Brian Gregory fighting ‘disappointment’ of uncertain future

031616 Atlanta: Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory manages a smile as the bench reacts after guard Corey Heyward hit a three pointer near the end of the game on the way to beating Houston 81-62 during their first round NIT basketball game on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Atlanta.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory manages a smile as the bench reacts after guard Corey Heyward hit a three-pointer near the end of the game on the way to beating Houston 81-62 in the first round of the NIT. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Nobody should worry about Brian Gregory because he’s going to be fine in the big picture. He has made a lot of money and has guaranteed income for two more years. He has a wife and two daughters and a bunch of friends, many of whom sat in the back of the room during a news conference late Wednesday night and watched as Gregory was beaming following a win of some significance.

But if you’re Gregory, this situation must be a little bit irritating. Georgia Tech won for the 20th time of the season Wednesday over Houston. Granted, it was an opening game of the NIT, the other tournament, the winner of which is afforded the opportunity to scream, “We’re No. 69!” kinda, sorta. But the Yellow Jackets have played a difficult schedule and hadn’t won 20-plus games in six years, so give Gregory some credit.

Many expected this to be his final season at Tech, notwithstanding the two years left on his contract. But the results may cause Tech’s enigmatic athletic director, Mike Bobinski, to balk at making a change.

Bobinski has said he won’t comment on the coach’s future until after the season. He said the same thing about football coach Paul Johnson in 2014 when Johnson also was looking at the final two years of his deal, until wins over Clemson and Georgia and a berth in the ACC title game prompted the AD to suddenly extend an olive branch, and an extension. (Knowing Johnson, he would’ve walked rather than try to recruit with two years left on his deal.)

Twenty wins.

Would Bobinski actually fire Gregory after 20 wins?

He said after last season he wanted to see “substantive progress.”

He was asked for specifics, but kept it vague. He said again he sought “clear signs of progress and a belief in the future of the program.”

Progress is obvious.

Belief: subjective.

So Gregory is left to twist in the wind a bit, despite what he calls, “one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever been a part of.”

Is he irritated?

“You have to fight it.You have to fight those thoughts,” he said. “But I never want to fight it for personal reasons. I want to fight it for these guys.”

Then: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘irritated.’ I’d say I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that my story of uncertainty would overshadow the players. I have to fight against those thoughts coming into my head because that’s going to stop me from enjoying what I’m doing, being the best coach I can be, the best father, the best husband. I’m just not going to let that happen.”

Gregory has a term for it: “Half-minded living. I refuse to do it.”

I’ve joked before about Gregory’s perpetual positivity. The man could drive home to find his house had been blown up and remark, “Look at all of this room I have for a new vegetable garden!”

That attitude was necessary to get through his first four seasons. He cleaned up academic issues, dealt with a dearth of talent in the program and was mostly beaten up for four seasons, going 19-51 in the ACC.

Bobinski didn’t fire Gregory after last season’s 12-19 (3-15 ACC) record, likely for financial considerations more than anything. Tech would have been paying two ex-coaches, Paul Hewitt for four more years and Gregory for three, as well as spending on a new coach. Waiting a year would make the financial picture slightly more palatable.

Opposing coaches are like piranhas in situations like this. They made recruiting miserable for Gregory. Tech still managed to sign three solid recruits but said, “We were fortunate to sign the guys we did with the uncertainty we had.”

Recruiting with two years left on his deal after the season? Not happening.

Bobinski hasn’t really put his imprint on anything yet at Tech. He knows, and Gregory knows, the Jackets will lose their four best players from a senior-laden roster and therefore next season could be painful. To extend Gregory would mean potentially hearing complaints from fans if and when the team struggles (and firing him after next season could be more expensive).

But if Bobinski makes a change now, he had better have somebody in mind because Tech isn’t one of those destination jobs like maybe it used to be. And any candidate will seek financial security.

If Gregory loses his job, Bobinski likely had his mind made up long ago, and the only thing that was going to change it was an NCAA bid and maybe a tournament win.

“I wouldn’t want to assume the thought process of anybody above me,” Gregory said.

That’s probably wise.

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9 comments
buzzgolf14
buzzgolf14

At this point, I think best case for change is that the NIT run prompts someone to come after Gregory and he takes another job.  I don't see him being fired after a season with 21 (and maybe more) wins.  I can also see the logic in an extension to aid in recruiting, hopefully structured such that a bad season and change next year (if required) is not financially crippling.  Am hopeful that both Bobinski and Gregory recognize that this season is the anomaly thus far, and that next season is another "prove it" year.


Having said that, I'm still not convinced that this isn't as good as it will get under Gregory.  There was interesting discussion among the announcers in the UVA game in the ACCT - Tony Bennett didn't start winning until year 5.  That may be true for Gregory also, but history doesn't provide much confidence.  I think progress is evident in Lammers, which has gotten a lot of press, but also in Jackson, whose shot selection and percentage have improved in the second half of the ACC schedule.


We can at least enjoy this run while it lasts.

Gr8_2B_aFuzzyB
Gr8_2B_aFuzzyB

With every win, even if it's just the NIT, it gets tougher and tougher to cut him loose.  As well as we're playing right now, no one will be surprised if we get at least one more win and a ticket to the Garden.  Even without that, I think they'll keep him around.  All MBob has to say is he wanted substantive progress and he got it.  It's hard to argue with that even if everyone wanted to be in the big dance.

GTBee
GTBee

Fire him already. He has a losing overall record! Jesus F-in Chr÷# !!! What is wrong with GT!?

GTBob
GTBob

At this point, you either fire him or extend him with a public vote of confidence. Personally, I don't see how you can extend a coach who hasn't made the NCAA tournament in 5 years, hasn't finished above 9th in the conference, has recruited poorly, and who has a losing record overall. All of this thought of it being a tough decision is non sense. If we had a competent athletic director it wouldn't even be a decision.

Peachs
Peachs

He doesn't have the alumni and fans behind him.  


This ,tack on, two years for a guy who is not that good and the penalty it cost the school is puzzling. We are just getting off the ransom for the last mediocre coach. 

DrTruth
DrTruth

If you wanted to see for yourself what BG has done to GT BB, all you had to do was go to the game last night.  The crowd was officially listed at 2,932....But a large chunk of that had to include students, the band, the cheerleaders, the TV crew, Zach Klein and the cotton candy guy who walked around with the same number of cotton candies at the end of the game that he had at the start.


I believe this was Tech's first post-season appearance since 2010 (the fact that it's been anywhere near that many years is obviously disturbing).  After refusing to pay any more good money to go to McCamish as long as BG is still there, I broke down and took my sons.  They still wear GT garb to their schools with pride, so it was time to reward them.  After all, it's possible they will have graduated college before GT BB reaches the postseason again....And that's not sarcasm.


With that said, I actually felt like we got more than our money's worth last night.  We sat side court, 6th row for $15/ticket.  Tech players overachieved and literally had their way with Houston on off & def....Or Houston is just a really bad team.  Maybe some of both.  If Tech had played as effectively all season as they did last night, the season wouldn't have been lost as early as it was, and maybe not at all.  


My question is:  Why does it take until (possibly) the last game of the year for Tech to play like they should with 5 seniors?


I know they had a few quality wins and even a nice streak.  But shouldn't a team with 5 seniors have more of a memorable season than "we finally won 20 games again" and "we made the NIT"?  I'm not questioning the effort of the kids....That's clearly not the problem.  But I definitely question BG's coaching effectiveness, based on his less-than-stellar results.


Tech has lived in the bottom third of the ACC since Gregory arrived.  That may be viewed as success if you play in the Mid-Western Glorious Mountain Range Conference, but it isn't when you're in the ACC.  Sorry, but if Tech isn't going to get serious about competing in the ACC, then why continue the annual charade of fooling your fans and supporters that you are serious?


I realize it was a short notice game as well as a late game....But really....If you're a fan that's on fire for GT BB, then those are obstacles that are easily overcome when you're talking about a postseason appearance at home with $15 tickets.  What I witnessed last night was GT BB Fans voting with their wallets.  That was literally the smallest crowd I've personally witnessed at McCamish since it was TheTit and Brook Steppe & Lee Goza were the only reasons to go watch a game there.


This was a postseason game and the arena was more than half empty (or less than half full)....Not sure how you can even spin that in a positive way.  This is the kind of thing that should be the biggest Red Flag Bobinski has seen concerning BG and the GT BB program since he got here.  


The thing is, I'm not sure it would have been a capacity crowd if they simply gave the tickets away....And as an Alum, that just hurts.

Rocker2112
Rocker2112

I was at a time all for firing Brian Gregory, But they have really improved this year a lot and I agree with the people that say if you fired Gregory now you lose all the progress he has made with the program. The players play harder and always feel that they can win any game.  That is a big deal there.  That is the coaches job just as much as making plays and teaching technique. If they fire him and hire someone else then everything will start all over again. It will 4 years wasted and 4-5 years of starting all over again. I am certainly not an expert But they a brutal schedule this year and though they did not make the NCAA's, they came out on Wednesday night and really took it to a very good Houston team and yes they should have won that game! Last year they would've gotten humiliated by Houston. But I was very impressed by the way that they played, not to mention in the ACC tourney when they came back from 18 points down to force overtime and beat Clemson, another very good team. I think it would be foolish to fire Gregory now and start all over with a new coach and a new system. 

Thank You! 

    Fred May

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Rocker2112 Since BG is losing 5 seniors this year, 4 of them starters, isn't he effectively starting over anyway?