Yeah, I’m surprised. I thought a man sitting on a $7.1 million buyout would kick back, work in TV for a year or so — and he’d be good on TV — and then consider his next coaching move. You know, do it the way Steve Lavin did it. But no.
Paul Hewitt, recently of Georgia Tech, has taken the George Mason job that came open when Jim Larranaga left for Miami, which had a vacancy because Frank Haith left for Missouri, which needed a coach because Mike Anderson went back to Arkansas, which started all this by firing John Pelphrey about the same time Tech fired Hewitt. Got that?
My immediate thought: As career restarts go, George Mason is about as a good place as you can find. It’s a brand-name mid-major that has proved it can reach the Final Four, and hiring a former ACC man — a man who led Tech to the 2004 NCAA title game — is a nice get for Mason.
That’s correct. This persistent Hewitt critic has just given Mason a thumbs-up. Because there was a time when I believed he was the next great college coach. He did mostly excellent work his first five seasons at Tech, and I figured it was only a matter of time before he established this as no worse than the third-best program in the Tiffany League on an annual basis.
It didn’t happen, and for the life of me I don’t know why. I’ve never seen a coach of such obvious talent have a program unravel so completely. After three outright losing seasons in four tries, it was time for Tech to move on, and it has. And now Hewitt is moving on, too, and good for him.
He’ll do well at George Mason. The Patriots have almost everybody back from a team that was a creditable No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA field. (Mason beat Villanova in Round 1 and lost by 32 points to Ohio State in Round 2.) Hewitt proved here he could handle inherited players: He took Bobby Cremins’ leftovers, Tony Akins and Alvin Jones among them, and made the NCAA tournament his first season.
And the best part about George Mason? That’s a school not known for having one-and-dones. Hewitt might not be able to sign the biggest names there, but those players he does sign he figures to keep for four years.
Oh, and one thing more: Hewitt won’t be a stranger to Atlanta. George Mason is in the Colonial League, same as Georgia State. Those teams play every year. Hewitt has even won in the GSU Sports Arena. Might want to keep him away from the Kennesaw State Convocation Center, though.
By Mark Bradley