Regarding Brian Gregory, there’s now no easy choice for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Virginia, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. Virginia won 72-52. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“Don’t ask me what to do, Mike.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mike Bobinski faces a thorny choice. For that, he can blame himself. Had Georgia Tech’s athletic director fired Brian Gregory after last season, almost nobody would have protested. In four seasons, Gregory was 19-51 in ACC regular-season play and hadn’t led the Yellow Jackets to a postseason tournament. That would have been enough — or not nearly enough, depending on your perspective — to get him canned at most Division I schools.

Bobinski chose to give Gregory another season, saying he wanted to see “clear signs of progress.” Sure enough, the Jackets went 8-10 in league play (up from the 3-15 of last season) and tied for 11th in the ACC (up from 14th). They could make the NIT, although 11 of 12 regular-season conference winners have lost in their tournaments and the NIT must accommodate all that don’t grace the NCAA field.

In Year 5, Gregory did better than in Years 1-4. Is that enough for him to keep coaching Tech? During his briefing with three media types (this one included) last March, Bobinski said his patience will run out “the minute I believe we’re not making substantive progress.” What’s substantive progress? “It’s not as much a number as a clear sign … and a belief in the future.”

And there’s Ye Olde Rub. Of the 63 points Tech scored in its regular-season-ending victory over Pittsburgh, 59 were by seniors. Of the 88 points it scored in its overtime victory over Clemson in the ACC tournament, 77 were by seniors. Non-seniors did manage 19 of the 52 against Virginia on Thursday, but that wound up a 20-point loss.

A belief in the future? If the ACC media were polled today on its outlook for 2016-2017, Tech would probably be picked no higher than 13th in a 15-team conference. (Thank goodness for Wake and BC.) This is a team built on seniors — and not just seniors but senior transfers. It has been good enough to make Tech semi-respectable over the second half of the ACC schedule. It wasn’t enough to lift the Jackets into the top 10 of their conference.

Off the relative strength of this season, it might seem hard to fire Gregory. Off the weakness of five seasons, it would be nigh-impossible to keep him. He’s 27-61 in ACC regular-season play. That’s a winning percentage of .307. That’s better than Jeff Bzdelik, who was 17-51 (.250) in league play at Wake Forest and is generally considered the worst ACC coach of the past quarter-century, but Bzdelik didn’t get a fifth season, let alone a sixth.

There’s also this: Next season offers the most bountiful crop of Georgia high school seniors since the days of Dwight Howard and Josh Smith — neither of whom attended college — and Tech must hold its own in-state if it hopes to become truly relevant. Gregory has two contractual years remaining after this. If you keep him with the expectation that he could be gone this time next spring, you’re punting on the Class of 2017. What McDonald’s All-American would consent to play for a lame duck if Coach K and Coach Cal are calling?

For recruiting’s sake, the accepted practice is never to let a coach enter the final year of his contract, which is what Gregory will be a year from now would be unless granted an extension beyond 2018. But now we ask: Can an AD in good conscience extend the contract of a man who has lost 69.3 percent of his conference games, hasn’t taken a team to the NCAA tournament and whose best season yielded a tie for 11th place?

But there’s this, too: Say Tech makes the NIT. It would be unfair to deprive these players of their coach with games still to play, but can an AD wait until April — the NIT ends March 31 — to make a change? (Rutgers, Saint Louis and UCF fired coaches Thursday.) I say again: Bobinski has rendered this a tougher call than it needed to be.

You know what I think. (It’s the same as I thought last spring.) Back then, Bobinski said: “All the elements are in place … There’s no reason not to have a successful college basketball program.” Tech in Year 5 under Gregory was better — but it wasn’t quite a success. And if you’ve tried five times and haven’t quite succeeded, why should we believe Year 6 or 7 will be different?

Reader Comments 0

32 comments
DrTruth
DrTruth

It's really quite simple for Bobinski:


Keep BG if you're OK with GT living in the ACC basement.


Replace BG if you're not.


Really, that's all there is to it.  The problem with continuing to tolerate a coach who can't raise your team out of the bottom third of the ACC, even in a season with 5 seniors, is you become accustomed to accepting "less" failure as success. 


If Bobinski sees this season as a success for BG, then the question has to be asked:   How many of the "top" ACC AD's and HC's would view this GT season the same way if it was their team?  The answer is why BG has no future at GT and GT has no future as long as BG remains.

Marc Clarkson
Marc Clarkson

Are we really this broke? Our athletic dept seems horribly run. Why don't we have an apparel deal to one of the big 3 (Nike, Adidas, UA) It seems like coaching contracts are playing way to large a factor in our decisions. Does Tech not have any big boosters? 

LongBeachJacket
LongBeachJacket

It is true that it is a difficult decision.  There are reasonable arguments to go either way.   It is an enigma as to why Georgia Tech basketball cannot be consistently in the top 6-8 teams in the ACC.  It would seem that all the fundamental elements are there. Location, conference affiliation, prestige of the school, proximity to talented HS players.  Few schools have all those advantages in totality.  Over the past decade, and my memory is thin, I think ..post 2005...Tech has made the NCAA once or maybe twice...both under Hewitt and none under Gregory.   It is far to late to lament the ridiculous contract that was given Hewitt.  That after the euphoria of a somewhat improbable run in the 2004 NCAA Tourney...in retrospect...it was a very, very unwise move.  It probably delayed DRad's decision to let Hewitt go by at least two seasons...now that cascades into Gregory's seasons which have been, collectively, marginal as a total effort.  I like Gregory's attitude (that he presents).  His record for 5 seasons has been really really bad with no signs of marked improvement...until this year.  I said at the beginning of the year the minimum standard was 9-9 in the ACC.  They fell one game short of that.  To complicate matters, they were bad in the first half and really good in the second half, making the 8-10 seem a bit better than it actually is.   I have to trust that Mike Bobinski...who went to Notre Dame...and came to us from Xavier...which, oh by the way is now a basketball powerhouse in the new Big East...in part due to coach he hired and foundation he helped build...knows what he is doing and will make the best decision he can for the future of Tech's Mens Basketball program.  I have to trust that he will do that.  If he retains Gregory, I will support it.  If he fires Gregory, I will support it.  It is the AD's decision (why he gets his "big bucks").  As always, GO JACKETS!!!!

GGee
GGee

Our player development has been bottom of the barrel since Gregory arrived. He did well with the big man who transferred over from UGA but other than that I haven't seen his hand in any of the other players development. Recruiting and Gregory just don't go together. He is a good man with great character but I just don't think he is cut out to coach in the ACC. It's not easy... especially at Tech. We need someone with alot of fire and passion that can be nasty if need be. I feel like the ACC refs laugh at Gregory when he complains about calls. Hell, half the battle is working the refs in the ACC... and he cannot do that because he doesn't have an ounce of intimidation in him. Let the assistants coach the NIT if we get an invite and get out there and find a up and coming coach that wants to compete for recruits in a fertile recruiting ground against the big boys.

SpencerGT
SpencerGT

It's all about money, Mark. Which you have little mention of. Tech can't pay 3 coaches right now...

xpuctaqpgt
xpuctaqpgt

I think the decision to keep him will be financial.  We still have 1 year left to pay out on Hewitt.  If we fire Gregory we'd be paying for Hewitt, Gregory, AND whatever new guy we hire.  If Gregory continues to improve next year...great.  (Like he gets us into the NCAA tourney.)  If he fails to improve, we will finally have the financial resources to hire somebody better.

MoreySims
MoreySims

Tech's athletic dept is broke---they don't have all the millions it will take to pay off gregory's obscene contract then spend millions more for another coach---great contract work by their AD!!!

19palmer49
19palmer49

Same as you. Worse every year. A wannabe joke. Keep Gregory on effort and character in a game that is disappearing th the one and dones. Fire Bradley as the bottom feeder in a cesspool loosely called " journalism ".

Honest and Frank
Honest and Frank

I hate to call for someone to get fired, especially someone as likable and honest as Gregory, but unfortunately I think his time at Georgia Tech has run out.


I would at least give him the chance to coach the NIT, since I don't think we will be competing with Rutgers, SLU, or UCF for their coaches.  


The problem is Gregory hasn't shown results and hasn't given us a reason to believe the future will be any different.


First, the results.  Gregory is 74-85 overall and 27-61.  That's over 5 years.  Cremins's last five years were 80-77 and 33-47.  Hewitt's were 82-77 and 29-51.  So both Cremins -- NCAA tourney 9 straight years, a Final Four, an Elite Eight, and Three Sweet Sixteens -- and Hewitt -- NCAA five times at GT, including a finals appearance -- have accomplished more at Georgia Tech than Gregory has his entire career at both Dayton -- 2 NCAA appearances -- and Georgia Tech -- no postseason appearance.  


If Cremins and Hewitt couldn't keep their jobs despite (i) a proven track record and (ii) better results over their final five years, Gregory should be shown the door.


Second, the future.  As noted in the article, GT's best players are gone next year.  And there isn't much waiting in the wings. Heyward, who averaged 3 minutes a game in 6 games, is the oldest returning player (a member of the 2012 class).  


Quinton Stephens is possible the best returning player, but has averaged only 20 minutes and 5 points per game.  Travis Jorgenson is another person from the 2013 recruiting class, but has averaged only 13 minutes and 2 points a game (2.3 assists).  You've also got Josh Heath, a transfer from USF who will be a Senior next year.  Again unimpressive numbers - 18 minutes and 2.7 ppg.


From the 2014, Tadric Jackson leads the way (and is the only four or better star that Gregory has signed).  14 minutes and less than 5 ppg.  I'd expect he benefits the most from the seniors leaving.  Ben Lammers is also left from that class with 15 minutes and 3.5 ppg (4 rebounds).


From 2015, Sylvester Ogbonda was a three star who is redshirting.  Next year, the 2016 class, will feature Romello White (a four star) and two three star guys in Christian Matthews and Josh Okogie.


So basically over five years worth of recruiting Gregory has brought in two 4-star recruits and a bunch of 3-star guys.  That simply doesn't cut it in the ACC.


There have been a ton of four star or better guys out of the state of Georgia since Gregory got here.  This is what happened to them:


2013 - 3: Kansas, LSU, FSU

2014 - 5: Mizzou, VT, South Carolina, GT, Bama

2015 - 5: Cal, FSU, Stanford, Climpson, uga

2016 - 7: Arizona, Uconn, UNC, uga (2), Harvard, Auburn


I get that we will lose recruits to Kansas, Uconn and UNC.  But there is simply not excuse to consistently lose them to LSU, FSU, Mizzou, VT, South Carolina, Bama, Cal, Climpson, uga, and Auburn.  That's basically a dozen recruits right there that we struck out on, which gives me very little faith that Gregory is capable of bringing in the guys we need to get back to where we used to be.


In sum - Gregory hasn't shown the results on the Court, doesn't have a strong team next year, and hasn't shown the ability to bring in strong recruiting classes (instead just using transfers as a band-aid to hold from year to year).  We deserve better.

SupersizeThatOrder-mutt
SupersizeThatOrder-mutt

@Honest and Frank 

I don't disagree with anything you said, but you omitted Lammers from your list of good returning players.  Lammers is going to be a force......if he is coached properly


GTBob
GTBob

In Gregory's 5 years we have a losing record overall and in conference. We haven't even come close to a postseason berth except our hopeful NIT bid for this year. The NCAA's have been a pipe dream. Our recruiting strategy is apparently to bring in transfers every year to fill positions of need. Worst of all, the majority of the fan base that I know is completely apathetic about it at this point. At what point is enough enough? 

Are we really going to keep a guy around because it only took 5 years to improve the program to a level where we almost finished in the top 10 in the conference and we have a chance at making the NIT for the first time?

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

@GTBob Yes, sadly I remember the days of turning down NIT invitations because the program's expectations were so high.


Thursday night was a good indication of where Gregory has gotten us to in his BEST season. Totally uncompetitive with a UVA program that we should have no reason not to be on equal footing with in round ball in most seasons. They are headed to the Dance for like the fourth straight season, and we can't even come close with Gregory's best effort. And on a side note, next year's squad is going to be horrific with what we have coming back.


Also, we have totally lost a decade of graduates that will probably never give a rats a** about the basketball program, because we didn't have one while they were on campus.

RBR
RBR

Aside from academics, this program is no better off than what it was the day he took over.  And while we all like to toot our academic horn, the fact of the matter is it doesn't put butts in the seats and money in the athletic department's pockets.  Wins do, and we aren't going much of it next w/ 5 senior graduating and we didn't do much of it this year, finishing 10th and now begging for a NIT spot.  

GMAB
GMAB

CBG runs a clean program. He stays.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

So how many highly touted, or at least moderately talented recruits are committed for next year? Any new transfers that will contribute?

Thats what I thought. Goodbye Brian G.

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

@UWreckMeBaby Actually he has a pretty strong group coming in, but still no point guard. And guard play is what keeps you playing late into March. I still am amazed that since Jarrett Jack left the program in 05', that we haven't had a decent PG to run the offense. Ten long years of horrific guard play. And still not one on the radar.

khd713
khd713

I think he should have fired him after the first Clemson game when Tech got shellacked. If he wasn't going to do it after last season's dismal conclusion, then that was the time to do it. The first Clemson beat-down was the low point of the season, and after that game the consensus among the entire Tech fan base was that this guy has to go. Amazingly, Bobinsky was quoted in the AJC at about the same time saying that he doesn't believe in mid-season firings and was going to let the season play out. Big mistake, imo. Now he's in a pickle - especially if Tech gets invited to the NIT. If I had to wager, I'd bet Gregory gets a one-year extension and a small raise.

Domhob
Domhob

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that Mark Bradley wants to see a coach get fired.  This has never happened before.  Oh the humanity of it all. 

Ric1957
Ric1957

Who would we get as coach?

BearCasey
BearCasey

@Ric1957 Exactly!  Who is going to be the new coach?  Who is going to pay him?

GTBee
GTBee

Who says?  You?  Fire the fuc^#r today !!!

GTechYJ
GTechYJ

@MarkBradleyAJC Not to mention Bobinski bungled that extension last year and now must pay more to buy him out then he would've last year.

JM64
JM64

Who knows for sure, but I don't think we will see Bobinski make a move until Hewitt's contract is paid off.  Maybe someone will come in and make that offer in the next few days.

GTDude
GTDude

I rarely agree with you, but this time you are spot on...


GTDude
GTDude

I rarely agree with you, but you are spot on...