Hewitt’s status decided after season

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is down to one last opportunity to

salvage its season.

Athletic director Dan Radakovich wouldn’t say Tuesday if the

ACC tournament also is the last chance for coach Paul Hewitt to

save his job.

Georgia Tech, coming off a disappointing seventh-place

regular-season finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference, plays North

Carolina Tar Heels on Thursday night in the ACC tournament in

Greensboro, N.C.

The disappointing 7-9 ACC record is the continuation of a

downward trend since Hewitt took the Yellow Jackets to the 2004

Final Four. Hewitt has only one winning ACC record in 10 seasons,

including five straight seasons of finishing sixth or lower in the

league.

Radakovich said it’s too early for him to evaluate the season

or Hewitt’s status.

“As has always been the case since I came to Georgia Tech, I

will not get into a discussion regarding the evaluation of a

program while there are still significant games to be played and

goals yet to be reached,” Radakovich said in an e-mail response to

a question from The Associated Press.

Radakovich sent the same statement to other media outlets.

The program hit a low point last season with a last-place

2-14 finish in the ACC and an overall 12-19 mark, but optimism grew

with the addition of a freshman class led by Derrick Favors. Favors

was named ACC Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, but the 6-foot-10

forward’s play wasn’t enough as the Yellow Jackets closed the

regular season with six losses in nine games.

It was a dismal regular-season finish for a Georgia Tech

expected to contend for the ACC title.

With senior leader D’Andre Bell back after missing last

season with an injury and top inside player Gani Lawal opting to

return instead of entering the NBA draft, there was much talk from

many — including Hewitt — that this could be Georgia Tech’s

season.

Said Hewitt before the season: “I think these guys know that

if everything goes right, we have a chance to be as good as anyone

in the ACC, and if you are as good as anyone in the ACC, then you

can compete for anything that comes after that.”

In a preseason vote of ACC media, Georgia Tech received two

first-place votes while being picked fourth in the league. But

after losing its last two games, Georgia Tech (19-11) is in danger

of missing the NCAA tournament.

Radakovich said he’ll be in Greensboro to “pull like heck”

for the Yellow Jackets.

“I would encourage all of our fans who care about Georgia

Tech to rally around these student-athletes and their coaches and

to encourage their efforts throughout postseason play,” Radakovich

said. “There is still much to be gained. Any discussion beyond that

will take place at the appropriate time — after the conclusion of

the season.”

Hewitt’s contract includes a buyout of nearly $7 million, a

significant factor even in a better economy.

Georgia Tech players say they’ve heard the growing

speculation about Hewitt’s status.

“Coach Hewitt, he’s just preparing us for each game and

getting us ready despite all the outside sources or rumors or

whatever you hear,” Lawal said before Tuesday’s practice. “He’s

been doing his job diligently and that’s all you can ask for.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t hear it, didn’t think

about it. It’s crazy. He’s a great coach. It’s a lot of times

people who really don’t know what they’re talking about come down

hard on him. Obviously he is the coach, he is the head coach and

he’s running things here, but it’s not all his fault when things go

wrong.”

Senior Zachery Peacock said Hewitt “does a very good job of

not breaking under the pressure.”

“I don’t feel like he feels it’s pressure on him but as a

team we all know that it is,” Peacock said. “It’s always tough

being a head coach. When your team isn’t performing good, it always

tends to end up back on the coaching.”

Georgia Tech has missed the last two NCAA tournaments and

hasn’t won a game in the NCAA tournament since 2005.

Hewitt said the Yellow Jackets must beat North Carolina “to

have a realistic shot” to make the tournament.

“For this team to get to the tournament, we have to win this

game, in order to give ourselves a chance,” he said.

Hewitt said his advice to players is to focus on Thursday

night’s game and avoid the rumors and speculation.

“You can’t worry about those things,” he said. “You have to

worry about playing good basketball so you can put yourself in a

position to go to the tournament.”