This is the first in a three part series covering the future of the Yellow Jackets and coach Gregory. Tomorrow will cover the case against Gregory and the final part next week will cover what we believe will happen.
The case for Gregory has two parts, the first is money, and the second is his ability to point this program in the right direction in the next season.
The main issue in this saga is obviously money. Georgia Tech still owes Paul Hewitt $900,000 per year for the next three years for a total of $2.7 million. Brian Gregory's buyout would come to about $1.3 million. For a school with athletic revenues as low as GT's, that is a ton of dead money if they fire Brian Gregory. Part of the reason that Georgia Tech hired Brian Gregory was how limiting Hewitt's contract was. Paying Hewitt $1.5 million a year plus the market rate for an ACC coach which is about $2 million dollars a year just was not feasible. Now paying Hewitt AND Gregory AND a new market rate coach is just not feasible. Do the Jackets want another coach like Gregory who comes at a bargain basement price? Getting a new hire wrong would set this program back another 6 or so years. Do they want to make that decision without the ability to pay for a hot coaching prospect? Hiring Gregory was seen largely as a placeholder move that was meant to stabilize the program while Hewitt's contract was paid off and McCamish was built, and if Gregory had a large amount of success than that was a major bonus. It would be a major mistake to repeat that process unnecessarily. Wasting four years on a coach that was passed on by all other major programs would leave many more Tech fans struggling to remember a time when Georgia Tech was a premier program. This team needs a big name to energize the fan base, and push this program forwards to new successes. If this team does not have the money to make that happen this year, then it should wait a year until it does have the funds to do that.
One big problem that many Gregory critics claim will hurt the team is his inability to recruit and plan for the future when it seems likely that he will be fired. That sounds true, but has so far not seemed to limit Gregory. The beginning of his recruiting class is looking as strong as any Tech recruiting in years. The star of the class is four-star forward Romello White who is ranked in the top-100 by every major recruiting service and looks to continue Gregory's tradition of strong post play. He has also nabbed three stars Christian Matthews and Josh Okogie, who both could very well be solid ACC starters in the future with Matthews being ranked the 30th best small forward in the country. He also has two scholarships left to give, which gives Gregory even more room to build for the future, although one will likely be a graduate transfer. Next year this team looks like it would struggle if John Wooden was its coach. This will make it more difficult to convince a coach to come here instead of another major program. Why come to a place where there is little chance of early success. After this season, the team will have balanced talented youth and experience and a chance to win immediately which will be much more attractive for coaching candidates.
With strong financial difficulties and a team that looks like it will struggle next season, it seems unlikely that Georgia Tech will be able to hire an elite candidate, or even a good candidate. Georgia Tech should keep Brian Gregory for at least one more season. It will give the athletic department time to pay off Hewitt and Gregory and give financial flexibility for a big hire in the future. It also appears that Gregory is building a strong foundation for the future that will either pay off for Gregory or give other coaching candidates a more attractive team to coach.