Year 1 hasn’t been easy, but Tech and BG are making strides

Brian Gregory, seen offering a friendly reminder. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Brian Gregory offers a friendly reminder. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

GT (Georgia Tech) had just beaten BC (Boston College), and BG (Brian Gregory) was in a GM (good mood). His Yellow Jackets had won their first game in three weeks and their second since Christmas, and when you don’t do it often winning comes to seem a very big deal. “You need tangible evidence sometimes,” Gregory said, and Saturday’s modest victory offered a snippet.

Everyone realized this would be a difficult season: A team that went 13-18 and lost two of its three best players (Iman Shumpert and Brian Oliver) would shuttle between arenas under a new coach, and not just any new coach but a temperamental and tactical departure. But knowing what was coming didn’t make being 8-14 less painful.

“It’s hard on the guys,” Gregory said. “I’m cognizant of that. And it’s not just this year [Tech has been losing] — there’s a piling-on effect. And I know I’m a lot different than what they signed up for. Not to say one way is better than the other, but they’re different.”

When a coach inherits a team and the team loses a lot, we look for signs of surrender. Have guys stopped listening? Stopped caring? On Saturday the Jackets didn’t always play well but they did play hard. They didn’t appear, as was the case in the latter days of Paul Hewitt, a collection of talented players who weren’t sure what to do; this was a team of more modest gifts trying — not always succeeding, but trying — to act like a team.

In those moments when attention to detail slipped, Gregory offered tutorials. He yanked Glen Rice Jr. for neglecting to block out. (Gregory: “A shot goes up and he’s at halfcourt — that’s unacceptable.”) After Boston College scored on a fast break and then on a drive, he called timeout. (”Just a friendly reminder,” he said, smiling.)

Then: “There are some things that are non-negotiable in this program. If you don’t do them … ”

It has been intriguing to watch Gregory’s handling of Rice. On the one hand, he’s Tech’s most talented player. On the other, he’ll try shots even Glen Rice Sr. — an NCAA champ at Michigan and an NBA player of long standing — couldn’t have hit. (Said Boston College coach Steve Donahue, surely thinking of Rice: “They took some difficult shots.”)

The younger Rice was suspended for Tech’s first three games (team violation), and Gregory has deployed him more in reserve than as a starter. If you were looking for someone who fits the profile of BG’s Type of Player — tough, selfless, steeped in fundamentals — Rice would not be first on the list. But …

BG is also a born-in-Chicago-and-schooled-under-Tom-Izzo pragmatist. At the end against BC he had Rice on the floor because Rice, for all his excesses, can make plays no other Jacket can. Sure enough, he made the game’s biggest. A missed Rice runner became a Rice putback with 47 seconds left.  The guy who’d been pulled for not rebounding got the rebound that mattered.

Gregory: “We see different things that kind of symbolize that we’re making strides.”

Beating a bad Boston College team was in itself no great achievement — even in its weakened state, Tech is better than BC — but it put the Jackets in position to make a little noise this next month. Of their final seven regular-season games, only one will be against a team that ranks in the ACC’s upper half. (And that one is North Carolina State, which Tech has already beaten.)

As dark as this season has been, there’s a chance Tech could finish 6-10 in the ACC. That might not sound like much, but it’s better than the Jackets did a year ago.

“We want to end the year on a positive note and get some good momentum,” Gregory said. “We want to lay the foundation, and when you build a house you don’t start with a new roof or nice windows. You have to dig in the dirt.”

In Tech’s case, that’s not just a metaphor. The Jackets’ arena is under reconstruction. Next season they’ll again have a home of their own. They’ll also have better players, and they’ll have a coach who knows his business. It hasn’t always been easy to see, but there’s tangible evidence that this program is going to be OK.

By Mark Bradley

84 comments Add your comment

Not Disappointed

February 6th, 2012
10:36 am

I hope they get better soon!

As usual, Ramblin Wreck!

DDPO

February 6th, 2012
10:43 am

They are going to be a solid tournament team by next year…

Hopeful

February 6th, 2012
10:49 am

Mark: Thanks. Good article. I believe we have the right coach and if we will be patient, good days are coming.
I do not write you when I disagree with you because I know you hear from plenty of my fellow alums. So, I will write when I really like your article. :) This is a good one and as a Tech man, I appreciate it.

Rickster

February 6th, 2012
10:52 am

Going back to the last thread, MB. Surprised the score was a low as it was?

JM

February 6th, 2012
10:52 am

If the players continue to respond well to Coach Gregory’s coaching style, a strong finish is a good possibility. Finishing the ACC at 6-10 would be a good first step.

reebok

February 6th, 2012
10:57 am

2 years away from a bid to the dance, but we all knew that recovering from the Hewitt disaster was going to take a while.

Gorilla Biscuit

February 6th, 2012
10:59 am

Oh no! It’s that time of year, when there’s nothing to talk about but basketball. When do pitchers and catchers report?

Sonny Clusters

February 6th, 2012
11:08 am

Try new uniforms and cut the price of hot dogs.

Mark Bradley

February 6th, 2012
11:11 am

Don’t know about the NCAA next year, DDPO. That’s ambitious. But a coach should have his program in gear by Year 3.

jarvis

February 6th, 2012
11:12 am

“We want to lay the foundation, and when you build a house….”
No Mark, I’m pretty sure that’s a metaphor. I don’t think they’ll actually be building a house.

bulldog steve

February 6th, 2012
11:16 am

I think 2 years is reasonable. Next year the excitement will be greater due to the new arena. Fans may wait a year to “buy in” to the program before they fill the new arena. Somehow Tech manages to get good players, even with bad coaching. UGA has good coaching, but is having a difficult time getting enough good players. Its all about perception of the programs.

JacketFanMarcus

February 6th, 2012
11:16 am

I’m very sad at the current state of GT Basketball. It’s been a long, slow decline since my student days at Tech when Mark Price, Bruce Dalrymple, and John Salley were at Tech. Cremins built at top 10 program and had a nice run.

When Hewitt made it to the final four, I thought we were back. We probably keep Hewitt at least one or two seasons too long. And the program has lost momentum.

The only thing we have going for us it that we’re in the ACC.

Hopefully Gregory can recruit and get us back on the national stage.

juvenal

February 6th, 2012
11:34 am

road ACC & UGA wins-already better……..wish they would play GT-UGA at Phillips…..

Shug

February 6th, 2012
11:38 am

I’d give Rich Yunkus more minutes, and if that fails, rely on Tico Brown.

GTBob

February 6th, 2012
11:40 am

The team will be ok. What we really need are more play makers on offense. I have noticed that Royal is getting a lot more aggressive on the offensive end and that is a good sign. We just can’t rely on Udofia and Rice to do all of the scoring. With the good recruits we have coming in next year, our team will be a lot different.

GIVE ME A BREAK

February 6th, 2012
11:41 am

Rice must not want to play in the NBA or either they have lowered their standards. He sounds like a spoiled project.

BigTimeTechFan

February 6th, 2012
11:45 am

Team reminds me of the days when playing in the Metro Conference.
Tech does look like they are playing better, but at same time UVA, FSU, plus adding Pitt and Cuse in ACC, Tech will have to step up a whole lot just to show improvment. 3 Recruits are on the way plus the transfer from Kentucky will help a lot. You will see Tech back in NCAA tourney next year.

Front court:
Miller
Holsey
R Carter
J Royal

Back Court:
Marcus Hunt
Chris Bolden
Mufon Udofia
Stacey Poole
Brandon Reed

Wil be very deep and nice lineup

ToeMeetsLeather

February 6th, 2012
11:45 am

Good article MB, as Jacket fans all we want is to be able to get excited about our basketball program again. Hopefully CBG can get the new dome rocking, regain the students interest and have us back on national TV in short order. Tired of watching us on the “U”. He appears to be well on his way.

BigTimeTechFan

February 6th, 2012
11:46 am

@juvenal

What about Sammy Drummer

GIVE ME A BREAK

February 6th, 2012
11:51 am

I agree with Bradley, year 3 CBG will have his players in and should see real improvement.

Mark Bradley

February 6th, 2012
11:54 am

On the other hand, if you were picking the year to be not very good, the one where not many people figured to watch you would have been it.

Always a Jacket

February 6th, 2012
12:00 pm

BG’s team is much more entertaining to watch than a “more talented” Hewitt team. Drad is responsible for this mess. Everyone knew that Hewitt was coasting after the big contract deal by Braine. Hopefully, BG will be next Bobby C.

The Mask

February 6th, 2012
12:07 pm

I think next year might be a reach but 2 years from now I don’t see a reason why they coudn’t/shouldn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament. If they all stay (including the new transfer Poole) there will be 6 seniors that will play meaningful roles. That’s the year I’m interested in.

I have to give BG credit, he has made the best of a bad situation and really done well with what he’s been given to work with. Though watching this team game in and game out this season just show you how far Hewitt ran the program into the ground his last couple of years there.

Just saying..

February 6th, 2012
12:15 pm

The Tech team I saw lose to Duke played hard, played defense, and played as a team. That really works for this GT fan.

Jacket Backer

February 6th, 2012
12:17 pm

Nice article Mark. My wife and I were at the game Saturday and we had a good time. You’re right, the team is playing hard for BG. He does not have much talent this year, especially on offense. Rice is the only player they have that seems to be able to create a shot and has any game at all offensively. I truely believe GT has the right coach in place. He is already proving he can recruit. New arena coming next year. Better days are ahead!

Go Jackets!!

eastbound and down

February 6th, 2012
12:29 pm

GA, GA Tech, the Braves and the Falcons are “always improving” in your postings, MB. Plus, drivel like the Braves are going to make the playoffs, the Falcons will beat the Giants, etc. geez, what is your glass half-filled with Psilocybin mushrooms?

Paul in NH

February 6th, 2012
12:31 pm

Gregory appears to have a plan and he has made a good start in recruiting. GT should be better next year but to really get into the top 3 – 4 in the conference and go to the NCAA’s regularly they need an ACC-caliber PG. They don’t have one on the roster or signed for next year.

old dog

February 6th, 2012
12:45 pm

Ok, the truth always comes out. As a Bulldog, I must confess that back in the Mark Price/Creamons and company days, I pulled for ya’ll. (Many dawgs did, they just won’t admit it.) Ya’ll are in one of if not THE premier b-ball conferences in the nation. You’ll get there. Meanwhile, we just gotta get recruits our way……..

Jim 70

February 6th, 2012
12:48 pm

1. No stupid turnovers: except for the first qtr, great job.
2. Make free throws: they did well
3. Play solid defense: solid job
4. Block out: as you mentioned, not so good
5. No early or NBA range 3-pointers: fair

I do not expect a tourney team this year, but hopefully BG is getting their attention on the five points I am looking for in this team. The fact they did well in the first three, especially after the 23 or so turnovers against FSU, shows hopefully the team is getting the message. They certainly did not under PH.

SteveW

February 6th, 2012
12:56 pm

BG has inherited a ton of talent, has an outstanding recruiting class coming in, and Poole that Kentucky transfer. The next couple of season, Tech could majorly surprise alot of people.

Did I mention no major contributor is a Senior? Tech is stacked big time for next season, with a ton of talented experience. That makes for a good combination.

SteveW

February 6th, 2012
12:58 pm

Paul in NH – Isn’t Poole a PG? And Udofia will be a Sr. as well next season.

RAMBLE ON!!!

February 6th, 2012
12:58 pm

I new we where headed in the right direction, when we successfully in-bounded the ball.

Outside Observer

February 6th, 2012
12:59 pm

Bradley, I know that this is a far cry from the most talented teams to grace the Georgia Tech uniform, but a lot of these guys were highly ranked. Udofia was a top 35 recruit by ESPN and Rivals, Morris in the top 100 by ESPN and Rivals, Miller in the top 100 by ESPN, Rice in the top 50 by Rivals, Holsey in the top 75 by ESPN and Rivals. Were these guys potentially hampered by the previous regime, and now their lack of fundamentals are clearly showing?

SteveW

February 6th, 2012
1:08 pm

Outside – That’s my point exactly – This team is stacked with talent – and Morris, Holsey, and Miller will be Jrs. next season, and Udofia and Rice Seniors, even Julian will be a So. This team is stacked with talent, then Poole transferring in, one of the best youngsters in the country, and a great recruiting class – This Program is stacked for the next 2-3 years in my opinion.

GT Sid

February 6th, 2012
1:10 pm

BTTF, the line up looks much better for next year but what about point gaurd? Can we land one for next year? I see on scout that Madison Jones has some interested, can he help? Can we get him or ???

GTBob

February 6th, 2012
1:11 pm

Were these guys potentially hampered by the previous regime, and now their lack of fundamentals are clearly showing?

I think the previous regime just didn’t develop them very well as players at the college level. You can see a lot of street ball in the way they play and that just isn’t going to work at the ACC level. CBG runs a more systematic offense then Hewitt did and some are still not adapting very well.

BravesFan79

February 6th, 2012
1:11 pm

Im hopefully for the future as a longtime GT hoops fan, but i hope Gregory can get the big name recruits that Hewitt landed. (Can he pull a #1 in the nation player like D Favors?)

I still think GT hoops would of been in great shape had they forced Hewitt to get rid of most of his assistants, and brought in the best assistants money could buy! In essance, make it like football, have a great offensive/ defensive coordinator, and keep Hewitt as head coach/ recruiter!

BravesFan79

February 6th, 2012
1:14 pm

Of course ive been saying the thing about the assistants since Favors was a highschool senior. They didnt force change, and that team underperformed because of lack of coaching.

Paul in NH

February 6th, 2012
1:17 pm

@SteveW
Stacey Poole is a SF
Mfon Udofia is a SG in a PG body – he is not an ACC caliber PG.

StingerSplash

February 6th, 2012
1:17 pm

Though there may be a dearth of talent, compared to previous years, at least this team looks like it knows what it’s supposed to be doing on the floor. As opposed to the vast majority of the Hewitt reign, when it looked like nobody had a clue, including the coach.

BravesFan79

February 6th, 2012
1:21 pm

I support Gregory, but without landing the top players in the nation is the best we can hope for to be like VT and Clemson? To have a bunch of 20 win seasons because of a good “system”, yet always get put out in the first 2 rounds of the NCAA tourney to more talented teams??
Thats why i said years ago, when u have a top notch recruiter like hewitt, you limit his power, hire the best assistants possible, and let him recruit.

dennis montecalvo

February 6th, 2012
1:25 pm

did’nt get the high dollar high profile coach they wanted because of the money owed to hewitt,and now it’s starting to show,dayton was ready to run off gregory

ToeMeetsLeather

February 6th, 2012
1:27 pm

BravesFan, we do not need to go the “one and done” route again. That is one of the main reasons the program is in the shape it’s in now. Give me a Matt Harpring or Tom Hammonds over a Favors, Young, or Glover any day of the week. We need guys to buy into our program and work as a team. Not folks working on their NBA weaknesses for six months!

GTBrad

February 6th, 2012
1:30 pm

I thought Udofia was a senior this year..Did he redshirt?

UGA = Yawn

February 6th, 2012
1:41 pm

I’m as big a fan of BG as i wasn’t of PH. We made the right choice, albeit a few years late. he is a great guy. I was at the home opener in the Gwinnett Ctr and it was actually fun. I think, as GT fans, we need to be patient. If it happens next year – great – but realistically – a few years is ok. The new arena should help. I hope all GT buys tickets next year, regardless, to show their support of GT and the direction he is taking our school.

spider

February 6th, 2012
1:55 pm

looking at BYU football schedule so far it appears their trip to atlanta will have to be in late oct or early to mid november..i sure hate to see GT playing these bunch of cheaters.

RD

February 6th, 2012
1:58 pm

BravesFan are you aware BG landed some pretty good recruits and Poole (former 4 star recruit who went to Kentucky) is transferring? According to rivals we have 3 of the top 150 players in the nation for next year.

spider

February 6th, 2012
2:00 pm

looking at gt schedule down the road they could win 3 or 4 more games or maybe more with a little luck.

Mark Bradley

February 6th, 2012
2:00 pm

Udofia didn’t redshirt. He was part of the Derrick Favors class. Favors would have been a junior.

spider

February 6th, 2012
2:00 pm

i hope for once the baseball team can live up to the pre season hype.