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.

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