Ga. Tech chooses Dayton’s Gregory

Brian Gregory is ready to get started on rebuilding Georgia

Tech’s beleaguered basketball program.

He certainly wasted no time getting the attention of his new

players.

”He’s not a pushover,” freshman forward Jason Morris said

Monday, shortly after Gregory met with the team and was introduced

as the Yellow Jackets coach. ”He’s going to get what he wants.

Whatever it takes, (even) if he has to break you down to your

lowest point to build you back up.”

Gregory coached at Dayton the past eight years before agreeing

to take over at Georgia Tech, a program that fell on hard times

after reaching the national championship game in 2004.

Paul Hewitt was fired shortly after the team wrapped up its

fourth losing season in the past six years with an ugly loss in the

Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

The 44-year-old Gregory said all the tools are in place to

restore the Yellow Jackets to national prominence, including a

strong recruiting base, membership in a leading basketball league

and a prominent history that he plans to tap into.

”We need to reconnect and re-engage with our former players,”

he said. ”Their blood, sweat and tears made our program what it is

today.”

But Gregory received a rather rude welcome from one of the

current players when Iman Shumpert, the team’s leading scorer,

tweeted right in the middle of Gregory’s introductory news

conference that he would test his NBA options.

”Ok…I’ve decided to test the waters and put my name in the

2011 NBA Draft,” the junior wrote.

He hasn’t hired an agent, meaning he could still return to

Georgia Tech for his final year. Shumpert averaged 17.3 points a

game this season.

”I reached this decision before meeting the new coach…i

didn’t know I was meeting him today,” Shumpert tweeted.

Gregory said he met with the entire team an hour before his news

conference, but didn’t get a chance to meet with anyone

individually. He plans to sit down with Shumpert as soon as

possible.

”It’s in his best interests to do that with the junior year he

had,” the new coach said, shrugging off any suggestion that

Shumpert’s tweet was poorly timed. ”He’s a good enough kid and a

smart enough kid and the program means enough to him that he’ll do

the right thing.”

Gregory received a six-year, $6-million contract to coach at

Georgia Tech, where the athletic program is saddled with heavy debt

and further burdened by a $7.2 million buyout that Hewitt is owed

over the next five years.

Athletic director Dan Radakovich insisted money was not a

limitation in his coaching search.

”The fit was more important than paying the large dollars,” he

said. ”If there was someone we thought was a better fit, maybe we

could have gone there. But I look at this as being a great

individual for who we are at Georgia Tech and where we want to

go.”

Gregory went 172-94 at Daytona. He guided the Flyers to a pair

of NCAA appearances, reaching the second round in 2009 with an

upset of West Virginia. Dayton also won the NIT in 2010, beating

North Carolina in the championship game.

Dayton had only one losing season under Gregory and won at least

20 games five times. But the team is coming off a disappointing

season, going 7-9 in the Atlantic 10 and 22-14 overall. The Flyers

failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row,

losing to Richmond in the final of the A-10 tournament.

They settled for a bid to the NIT and were defeated by the

College of Charleston 94-84 in the opening round.

”Sometimes you don’t really know a coach until they’ve had some

adversity and you see how they come back from it and how they

handle it,” Radakovich said.

The Yellow Jackets sure had plenty of adversity. They went 13-18

this season and finished 11th in the ACC at 5-11 before losing to

Virginia Tech 59-43 in the opening round of the conference

tournament. Hewitt was fired two days later.

Making the rebuilding job more difficult for Gregory: Georgia

Tech won’t have a true home arena his first season. The school is

building a new campus arena on the site of Alexander Memorial

Coliseum. Until it opens in 2012, the Yellow Jackets will split

home games between downtown Philips Arena and suburban Gwinnett

Arena.

Gregory hopes to turn that into a positive.

”There’s a great opportunity next year in terms of reaching out

and maybe even getting to more fans,” he said.

There was speculation the Yellow Jackets would pursue one of the

coaches who made a splash in this year’s NCAA tournament, such as

Richmond’s Chris Mooney or VCU’s Shaka Smart.

But Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension with the Spiders

on Sunday night after leading them to the round of 16. Smart’s team

is still alive in the NCAA tournament, reaching the Final Four for

the first time.

So the job goes to Gregory, who served as an assistant at

Michigan State during two Final Four appearances, including the

2000 national championship.

One of Gregory’s top priorities will be re-energizing Georgia

Tech’s fan base.

As the losing seasons piled up, home attendance dipped

dramatically. The Yellow Jackets failed to sell out any games this

season at the 9,100-seat arena, averaging just 6,095 per

contest.

Georgia Tech made five NCAA tournament appearances under Hewitt

but managed only one winning season in the ACC – 9-7 during the

Final Four year. His overall mark of 190-162 included a dismal

72-104 record in conference play.

The empty seats ended Hewitt’s career, even though the lucrative

contract he signed after the Final Four season gave him an

automatic rollover and left the school with no choice but to pay

the huge buyout.

Radakovich, whose predecessor negotiated the Hewitt contract,

said there was no such rollover in Gregory’s deal.

”You can look in there all you want,” the AD quipped. ”You

won’t find it.”