After a 16-day search, the Tech men’s basketball team has a new leader. Brian Gregory, previously the head coach at the University of Dayton, will succeed Paul Hewitt as the head coach of the Tech basketball program.
Athletic Director Dan Radakovich formally introduced Gregory as the new coach at a press conference on the evening of Monday, March 28.
“It is truly an honor to be named the head basketball coach at Georgia Tech today…I am excited about making sure that Georgia Tech basketball becomes once again one of the most elite basketball programs in the country as well,” Gregory said.
Gregory becomes the 13th men’s basketball coach in the history of the Tech program. Prior to coming to Atlanta, he spent eight years as the head coach at Dayton; he joined the program for the 2003-04 season, and the Flyers posted winning records in seven of Gregory’s eight years with the team, including a 24-9 record in his first year at Dayton and at least 22 wins in each of the past four seasons.
Notably, Gregory was also an assistant at Michigan State under MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo for five years before taking the Dayton job. During that span, MSU reached the Final Four three times and won the 1999-2000 national title.
Although Dayton never won an Atlantic-10 Conference title during Gregory’s time as head coach, the Flyers reached the NCAA Tournament twice and qualified for the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) three times, and in 2010 they were the champions of the NIT.
Gregory’s Dayton teams have traditionally been strong defensively. From the 2007-08 season to the 2009-10 campaign, the Flyers were among the top three in the Atlantic-10 in terms of fewest points allowed.
“Defensively, we put a lot of pressure, but we don’t necessarily press. We are a high-intensity…defensive team. We’ve been good in forcing low percentage shots and controlling the glass. If you do that, then you create offensive opportunities as well,” Gregory said.
Off the court, Gregory’s players have traditionally been strong in terms of academics. Over his eight seasons with the Dayton program, he had 23 senior players, and all of them went on to graduate.
“It is a culture that you build within your program. It’s not what we might do; it’s exactly what we will do. Our guys graduate,” Gregory said.
Of note is that Gregory’s contract features incentives for academic performance. While Hewitt’s contract only permitted bonuses for the team’s performance in ACC and postseason play, Gregory can earn bonuses for the team’s play as well as for strong marks in its Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and its Academic Progress Rate (APR).
Overall, Gregory’s six-year contract accounts for an annual base salary of $1 million, with no specifics included regarding annual escalation, and he can earn up to $500,000 via incentive-based bonuses.
Gregory will take over a Tech program that is looking to regain prominence. The Jackets have not advanced further than the Second Roud of the NCAA Tournament since the championshiprun. In this sense, this will mark his first rebuilding effort as a head coach.
When Gregory took over the Dayton program in 2003, the Flyers were coming off a 24-6 season and an Atlantic-10 title, and he inherited a strong cast of players that had been recruited by his predecessor at Dayton, Oliver Purnell.
At Tech, however, Gregory will have to turn around a Tech program that is looking to rebuild after posting a winning record in only one of the last four seasons. The 2010-11 squad went 13-18 with a 5-11 mark in ACC play, and by many statistical measures it was the worst team of the Hewitt era.
Gregory pointed out several areas where the team will need to improve to be competitive, including increased defense of the three-point shot and defensive rebounding. The Jackets were last in the ACC in three-point defense and 10th in the conference in defensive rebounds last season.
While Gregory said the returning players have to trust in his new system, he noted that many of the Tech players are, to a small degree, familiar with his preferred style of play because Tech and Dayton played each other early in the 2009-10 season during a tournament in Puerto Rico. The Flyers won the neutral-site game 63-59.
“[The Tech players] remembered how hard we played and the defensive intensity that we played with and so forth,” Gregory said.
As his coaching tenure begins, one of Gregory’s main objectives will be to try to ensure that current players and committed recruits remain with the team. Gregory met with the players before Monday’s press conference and said he had a good first impression.
“Guys are excited and ready to get to work. I’ll have a little better feeling when I sit down face-to-face and watch a little film on the guys, and I’ll be able to give them a little bit of an evaluation. I would hope that everybody that I met with at 4 o’clock would be, if it’s in their best interest, playing for us next year,” Gregory said.
Gregory and the Jackets have received some bad news, though. While the press conference was still proceeding, junior guard Iman Shumpert—who led Tech in points, rebounds, steals and assists this past season—announced via Twitter that he would be entering his name for the 2011 NBA Draft. Shumpert confirmed that he will not hire an agent yet, so his action is not binding and he can still return to Tech. Former Tech forward Gani Lawal did the same thing before the 2009 NBA Draft and ultimately withdrew his name from the draft pool.
“If [any players] have the talent and the ability to play at the next level, then it’s your responsibility to help them get there…It’s when guys [enter the draft early] because they feel they need to that they run into trouble. I think you’ve seen that across the country, and…you have to start that education process early,” Gregory said.
Along with establishing relationships with the current and incoming players, Gregory repeatedly stressed the importance of connecting with former Tech players to increase their involvement with the program and highlight the Tech program’s storied history.
“When it comes to getting the former players involved and active in the program, I’ve just gotten the feeling they feel disconnected and not engaged,” Gregory said. “Our players need to know the type of men that played here before and what they did. When they put on that uniform, they aren’t just playing for themselves or this great institution, they are playing for those great players that played before here.”