Coaching basketball in the ACC can be equated to coaching football in the SEC. The pressure is on full-time with constantly having to face national powerhouse teams such as Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State, along with the newest additions of Syracuse and Notre Dame. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were once listed among those names, and under the leadership of Brian Gregory, they are on their way back.
Some would say the jury is still out on Gregory, and in fact, I’ve actually seen him referred to as a “scrub hire”…just a stop gap to mop up any messes left by former coach Paul Hewitt. Those naysayers should probably take a closer look at what the Yellow Jackets are doing, and how Gregory is rebuilding this program.
When Hewitt came in to replace the legendary Bobby Cremins, the program was stagnant, but not quite slumping. Hewitt brought in a change from Cremins’ up-tempo offensive game to a strategy that involved more isolation plays and more focus on guard and center play. He also didn’t put much of a premium on defense, and in the long run the Jackets suffered for that.
But the one area where Hewitt ultimately failed is where his predecessor was a master – recruiting.
The recruiting aspect of the Yellow Jackets’ program suffered immensely under Hewitt, and in turn, Tech had three out of four losing seasons from 2007-20011 and couldn’t even sell out games in their home arena. The program that Bobby Cremins took decades to build had been shattered in just a few seasons.
Gregory walked in to a program that had essentially nothing happening in terms of recruiting, who had finished 13-18 and were eliminated in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The road back from this wasn’t going to be easy, nor would it be quick.
The first two years of Gregory’s tenure were spent trying to pull together the pieces that were there, and make the best of it. The results, although far from spectacular, were at least passable. In 2012 the Jackets finished with a winning overall record at 16-15, and had an even better record at home, going 11-6.
In his third season at Tech, Gregory is starting to attract some great young talent, and he’s put a lot of hard work into rebuilding the recruiting aspect of the program. He’s got a young team full of potential stars, and he puts a lot of focus on defense, rebounding and team play. As these young players grow and learn, this team will become more and more formidable.
Too often, fans want a “quick fix”. When a new coach comes in, they want to see results. But rarely do quick fix results last in the long run. Rebuilding a program and developing new talent takes time if you do it the right way. With a pedigree of mentors such as Tom Izzo and Kevin O’Neill, there is no doubt that Gregory knows how to get it done.
Patience has to be the operative word when talking about Brian Gregory and the Georgia Tech men’s basketball program. Fans should realize that taking baby steps forward is still progress, and it will eventually turn into leaps.