Four ACC coaches our out, four new ones are in. That was the easy part. The fun part begins now. Each new coach has to deal with their unique challenges. I’ve already pointed out challenges for Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, Miami’s Jim Larranaga and N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried, so today I tackle the Yellow Jacket’s new coach.
BRIAN GREGORY (GA TECH)
There was no doubt Paul Hewitt could bring talent to Atlanta. The problem was, the talent didn’t always translate into wins. One important factor was that the talent didn’t always stay long.
Most, if not all, of the top recruits Hewitt brought in didn’t stay more than one or two seasons. It’s tough to win too many games that way. The fact is, the Yellow Jackets have not been a consistent winner since the Bobby Cremins era (nine straight trips to the NCAA Tournament).
They key for Gregory is two-fold. He must convince the local Atlanta-based talent to stay home and play. This is something Hewitt had success with (Favors, Rice, Udofia).
The second part will be to go outside of Atlanta and even outside of Georgia and go find that hidden talent. I’m talking about the two or three star players from the Midwest that are being under-ranked. It’s those diamonds in the rough that can turn a Ga Tech program into a solid one. Coach Gregory is a Midwest guy, so this should be his specialty.
Of course, this is his long-term challenge. As for now, he needs to find a way to turn a 13-win team into a winner, without its best player from the year before.
I’m talking about Iman Shumpert, who took his talents to the next level. On top of that, the Yellow Jackets are losing Maurice Morris.
POTENTIAL 2011-2012 STARTING LINEUP
G – Mfon Udofia
G – Glen Rice Jr.
G – Maurice Morris
F/G – Brian Olivier
F – Brian Miller
Of course Georgia Tech’s backfield should continue to thrive, simple because they still have Glen Rice Jr., Maurice Miller and Brian Olivier on the wing, while Mfon Udofia will takeover the point guard duties. I would even argue Tech is better at the PG spot because Udofia is a more natural point guard than Shumperd.
In the end though, the biggest headache will remain inside. Daniel Miller and Nate Hicks literally took up space in the paint. The pair combined to score only six points per game, grabbing around seven boards per game. Iman Shumpert actually led the team in rebounds with 5.9 per game (as well as points and assists).
Brian Gregory did a catch a break early when 6-8 power forward Julian Royal (from Alpharetta, Georgia) stayed committed to the Yellow Jackets. He might not start right away, but he’s a natural scorer inside and he could play heavy minutes come ACC time.
While I think Brian Gregory is a great hire, I don’t think he can work miracles, so don’t expect much more than 13 wins again next season. This will take a little time and I have a feeling both the school and the fan base will be patient.