Today, Tech Athletic Director Mike Bobinski announced that men’s basketball head coach Brian Gregory will return to coach the Jackets next season. Following a 12-19 season there was much speculation about Gregory getting terminated. After details came out about the contract buyout being $2.4 million, the smart financial move was to retain Gregory. With Tech paying off former head coach Paul Hewitt until 2019, it would be a very tough situation to pay three basketball head coaches next year, and Tech would not have the money to pay a salary that an average ACC coach would make.
However, one of the consequences of retaining him is risking losing fan support and even more student support while the Athletic Department hopes to save money. It is a possibility that not enough donors stepped up to the plate to cover the Gregory buyout. Knowing how hard it is to turn around a basketball program without lots of money, Bobinski made the financially correct decision. Since the outlook of next year’s team will be just like the past season, regardless of coach, saving $1 million was Tech’s best option. It may be a tough pill to swallow for many, but the reality is that Tech has more potential next year with Gregory as head coach than starting over from scratch with a new one. Tech will save money making this decision, and Gregory will get another chance to show progress in his fifth year. Many ESPN pundits and former coaches have voiced their support for Gregory this past week. Former Tech head coach Bobby Cremins was among them, even saying that he is a fan of Gregory and has never seen a team with that many close defeats.
With an overall record of 55-71 and 19-51 in conference play, the pressure will be even higher as the majority of the fanbase is outraged with Gregory’s performance. After having his worst season at Tech in four years, if there is not considerable improvement and a postseason berth to the NIT, the same discussion will be had once again next year. If Gregory is not Tech’s long term solution, and this was just a money-saving opportunity, keeping him will only continue to set back the program even more, as top recruits will not come to a school with the current coaching situation. Ironically, Hewitt was fired from George Mason today, and they will be joining Tech in paying him not to coach.
This past season, Tech suffered many close losses, including more close losses in conference play than any season in the program’s history. Some of it could be attributed to luck, but talent and coaching played a large role in losing 15 conference games. Tech has to play better, especially in crunch time situations. Junior guard Marcus Georges-Hunt will be the number one option on offense once again, and in his last year as a Tech player, he will be relied on even more.
Now that Gregory has been retained, he can focus on recruiting for next year. Tech is losing starters, Robert Sampson and Demarco Cox, but Alabama transfer Nick Jacobs will be eligible next year. Jacobs is projected to be a starter in Tech’s frontcourt. Currently, Tech only has one high school player signed, but getting high school kids to commit and stay to Tech has been the biggest challenge of Gregory’s era. Gregory has relied on “transfer roulette” the last few years and will once again recruit more transfers for next year. Since Gregory arrived, eight players have transferred into the program; however, seven players have also transferred out or been kicked off the team. With such high roster turnover, it is difficult to build a program that can compete at the highest level in the ACC. As the ACC is the toughest conference in the country with all the established programs and new high profile coaches, it has been a challenge for Tech to get out of the basement of the ACC.