Paul Hewitt was fired as Tech’s men’s basketball coach effective immediately. The decision was announced on the morning of Saturday, March 12.
“[This morning], Coach Hewitt and myself met and talked about the future of the Georgia Tech men’s basketball program. It was during that meeting that I informed him that we would be moving in a different direction,“ said Athletic Director Dan Radakovich.
In coming to the decision, Radakovich said that it was “cumulative” and was not the result of one specific event. He also said that while there were several factors, lack of fan support was a larger one.
“The atmosphere around the arena [and] the lack of fan support certainly played into this,” Radakovich said.
Tech’s attendance has been steadily declining since the mid 2000s, when the arena consistently sold out. This year, the official figure for attendees per game was 6095, almost two-thirds of the capacity of AMC.
Hewitt’s squad this year finished 13-18, his fourth losing season in the last six years. The team’s 5-11 conference record was the second worst in the ACC, and the Jacket were eliminated from the ACC tournament late Thursday night, ending their season. Hewitt had just one winning conference record in his 11 seasons and had just four 20-win seasons. He made the NCAA tournament five times.
Radakovich had met with Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson earlier in the week to discuss the Hewitt’s future.
“As is my role in this as the athletic director presenting to the President, I put forward a number of options and a recommendation. He concurred with that recommendation,” Radakovich said.
The decision to fire Hewitt was made by Thursday.
When a coach is fired, the team must pay out the remainder of the amount dictated on the contract to its former employee. Hewitt’s contract is unique in that there is a rollover clause in it that would add a year on to his contract after every season. To fire him would require a payout of around “$7.2 million,” according to Radakovich. Radakovich says that he and the Athletic Association would honor the contract, and the payment would be paid monthly over the next five years.
“It was the decision that regardless of the current contractual decision put in place, we needed a change,” Radakovich said.
The players did not anticipate the announcement, but the decision was not something they were surprised about.
“I had heard rumors, but it still caught me off guard,” said junior guard Iman Shumpert.
“There is a sense that we are a part of the team, and we sort of let him down and didn’t fight as much we could for him.… It’s no secret…that he could be fired,” said freshman guard Jason Morris.
Morris said that the lack of fan support and the low team attendance in the past year were discouraging.
“I would never support the ridicule that [Coach Hewitt went through]. It almost became a distraction. You could tell [that] it was affecting the team, especially on the road. At home, it was even worse…. Having fans go against our own coach definitely wasn’t something that we would ever support, and it is definitely something you cannot ignore. I definitely never thought any coach would have to go through that,” Morris said. “At one point it drove us, but at another point, it was another thing that we were trying to get rid of. It went from a distraction to an annoyance.”
Now the AA will turn to finding a new coach, and Radakovich indicated that there were some criteria that he felt were especially important.
“[We are looking for] someone with a lot of energy to go out and do the things that are necessary to get people…[and] student athletes excited about Georgia Tech basketball,” Radakovich said.
He also talked about maintaining recruiting quality.
“[The next coach should] continue to recruit quality student athletes to come here and compete in the most prestigious basketball conference in the country,” Radakovich said.
Despite the financial situation, Radakovich emphasized that the AA’s current budget would not limit the search.
“Everybody in collegiate athletics deals with resource issues right now. We will…look at the candidate. If the person is the right fit, we will make sure to have the resources to take care of [that]…. We are not going into this with a cap, per se,” Radakovich said.
Radakovich also set a time line to find a new coach and said it was his goal to find one before the start of the Final Four, a typical meeting place for coaches looking for jobs.
“We would like to make sure that the coach would have the ability to market himself to fill out the rest of the staff at that event as opposed to having a vacant position open at that gathering. Again, this is our goal, [but] there are a lot of variables that go into that,” Radakovich said.
While Radakovich has several names in mind to pursue, he says that he will be looking to talk to several candidates from all different backgrounds.
“There are a few people that we think would be a good fit at Georgia Tech. Now the challenge and question becomes do they think that they are a good fit at Georgia Tech,” Radakovich said.