The thing that more and more Georgia Tech basketball fans and supporters have been asking for over the past few years finally came to fruition on Friday, as Brian Gregory was relieved of his duties as head basketball coach on the Flats. It comes with mixed emotion -- Gregory was a very likable guy who represented the Institute well and engaged the campus thoroughly, and was coming off of one of the program's best seasons since its Final Four appearance in 2004. At the same time, the team was struggling to build towards the future and become more competitive within the ACC, with a top-10 team nationally in seniority finishing 11th in conference play and sporting a few bad losses on its resume. Ultimately, the decision was made to go in another direction, as Gregory was fired.
That, now, leaves us with a coaching search on our hands to find Gregory's replacement. Several folks have gone about bringing up potential candidates, from the well-known Archie Miller of Dayton, Chris Mack of Xavier, and Georgia Tech alumnus Craig Neal, as well as many more lesser-known candidates from smaller schools around the country. I don't want to go through a comprehensive list of candidates here (that could take days to compile), but I do want to discuss expectations for the coming hire, at least from a high level.
Most folks will probably be disappointed by this, but here's the thing: you shouldn't expect a big "splash" hire to occur. As you may have guessed, the reason is simple: money. In firing Gregory, Georgia Tech now has added to the total still owed to Paul Hewitt over the next few years, bringing the total buyout being paid to over $4 million. (The Hewitt contract only continues to be mind-blowing and crippling.) The Jackets are going to be paying three head coaches to do the job of one, and two of them may as well be sitting on a beach drinking piña coladas.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a full front-to-back knowledge of the GTAA's financial situation. But, that Hewitt's buyout remains consistent and Gregory was something of a "discount hire" in the first place, it's hard to think the GTAA is going to be able to afford a top-dollar, flashy head coach. Maybe they can, we just shouldn't expect it. You should expect to see a coach hired at a similar discount to what Gregory was hired at five years ago.
That said, we should expect the hire to be one focused on bringing in a good recruiter, and especially one that can engage the fan base better. Brian Gregory's single biggest issue as a head coach was his recruiting ability. As mentioned earlier, he struggled building and growing a team that was capable of being very competitive in ACC play -- his only somewhat successful season was simultaneous with four transfer seniors being added to the roster and three of them starting, a model that just isn't sustainable. The new coach needs to harness some of the abundant local talent and put the team in a position to compete athletically with the teams in its own conference.
Additionally, you should expect this hire reasonably soon. The timing of Gregory's firing is a little strange, being so soon after the team's season ended (less than 48 hours later) and while the NCAA Tournament is still going on. That it happened so quickly makes it seem as though Mike Bobinski was prepared to fire Gregory for a while, and it would only follow that his coaching search had started even prior to the move. My guess is that we'll find out who the new head coach is within the next week.
Finally, you should expect the hire to work out better than you probably initially think it will. The reason I say that? Bobinski has a record of hiring successful basketball coaches from his time at Xavier, where even on limited resources he managed to hire the likes of Miller and Mack, along with some either well-known names in the college basketball coaching realm today. If he can manage a hire even in the neighborhood of those from Xavier, he's going to make Georgia Tech fans very, very happy.
So, while a "splash" hire feels unlikely and wouldn't make a ton of sense as we understand the situation to be, that's not to say that it will necessarily be a poor hire. There's reason to be confident in the hire that will be made, but we'll have to wait and see what the result is.