This was a question a few of my friends and I recently discussed and I wanted to know what others thought. After the jump I'll talk about my answer.
Off the bat it would be hard to find anyone who would trade a national championship appearance for nearly anything. Its not just an NCAA Tournament appearance, Sweet Sixteen, or even Final Four. We were 9 points from winning a National Championship. That is something special no matter which way you slice it. That 03-04 team was special, Bynum as a firecracker that as a young fan I remember the most, Schenscher was great to watch play, and Jack was the best basketball player Georgia Tech has had this decade. That team had a great, energetic, and lovable core of players that had everyone excited from the Pre-season NIT victory all the way to the end. And that team was great to go along with its energy (25th best offense, 3rd best defense,7th overall, according to kenpom.com). It was a season that sparked alot of energy in the program (4 straight sellout seasons afterward). It was also the season that sparked The Contract, and The Contract is why my friends and I have such a tough time deciding which we would rather have; How things are currently, or no Championship Run and no Hewitt. My initial answer was to erase the championship run and have Paul Hewitt fired. I wanted to see if my intense disapproval was merited, "Is Paul Hewitt Really That Bad?".
Paul Hewitt's teams are consistently defensive squads who don't score alot of points and make opponents work for points. Here is the KenPom Offensive and Defensive ranks for GT since 2004....
|Year||O Rank||D Rank|
As you can see we consistently perform better on D than O and, except for 2 terrible seasons, 06 & 08, we have a great defense (top 35) and an OK offense (top 60). The offensive ranks kind of surprised me, I feel like Tech is consistently one of the worst offenses in the ACC and struggles so much at times, but the numbers seem to indicate we do a good job of scoring buckets. But how does this translate into wins?
|Year||O Rank||D Rank||ACC Wins||ACC Tournament Wins|
We have won at least 7 games each year except for 06 and 08, 2 terrible years. 7 wins out of 16 games year in and year out in the ACC, one of if not THE toughest conferences each year, is impressive. I think what has hurt the perception of the qualities of the teams has been our performance in the ACC tournament. In 06 that team was terrible, ok, but in 07 we had the most pure talent we have had at tech in a long time and we got beat by a bad Wake team in the opening round (granted in 2OT but still). In 08 we seemed to be right where we should be by beating UVA in the opening round and losing to a great Duke team. Then in 09 and 10 we vastly over-achieved from how we played during the season, creating a sort of, "Well where was this during the season" feeling from the fans. In a way this almost made it worse for Hewitt because the talent he had assembled COULD play great, it just rarely did.
One thing Hewitt has done well has been bring Talent to Tech.
4 top 20 Recruiting classes in 7 years is very good for a non-elite basketball program. I haven't looked at the numbers for any other ACC teams but I would assume this level of recruiting to be in the top half of the ACC, and certainly one of the top results outside of Duke and UNC. And even the classes that were not ranked were usually because of a low quantity of recruits, not a low quality. In 2008 we had one recruit, Iman Shumpert, who this season has been a top 40 offensive player. And in 2007 we had 2 4-star recruits and 1 3-star, which is still a quality class. But recruiting is one thing, what about NBA talent?
While there have only been 5 draft picks out of tech in the last 7 years, 9 players played at the NBA level for at least a season. And players like Bynum and Anthony Morrow are very good contributors on their respective teams, even if they were not star players at Tech. Paul Hewitt does a very good job of recruiting top talent to Tech but I feel a lack of development of that talent once it gets to tech hurts his perception. Anthony Morrow was a crazy good shooter while at tech but never was a focal point of our offense, only scoring 14 ppg while only being 8th on the team in %poss. And our star recruits, Crittenton, Young, Favors, Lawal, all seem to under perform while at Tech but yet still have high NBA potential, even though, to me, guys labeled with the "high NBA potential" tag are never really great PLAYERS. I think this perception of the talent Hewitt brings in hurts his image from a fans perspective, if we have some of the top talent shouldn't we be winning more?
Lastly we talk about The Contract. It is awful, it is one of the worst contracts for an institution that I know of, especially one without a very big fan base and commitment to athletics as Tech. The current buyout, according to the AJC, is 7.25 million dollars. Not only would that amount be required to fire Hewitt we would also need more money to sign a new basketball coach. And unless we can get a great coach, would it be worth it to spend around 10 million in upfront money to replace a bad coach with an ok one? Also with the Alexander Memorial Colosseum II opening soon, a 45 million dollar investment, does the Athletic program have enough money to even think about this? I do not think so. As much as D-Rad would love to make a new hire to energize the fan base, he isn't dumb and he knows when to much money is to much. Of course we would not be in this position if our last AD, Dave Braine, did not institute the rollover contract after the 04 season. Even at the time it seemed a little off to handicap a program to a coach essentially for life. If we had not made such a great championship run perhaps Hewitt would have only gotten a raise, or only an extension, but I think the rollover stipulation only happens when we make it to that championship game. So this brings me to the whole point of this discussion (rant), in the long run was the 04 championship run good for the program? After researching all this I believe that yes, it was good for the program. I do not like having Paul Hewitt as our head coach and I hope he is let go as soon as possible, but we have enjoyed a lot of success in the ACC tournament, had multiple NCAA appearances, and attract high profile recruits. And if you are in doubt, think back to the 03-04 season, the initial 12-0 start, beating UCONN in the preseason NIT, and finally that magical March Madness run, Will Bynum making that layup against OK ST, those things don't happen often, and I would not trade that experience for many things, Paul Hewitt included.