Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Beginning of the End of Georgia Tech Basketball Under Paul Hewitt

When things go wrong we try to pinpoint a moment in time when the tide turned.

Georgia Tech fans could look back to the 2008-2009 season when the Yellow Jackets went 12-19 and 2-14 in ACC play, but they would be short sighted.

The day,  and really the play, where the fortunes of Tech Basketball under Paul Hewitt changed was on January 1, 2005 in Lawrence, Kansas. Ironic that Tech's football season this past year took a wrong turn on that same campus? Maybe the Jackets should never return to the Sunflower State. Anyways...

On New Years Day 2005, many television sets in Atlanta and around the state of Georgia were glued not to a college football game, but to a basketball game pitting two top 10 teams.

The Yellow Jackets had become the darlings of the Peach State after a run to the National Championship Game the season before and were returning the bulk of that team the following season. Head Coach Paul Hewitt had turned down overtures from the NBA and high profile college jobs signing a six year deal worth about $1.25 Million per year which included a yearly rollover provision to keep him at Tech.

Georgia Tech fans would be lying to you if they said back in 2004 they were upset about the contract. Hewitt had just taken them to the brink of a national championship and was a top coaching candidate for numerous college and pro jobs. The man had brought Georgia Tech back to the national spotlight something not seen in nearly a decade. But as always, hindsight is correct and now the deal looks like one of the worst ever written in college athletics because of how the last six seasons have transpired.

Back to that New Years Day in 2005.

Tech was facing number two Kansas in an Elite 8 rematch from the previous NCAA Tournament where the Jackets prevailed in overtime to advance to the Final 4.

Hewitt's team came out of the gate on fire building up a 10-4 lead at the first TV timeout. The Jackets would extend that lead all the way 14 with 11:29 to go in the first half.

However, the second play following the under 12 media timeout would redirect the course of Georgia Tech basketball under Paul Hewitt.

B.J. Elder, the team's leading scorer from a year ago, was on a fast break after a block by Ra'Sean Dickey when he pulled up lame right under the Kansas basket grabbing his hamstring.

The teams would go back and forth for the next few minutes, but the Jayhawks ended the first half with a 16-7 run to close the gap to seven.

Just five minutes into the second half Kansas had cut Tech's lead to just three, but Kansas never secured a lead of their own in the second half. Only a game tying three pointer with 1:30 to go, one of seven made by the Jayhawks in the second half, would tie the game and send it into overtime.  Kansas took their first lead of the game with 1:44 to go in overtime eventually winning by two.
from ESPN Game Flow
Georgia Tech would go on to play for the ACC Championship and make it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But the Jackets disappointed through much of the regular season finishing up 11-10 after the New Years Day loss at Kansas.

Since that day in Lawrence, the Jackets have been just one game over .500 (102-101) under Paul Hewitt and have missed the NCAA Tournament four times while making just two.

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