Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hawks Are Streaking Heading Into The Playoffs ... And In A Good Way!

The Hawks are currently riding a four game win streak as they enter the last week and a half of the regular season before beginning the playoffs.  They currently sit firmly entrenched at fifth in the standings and by all accounts will probably still be there after the 82nd game is played.  I'm not sure about the rest of you, but that's just fine by me as it would mean that Orlando would most likely be our first round opponent.  If I had to pick, that's the team I think the Hawks can take in a seven game series.  Orlando made some, in my opinion, questionable trades earlier this year that really changed the landscape of their team and, to an extent, how they play, all of which favor the Hawks in a match-up with the Magic.

However, until then, the Hawks still have six games left to play, three against some quality teams and three against some lesser teams.  After watching the Hawks beat Orlando and Boston this week, it looks like they are coming together at the right time.  This team has been wildly inconsistent over the course of the season and one can only hope that the team of the last four games will be the team that shows up in the playoffs.  Houston, San Antonio, and Miami all present different challenges for the Hawks, yet I believe that all three are beatable.  It probably won't happen, but it could be done.  The other three (Indiana, Washington, & Charlotte) shouldn't be much of a problem so long as the Hawks players don't get complacent.

I'm well known to be rather pessimistic when it comes to this team, but I'm making the attempt to stay positive throughout these few final games because the playoffs is where it counts most.  I, like many others, know that this team can beat anyone when they put their knuckleheads into it so I'm going to keep telling myself that and just try to enjoy the wins when we get them.  Once the playoffs begin, I'll get much more serious about this team and where it stands.  I believe that this team can make it out of the first round, but I know it will be a struggle because they have the tendency to basically give up once they get down.  I would say that a first round exit, while not all that surprising, would still be a major disappointment.  If they make it to the second round and get swept, that's going to be a huge, upsetting disappointment.  Not making it out of the second round wouldn't bother me, but not competing or giving up would just piss me off.  Sorry, it would and you can expect a major backlash from the fans, the mainstream media, and every other writer like myself.

But hey, none of that has happened yet so let's all stay positive and let's all support this team.  I encourage everyone who is capable to attend the Spurs and Heat games at home.  I'll be looking for playoff tickets when the time comes and hopefully I'll see some of you guys there.  GO HAWKS!

New GT Basketball Coach Brian Gregory

Recently Georgia Tech hired Brian Gregory, formerly of Dayton, as their new men's basketball coach.  My first impression was that this was a safe hire.  Gregory is experienced and has been rather successful during his near decade long stint at Dayton.  It's definitely not a sensational hire that gets the fans all excited, but it's most assuredly a sensible hire, and that my friends is really what you want your AD to do.  Obviously there has been a small divide in fan opinion of the hire between those who wants the big splash and those who approved the lesser headline hire.

That being said, I do admit that when I first read about it, I thought that they could have attempted to go after one of the younger and more dynamic coaches.  I apologize, but that's the fan in me.  The reason for that thought though was based on some comments from D-Rad not long after letting Hewitt go.  To summarize, he essentially said that Hewitt's buyout would not affect the coaching search and that they would spend what they needed to get the right coach.  To me, that says that if they could pay Hewitt $1.8mil then they could surely pay someone like Anthony Grant something similar or better.  So, from that perspective, I understand why some fans expected something more.  I decided to hold off on a full opinion until the contract details were released, which didn't take long.

Gregory was making close to $200K at Dayton which means that GT wasn't going to offer him anywhere close to what they were paying Hewitt.  In fact, it ended up being a contract for six years worth $1mil per.  Color me officially impressed.  Not only does the lower annual salary offset some of Hewitt's buyout, but I'd say it's a great bang-for-the-buck type hire.

In a previous post I worked through a number of potential coaches' records to try and predict how successful they would be over twenty years if they maintained their current average production.  Brian Gregory is 172-94 through eights years.  That's 21.5 wins and 11.75 losses per year with a 9.75 W/L Diff.  Projected out to twenty years, that ends up being a 430-235 record.  That puts him behind Tubby Smith's current twenty year mark, as well as behind Anthony Grant's and Mike Anderson's projected twenty year numbers, but above all the others in that list.  Anderson and Grant would have cost us much more than $1mil per so it's easy to see that this was indeed an excellent hire.

D-Rad has continually impressed me with his vision for GT athletics and his decision making based on that vision.  He has definitely made his mark on the history of the program.  All that is left is for Gregory to follow through with his end of the deal.  Hopefully he will be able to recruit successfully in the talent rich city of Atlanta and bring an actually system that the fans can see a point in.  After suffering through the last five years of Hewitt, I'm sure just about anything Gregory does on the court will be refreshing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Potential Coaching Candidates For GT

This week on From The Rumble Seat, BirdGT put out a poll on some already mentioned coaching candidates and asked for additional nominees in the comments.  Early this morning, Bird dropped a post with W-L and experience of a compiled list of coaches resulting from the first poll.  There was a wide range of experiences and results from the list, ranging from a national title winner in Tubby Smith to a relative rookie in the business in Anthony Grant (only five years on the job).  Looking at the each coaches W-L record and their years of experience, I began to wonder if I could find a way to compare them using Tubby Smith as my baseline.  Following are the results of that thought process.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Farewell Paul Hewitt, Hello Fresh Start

One of the bigger headlines in the last week was the firing, or rather, the non-renewal of Paul Hewitt's contract at Georgia Tech.  To begin, I'd just like to say thank you to Coach Hewitt for the epic 2004 run.  That was an amazing experience.  I'd also like to thank him for running an extremely clean program while at the Institute.  The worst anyone could say on that front is that the graduation rate was low, to which I would reply so is Kentucky's and Memphis, and UNC, and any other school who regularly recruits top level talent, namely one-n-done's.

That being said, this move was overdue by about three years.  Since 2004 (28-10, 9-7 ACC), GT has progressively gotten worse each year.  Just looking at the ACC records since 2004, GT has gone 8-8, 4-12, 8-8, 7-9, 2-14, 7-9, 5-11, or 41-71.  That's horrible.  GT under Hewitt has only been better than a few teams in the ACC in total record, which really isn't saying much considering those teams have been the likes of Miami and Virginia.  Amazingly enough, he had a winning record against UNC and he's only one of a handful who have actually made the Final Four during his tenure.

From watching his teams over the years, it's clear to me that he has no clue about offense.  Prior to 2005, GT always seemed to have an agenda on offense. Since then, it's been like a glorified street game; five players all with overlapping offensive skill sets, all trying to be the man.  Last year was the perfect opportunity for Paul Hewitt to build on the 2004 season, but because, and this is simply my opinion, he lacked the aptitude to acknowledge his weakness (offense) and hire an offensive coordinator, he couldn't capitalize on what was arguably one of the most talented teams he had assembled at Tech.  His teams have shown little to no understanding of inbounding the ball, moving without the ball, creating space for each other, or just about any concept you can think of.  Heck, a freaking middle school level wheel play would have been refreshing to see once in a while with these teams.

Defense though, never seemed to be a problem until recently.  Typically, there has always been a few certainties with a Paul Hewitt coached team.  One, you were guaranteed to be out of timeouts well before the other team.  Two, you were guaranteed that Hewitt would call a timeout as soon as GT gained momentum and were about to go on a serious roll.  But most importantly, full court press defense and lots of man defense in the halfcourt.  For some odd reason, that changed this year.  I'm sure it was because of the lack of interior size after losing both Lawal and Favors to the NBA and Peacock to graduation.  However, I'm also sure that it must have been something of a culture shock to everyone else who had been used to that aggressive style of defense that so represented GT over the last decade.

The worst part is that it never worked against teams who had the size advantage that I think Hewitt was trying to compensate for.  The Maryland game is an extreme example of this.  Maryland scored all but three points in the paint.  Maybe he never realized that scoring more, and more importantly, scoring more efficiently, would have done wonders for the defense as much as the offense.  Being able to score takes a lot of pressure off the players while playing defense.  They don't have to worry about over-playing the passing lanes as much or working so hard to contain everyone for fear of letting the other team start creeping away from them.

That's all over with now though, so it's time we start to look toward the future and what possibilities may present themselves.  GT has a great opportunity to rebuild this program.  The apathy within the fanbase is the lowest I've ever been a part of in my 20+ years of being a fan.  My hope is that D-Rad (the AD) sticks to his words about spending money on the right hire.  I don't think there is any pressure from the fans or the alumni to make the perfect hire or to go all out for a Calipari type hire, but there is plenty of potential to make the wrong hire and pinching pennies and selling the position short isn't the way to go.  Sure, there are always limits to what he can do moentarily, but I don't see something in the $1-$2mil range being out of the question.

In a recent Mark Bradley blog, he mentioned Anthony Grant from Alabama as a potential hire.  Personally, I would love this move because Grant has proven to be successful at two separate stops, he's young, and he a good X's-n-O's coach.  I love his passion on the sideline as well.  I'm not sure GT could land Grant, but guys like Grant and Brad Stevens from Butler are the type of coach I'd like to see Tech shoot for.  I outlined some of my thoughts on the subject over at Peachtree Hoops earlier as well, so check that out if you like.

In conclusion, I think GT basketball is about to hit an upswing, which isn't hard to do considering the circumstances, but that should be a welcome thing to all fans of the sport.  So keep up the hope Techies, good things are coming.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hawks 110 - Bucks 85, Or Where Joe-Freakin-Johnson Happens

I know, it was the Bucks, but still.  As Brett @ Hoopinion shows (as he does after each game) the Hawks managed a 1.209 in Off Eff and a 70.5 eFG% against a 9.6 FT Rate (!) and a 23.1 TO% (!!).  Plus, when's the last time we scored 115 on a team but only allowed 85 or so?  Those are the numbers we might have seen more frequently when we were one of the most offensively efficient teams in the league the past two years.  That's the stuff that gets you excited about this team, that get's your little fire burning inside, so more of that please.

I'll keep it short for now as I'm just getting this thing off the ground, but expect more in-depth recaps, reviews, etc. in the future.  But yeah, piano music, all I hear is piano music.

Welcome to ATL Sports Dial!

Most of you already know me in the Atlanta sports blogging community as Jesse28, so much of what you will find here will be familiar to you.  After many years of pseudo writing for my own pleasure and for friends, I've finally decided to jump into the blogging world.  Forgive the simplistic layout and the sparsity of information for now.  I should have more up in the coming days, but for now, let's get started with a few of my goals and intentions.

I was born in Fulton County and primarily raised a little south in Griffin.  Both sides of my family have both been in Georgia for as far back as we can track, so it's easy to see that family would have been the greatest influence on my early childhood fandom.  That being the case, I have a large passionate love for all things Atlanta, from sports, to music, to food, to culture.  We ATLiens are a unique bunch and I wouldn't change it for anything.  I hope to express some of those passions here.  Topics will almost always cover sports, but don't be surprised if I make a quick post on a new artist or eating establishment that I like.

I follow the Falcons, Braves, Hawks, and Georgia Tech sports for the most part.  Outside of the Atlanta Knights, I've never been able to get into hockey, but considering that the Atlanta Spirit Group (ASG) currently owns the Thrashers, they'll undoubtedly come up when discussing such matters.  If I had to assign a weight to the sports, I'd say football > basketball > baseball > all else.  I don't think I prefer pro over college or college over pro (well, with the one exception possibly being baseball), but moreso that I will tend to follow more closely the team/sport having the more defined successful season.  I'm a fan and sometimes the down side to that is a little apathy when things aren't going great.

My short term goal is to simply get acclimated with writing on a regular basis and in this format.  I hope that in doing so the content will be engaging and refreshing enough to encourage discussion amongst the community.  My long term goal would be to have fun with my short term goal and just let it ride.  We'll see where this thing takes us.  Until then, sit back and enjoy one of my favorite songs reppin' the A.