You could be forgiven for not knowing that St. John's recently fired Coach Norm Roberts after 6 seasons of generally mediocre basketball. Roberts took over after prior coach Mike Jarvis was canned less than a month into the 2003-4 season, leaving behind a litany of offcourt troubles and a two year stint on probation. This, from a strictly University of Georgia-centered pespective, is not really news.
Except that St. John's may have found Roberts' replacement over on North Avenue in the person of Paul Hewitt, at least according to Mark Bradley.
Normally the departure of a rival's basketball coach after a run to the NCAA tournament would be cause for celebration. Not this time. As Bradley notes, it doesn't appear that Tech is trying particularly hard to stop Hewitt from leaving, perhaps because his perpetual contract means that f
ormer Tech AD Dave Braine was either a double agent or incompetent beyond measure that it would be very difficult for them to fire him and buy him out. I imagine the Tech athletic brass realize that Hewitt isn't going to lead the Jackets back to the NCAA title game, and this a convenient opportunity to show him the door without hamstringing their entire budget.
Hewitt has presided over Georgia Tech basketball during one of the most underwhelming eras of University of Georgia basketball. Which, let's be honest, is really saying something. Yet he has still managed to go 3-3 against Georgia since Tech's NCAA runnerup finish of 2003-04 (they lost to the 'Dawgs earlier that season, by the way). In that time, Hewitt has won the lion's share of instate recruiting battles (see, Favors, Derrick) but has not managed to make it to another Sweet 16. Since losing to UConn in the tournament final, Hewitt is a combined 97-82 overall, and 36-60 in the ACC. No one has done less with more than Paul Hewitt in the past 6 years.
But that may all be coming to an end. If Tech lets Hewitt off the hook on his buyout and he leaves the Flats (and his albatross of a contract) Tech will be free to go out and find an actual basketball coach to build some program momentum to counter the momentum Mark Fox is building in Athens. Frankly, I'd rather Coach Fox try to shore up our shaky instate recruiting ties against Paul Hewitt, who has been taking Georgia Tech nowhere fast for half a decade now, than against a hot commodity coach who can at least sell hope and a new direction. Don't get me wrong, I like Coach Fox's chances of rebuilding (or, perhaps, just "building") Georgia basketball. But I'd prefer as little sentient competition as possible.
Come on, Paul. North Avenue is your home. It's vaguely malodorous and crime-riddled corridors are your kingdom. It's student body, mostly unencumbered by any awareness of what goes on in the athletic department, are your subjects. Better to rule on Techwood Drive than to serve in Queens. We're counting on you.