On March 28th, 2011, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets replaced long time coach Paul Hewitt with a relatively new face in college basketball, Brian Gregory. Gregory had been the coach for the Dayton Flyers for eight years prior, leading them to a 20 win season during five of the eight years he was there. After playing college basketball at Navy and Oakland, he went on to be an assistant for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. During his five seasons there, he saw the Spartans reach the Final Four three times and a championship in 1999-2000. Gregory has been a part of some very successful season, both as a head coach and assistant.
Now he has taken over a rebuilding Jackets team. When Gregory got his hands on the team, fans had little interest in the program. Tech as unable to sell out a single game during the 2010-2011 season under Paul Hewitt and were about to start a year long renovation on Alexander Memorial Colliseum (now McCamish Pavilion). The five years prior to Gregory's entrance, the Yellow Jackets had only one season about .500, losing in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in 2009-2010.
In Gregory's first two seasons, he has displayed a different style of play than most Tech fans are used to seeing. He stresses some simple things- defense and rebounding. However, the one thing that stands out most to me is his high motion offense full of high post screens and fast ball movement. He seems to utilize every player on the court and plays real college basketball, where each of the 5 players on the court have to work together to be successful. It's not a one man show. This might be why it has taken some time for the team to get their footing as a team.
Last season, the Jackets had a successful defense. They held teams to 62.4 points per game with an opponent FG percentage of 40.1%. However, the little things hurt the Jackets. In his press conferences, Gregory commonly stressed rebounding and free throw shooting as two necessary improvements in the young team. They shot 63.5% from the line, which ranks in the bottom 20 teams in the nation. They were getting beat on the boards against some easier out of conference opponents. As the season progressed, players were more aggressive in the paint. However, the offense was very stagnant. Shots weren't falling and the offense had no real flow.
This season, I believe that Coach Brian Gregory has developed a stronger core of scorers and a deep bench that will help his offensive production. One huge pick up for the Jackets was Trae Golden, a Tennessee transfer that just recently was cleared for waivers. Along with his two new freshmen, Travis Jorgenson and Quinton Stephens, Gregory seems to have been working hard in the offeseason to make improvements to his personnel. Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey and Jason Morris are the only remaining Hewitt-era players left on the team, and all 3 of them have bought in to Gregory's new schemes.
I expect to see Coach Gregory continue to stress paint presence and players being active on the boards this upcoming season, along with free throws and ball security. He is without his starting PG, Mfon Udofia this season and must find a new reliable "go-to" player for important situations. He has a handful of options both down low and around the perimeter and I would expect to see quite a few different schemes and groups on the court throughout the season.
As a whole, I am very satisfied with Gregory has done with the program in the past two years. He had an over .500 record last season and I hope for improvements in the future. My goals for Gregory this season are (in order of importance):
- Win 2 back to back ACC games
- Go .500 in the ACC
- .500 Tech career record (currently 27-33)
- Make the NCAA Tournament
Can all of these be accomplished this year? We must wait and see. I think in order for the season to be a success in my eyes a few of these are a must.