At the end of last season many people wanted Brian Gregory fired and some even believed (and reported) he would be. But I never really thought he would be, nor to some degree should be … as I wrote here … and here … and here.
Essentially it came down to this: While Gregory hadn’t done much to convince the masses that the program was headed in the right direction or could get back to a competitive level (19-51 in four ACC seasons), Georgia Tech’s athletic administration wasn’t flush with disposable income. Therefore, it could not afford to pay off three years of Gregory’s contract ($2.4 million) and the long remainder of Paul Hewitt’s contract ($3.6 million) and still have enough money left to attract a new coach. It made far more sense to wait one more season and then take a temperature of things again.
So here we are a year later. What’s the temperature? Mid to high 70s?
I’m not going to take a position on whether Gregory should be fired here. (Yes, it would be far better for page views. See that? I’m not Mr. Clickbait afterall.). There are valid arguments on both sides. I also believe athletic director Mike Bobinski is struggling with this decision, and I don’t think he anticipated after last season that firing Gregory would be a difficult decision.
Here are both sides of the debate:
At the risk of lowering the bar for the program, the Jackets had a far better season than expected. They upset Virginia and Notre Dame. They threw scares into other ranked teams and finished the season 19-14 overall and 8-10 in the ACC. That’s the most total wins Tech had since Hewitt’s last NCAA team in 2009-10 (23-13) and certainly better than Gregory had done in conference play since he arrived (4-12, 6-12, 6-12, 3-15).
This team played hard for Gregory and one would have to believe any returning players, as well as incoming players, would do the same. So with two years left on his contract, why not give him another year? Also, the financial ramifications of paying off two former head coaches while trying to lure a third are still problematic, even if not quite as daunting as a year ago.
The Jackets are a senior-laden team and they will lose their top four scorers: Marcus Georges-Hunt, Charles Mitchell, Adam Smith and Nick Jacobs. Gregory also relied heavily on transfers this season. While that’s not that unusual in college basketball any more, it’s not the most stable environment for a program to operate and likely doesn’t comfort Bobinski.
Bottom line: Tech is expected to take a step back again next season. So bringing Gregory back may only further damage perceptions of the program and, it follows, recruiting and their school’s ability to hire a top coach. The ACC is an incredibly deep conference in basketball with Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse, Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame and others. There was a vibe around the Tech program in the Bobby Cremins days and briefly under Hewitt. But that vibe hasn’t existed around the Jackets for years and to assume it will under Gregory is a long shot.
Furthermore, while firing Gregory would mandate a payoff of $1,343,750, keeping him could cost more. He will get destroyed in recruiting if coaches know he only has two years left on his contract. Bobinski theoretically could give him a two-year extension in an attempt to settle potential recruits. But if he’s then fired after next season, a buyout would cost Tech more (unless Bobinski includes some no-cost provision in there, which I’m certain would irritated Gregory and his agent).
Bobinski came to Tech from Xavier so he knows what a competitive basketball program is supposed to look like. I’m sure he has been thinking about this decision all season. I’m also sure he never thought it would be this difficult.
Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts and vote in the poll.
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