling a recruiting trip from 2007. “I remember walking around the [KSU] campus and thinking, “This is such a beautiful place, and nobody knows about it.”

He has the chance to change that.

Hiring verdict: Given the circumstances, KSU did as well as it could have — and that shouldn’t be construed as faint praise.

Georgia Tech: The Jackets’ hire hasn’t been viewed as a bonanza by the masses, but how many major programs did better? Gregory has done good (if not quite surpassing) work at Dayton, a mid-major that has more rabid fans than he’ll find here. Compare that to Missouri’s hire (Frank Haith, lately of Miami), or North Carolina State’s (Mark Gottfried, who resigned from Alabama in 2009). And surely the new Oklahoma coach wouldn’t have been received nearly as well in Atlanta, Lon Kruger having once been fired by the Hawks.

Given that Richmond’s Chris Mooney and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and VCU’s Shaka Smart got big raises to re-up, this was a difficult year to be shopping at the mid-major market. Tech managed to find its man without subjecting itself to repeated turndowns, which is more than N.C. State. 

Hiring verdict: Gregory isn’t long on charisma, but he’s a good coach.

Georgia State: One of the least successful programs in the history of Division I needed to get creative, and AD Cheryl Levick did. In Hunter, she found a man who has won with an afterthought program in a big city — he spent 17 seasons at IUPUI, which is based in Indianapolis — and managed to attract attention to boot. Indeed, she might have found the one man in the industry who has done so well but who would still regard Georgia State as a step up.

The only real success Georgia State has known was under Lefty Driesell, who was 65 when he arrived. Hunter is 46. He has time and room to grow. And he can really coach: The only losing seasons his Jaguars had were the three following their move from Division II to Division I. 

Hiring verdict: There could be no better fit of coach to challenge.

By Mark Bradley

44 comments Add your comment

D A DoubleU G

April 26th, 2011
6:12 pm

Kennesaw State’s fired coach beat Georgia Tech’s fired coach who beat Dayton’s fired coach who is now Georgia Tech’s new coach……..

wow.

Great hire Tech!!!!

pompous losers.

D A DoubleU G

April 26th, 2011
6:13 pm

Hey Mark!!!,

FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!

D A DoubleU G

April 26th, 2011
6:14 pm

*correction,

Dayton did not fire their coach….. but his record against Dayton’s cakewalk scheduleis very less than impressive…..

headley lamar

April 26th, 2011
6:15 pm

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/tech-baseball-player-skole-856270.html

Matt Skole a white Ga Tech baseball player could have killed someone with his car but it barely gets mentioned.

A black FORMER Uga football player tests positive for Marijuana and its a big deal.

Double standard. You betcha.

Hewitt Fan

April 26th, 2011
6:20 pm

@ Mark

GT had the worst hire by far in the nation..I wish the guy the best, but come on!…He was going to get fired from Dayton next year if he failed to make the NCAA’s..you messed up big time Mark…your personal feelings will set Gt back 5 more years…

EFFIE'S of Athens Boarding House

April 26th, 2011
6:21 pm

Way to go the extra mile defending the Dawgs, – headley.

ccrider

April 26th, 2011
6:34 pm

Wow, Look who doesn’t have a life. The first 5 posts by Dawg fans ( YES, Hewitt Fan Too) and their collective sports knowledge would fill a teacup. You guys might want to worry about your programs at UGA, they aren’t exactly setting the world on fire.

Charisma Verdict

April 26th, 2011
6:34 pm

Paul Johnson is another good coach who isn’t long on charisma.

juvenal

April 26th, 2011
6:35 pm

looks like jon stewart-don’t like sitting players down on a clock, even if they’re zoning-but if they hit some FT’s, & he can teach them how to move the ball without palming or traveling, then maybe he can turn those aau hotdogs how to play like a team, & Tech will improve in a conference where those things still matter…

juvenal

April 26th, 2011
6:36 pm

d a, act like you’ve been there…

John

April 26th, 2011
6:55 pm

Lamar, you’re a moron. The UGA player is a potential first round pick AND a possible pick by the Falcons. Stop playing the race card and grow up. You sir are the racist here

Sonny Clusters

April 26th, 2011
6:59 pm

We could always coach but not basketball. We know about everything about baseball and not so much about basketball. That’s three abouts in one sentence and you can see why we no longer work at the paper.

Sonny Clusters

April 26th, 2011
7:03 pm

Clusters was always leaders. There was General Clusters back during the WBTS. Some people wanted to confuse him with General Custer but we got that straightened out right away. If we was military we would probably be General Clusters, too, but we did not do all that well when we went to Selective Service and they wanted us to jump. We are still glad with the decision to go second shift.

Houston

April 26th, 2011
7:04 pm

Anyone need a hit. Good good stuff.

DoddSquad

April 26th, 2011
7:12 pm

Headley Lamar…it’s not a double standard. If Skole had a DUI two days before the MLB draft, it would be a big story. Houston is not just a black athlete here. He is a potential first-round draft pick who is now no longer a potential first round draft pick. That story has big merit regardless of skin color. Secondly, UGA gets way more coverage of anything related to it’s sports program because it’s fan base is much larger than GT.
Finally, this story is big because UGA had 11 arrests last year and things like this seem to haunt the program….from the top down (see former AD). Skole was the first GT problem since Terrant (and he was later ruled innocent).
So, a combination of draft day timing, draft potential, UGA affiliation and UGA’s absurd knack for breaking rules…..made this story big. Racism dies when people quit giving it CPR.

juvenal

April 26th, 2011
7:25 pm

NOW i see why they don’t like Matt-hitting .515 vs. dauugs….on FSS, by the way…

Hawks win in 5

April 26th, 2011
7:40 pm

Wait, so GSU is Georgia State University?

Well, that settles that! Suck it, Statesboring!!

GaStateChris

April 26th, 2011
7:40 pm

Ron Turner? Nice, Bradley.

But you are right on your assessment. I definitely think GSU made the best hire.

RambleOn84

April 26th, 2011
7:41 pm

On UGA fans’ obsession over Tech (for these purposes, football):

If we want to count RECOGNIZED national championships (meaning championships picked by selectors recognized by the NCAA), Tech has three (1917, 1928, and 1990) and UGA has one (1980).
If we want to count any year that ANY selector chose either team as their national champion, Tech has 6 (1917, 1928, 1951, 1952, 1956, 1990) and Georgia has 5 (1927, 1942, 1946, 1968, 1980).
If we want to count BCS National Championships, both Tech and Georgia have 0.
If we want to count undefeated seasons (including ties), Tech has 8 (1905, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1928, 1951, 1952, 1990) and Georgia has 4 (1896, 1920, 1946, 1980).
If we want to count undefeated AND untied seasons, Tech has 3 (1917, 1928, 1952) and Georgia has 3 (1896, 1946, 1980).
Tech comes out on top of every list except undefeated and untied seasons, although it should be noted that in 1896 Georgia only played 4 games.
When Tech and Georgia were both in the SIAA conference (1895-1920), Tech had 5 titles (1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921) and UGA had 2 (1896, 1920). Tech and UGA shared the title in 1920 apparently.
When Tech and Georgia were both in the Southern Conference (1921-1932), Tech had 3 titles (1922, 1927, 1928) and UGA had 0.
When Tech and Georgia were both in the SEC (1933-1963), Tech had 5 titles (1939, 1943, 1944, 1951,1952) and UGA had 4 (1942, 1946, 1948, 1959).
So in summary, Tech leads UGA in every one of these historical measures, save for one: UGA leads the all-time head-to-head series.
But since UGA fans don’t care about Tech anyway, this is really nothing to brag about.
I guess we now see why so many UGA fans come onto our blogs so often.
Jealousy is a very ugly thing.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2011
7:43 pm

Many would-be charismatic leaders give off the scent of BS.

GT Alum

April 26th, 2011
7:46 pm

Hewitt Fan -

While the Gregory hire didn’t really excite the Tech fan base, you really think he’s worse than Mizzou getting Haith or Gottfried?

GT Alum

April 26th, 2011
7:47 pm

I remember Hunter’s IUPUI teams giving Hewitt’s Tech teams all they could handle. Gotta agree with Mark on that one – given that the GSU job isn’t a highly attractive one, it’s a very good hire.

the real Old Gold

April 26th, 2011
7:48 pm

Actually… Georgia Tech’s new coach beat Georgia Tech’s fired coach head to head. UGA doesn’t have fact checkers?

AlabamaRamblinwreck

April 26th, 2011
8:35 pm

“Gregory has done good (if not quite surpassing) work at Dayton, a mid-major that has more rabid fans than he’ll find here”….you are kidding, Bradley, right?

GT had plenty of rabid fans until Phewitt sucked all the life out of us…..

Go Panthers!!

April 26th, 2011
8:45 pm

You’re right, Mark. I don’t know if Levick could have hired a coach with a better resume for this particular job.

And beyond his work history, the man’s energy is so damn infectious that you can’t help but be curious as to what he will do.

blazerdawg

April 26th, 2011
8:53 pm

Agree with MB that the Hunter hire at Georgia State was the best and most hard earned hire. The AD really must have done her research to come-up with that candidate and then persuade him to make the move. Hunter realizes the opportunity at State with a high profile mid-major conference, large student body, and abundance of potential recruits near the campus.

State may be program that has a poor history, but IMO the program has some similarities to the Braves organization in the 1970s – losers for certain, but kind of interesting, with a lot of potential, and a larger following than folks outside of Atlanta realize. Hope it works out well for the Panthers.

Paul in RDU

April 26th, 2011
10:21 pm

AlabamaRamblinwreck
You are obviously unfamiliar with Dayton’s basketball program. They have been in the top 35 in average home attendance for over 40 consecutive years. Their attendance has been higher than GT’s in every year during that span.

Sarge1

April 26th, 2011
10:47 pm

HEADLY LAMAR: You are the racist here: Skole DID NOT kill anybody here but the UGA THUG did TEST positive SEVEERAL times for drug use. In both instances the news media reported just that: the news. Sorry to expose your racist witchunt. Better luck next crime.

GT GRAD

April 26th, 2011
10:56 pm

Coach Gregory will make believers out of all (or atleast most) of the negative nay-sayers. Just give him time.

I sincerley think most of the negative posts about Gregory are primarily from UGA fans trying to talk down GT!

Chumbly

April 26th, 2011
11:38 pm

heady: How does your weak comparison relate to the above story?

A legitimate example of the media’s double standard concerns the deafening silence related to the near $5 a gallon price of gasoline as compared to the media’s outrage over similar circumstances under a different president, but that still has nothing to do with the locals’ recent basketball hires.

Alabama Communist

April 26th, 2011
11:43 pm

If you were out of work and living in your Kennesaw house that is being foreclose, You would sign in a Donald Trump heartbeat for 145 grand a year with a one year contract anywhere, anytime to coach the KSU drawf basketball team…

Knockahoma

April 26th, 2011
11:58 pm

Hey Houston, I’m to your left, pass it here next man. Anyone who actually cares that someone tested positive for marijuana needs to get a life. The kid’s going to the league, and hell if it does bump him down in the draft, it may mean the falcons will get a chance at him. At which point this chief will look him up because I’m sure he’ll have the hook up on some really nice bud. Get over it people, my generation will legalize it!!!

Knockahoma

April 27th, 2011
12:01 am

Hey Mark, do you mind explaining in further detail what the non-affiliation/inability to sign anyone to long-term deal is about?

Also, as a recent KSU alum, thank you very much for giving some coverage to the Owls.

Mark Bradley

April 27th, 2011
12:03 am

I believe it has to do with legality, Knockahoma. An athletic association would be needed to enter into long-term contracts with employees of such an association.

GState08

April 27th, 2011
12:33 am

As a Georgia State alum I’ve always felt that we could build a good basketball program here. I feel that we may finally have the right athletic director and coach to make it happen.

Not A Hewitt Fan

April 27th, 2011
8:04 am

KSU’s new coach looks like a character off 90’s episode of Law and Order…swear he does.

KevinM

April 27th, 2011
9:22 am

Agreed, KSU brought in 2 guys with excellent credentials. For them, it’s about keeping local talent from leaving the state. How far away are we from seeing a KSU getting a big recruit from a Tech or Georgia? A potential George Mason 3.0 after what VCU accomplished this year?

GSU needed young bloodmto come in a refresh the program. Instate talent is here…can they convince guys Atlanta is a great place to earn your degree, or at least move towards?

I still yawn about Tech; they couldn’t have done better than that? The glorified ACC team they are?
You would think big names other than Bobby Knight would have interest. Are you telling AD Rad had Gregory near the top of his list? Why not a top Duke or Carolina assistant? If you are getting beat by the best on a regular basis, wouldn’t you want to weaken them and gain an advantage?

Outside Observer

April 27th, 2011
10:46 am

Always nice to come to a blog discussing the coaching hires of three local schools and topics include racism, drugs, and DUIs. Come on guys, stick to the subject. I think all three schools did a solid job with their hirings. Gregory inherited a crippled fanbase thanks to the work of his predecessor (and Hewitt Fan, although it is implied in your name, you sir, are an idiot). Ingle supposedly put the school in a tedious academic situation, and with the lack of an athletic association and a brand new AD, it was a difficult atmosphere to sell. Georgia State is on the upturn (I personally thought Barnes deserved one more year) but it will always be the little brother to Tech and UGA as well as conference foes like George Mason. I wish success to all of the programs.

Paranoid Tech Fan

April 27th, 2011
11:53 am

Mark,

Yet another article proving you have a UGA bias.

William Casey

April 28th, 2011
1:21 am

I’ll go on record (using my real name) that Brian Gregory will do fine at GT. If Shumpert returns, the Jackets could well contend for third in the ACC. This might not be the Shaka Smart type “chaisma” hire, but Gregory is a solid coach. A real indicator will be if he is able to get Glen Rice Jr. back on track. For whatever reason, Rice, a very talented player, went into a funk midway through last year.

Amanda Katz

April 28th, 2011
12:16 pm

Maybe they should teach reading at UGA D A DoubleU G – Gregory beat Tech not the other way around you idiot

Jason Jones

April 28th, 2011
12:34 pm

I guess D A DoubleU G’s comment about Hewitt beating Gregory proves that SEC schools (and those to attend them) have no clue when it comes between the difference between facts and lies, right and wrong, etc

Frank

April 28th, 2011
6:20 pm

As a Cobb Co. resident, I decided to attend a couple of KSU basketball games the season before this last dreadful one. In one game, KSU took Belmont to overtime before losing and in the other, beat Lipscomb in an exciting up tempo game. Tony Ingle was able to attract some guys who could flat out play with the A-Sun’s best teams, so I hope the new coach can do that and better. As I understand it, they have completed their transition to D-I as they have played in the A-Sun tournament the last two seasons. Maybe there are other issues to be resolved.

[...] GSU Made Best Hire – Mark Bradely of the AJc thinks that GSU made the best men’s basketball hire out of GSU, Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech. We of course, agree. [AJC.com] [...]