ACC Preview: Georgia Tech’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 29th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Brian Gregory survive another losing ACC season?

During the offseason, one of the favorite media activities is formulation of the preseason “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list. Going into this season, Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory is the one ACC coach who seems to show up on all of those lists. On this list put out by Athlon Sports, it’s interesting to see that Gregory is joined in the fire pit with a few former ACC head coaches like Oliver Purnell and Mark Turgeon. So what kind of year will it take for Gregory to avoid joining that group of former ACC head coaches?

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory lost out on one, maybe two important prospects recently. (Icon Sports Media)

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory may not survive another losing ACC season. (Icon Sports Media)

While no two situations are exactly the same, the best way to examine this issue is to review recent ACC coaches who were in similar circumstances going into their fourth year at the helm of their particular school. By similar circumstance we mean a coach who has a losing record in ACC games in each of his first three years on the job. Below we show four coaches who entered their fourth year at the helm under those conditions.

Losing Coaches

Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton posted the only season-four winning record among this group at 9-7, and of course he is presently embarking on his ninth year in Tallahassee since that 2005-06 season. Hamilton actually went on to post consecutive 7-9 seasons immediately after his breakthrough year, but he then rewarded the administration’s faith in him by reeling off four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including the 2012 campaign which featured the program’s first-ever ACC Championship. Frank Haith was also able to survive at Miami by getting to 8-8 in his fourth year, but unfortunately for everyone involved, that was the high point of his tenure as three losing seasons followed. The other two coaches on this list — NC State’s Sidney Lowe and Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik — continued their losing ways in year four, and were soon fired as a result. It’s worth mentioning that Lowe coached a fifth year in Raleigh before finally getting the axe, but that was undoubtedly due to his legacy status, having captained the famous 1983 NCAA Championship Wolfpack squad. Bzdelik had no such loyalty among the Wake Forest faithful and was promptly dismissed following his fourth straight losing season in ACC play. So what does all of this tell us about Brian Gregory’s chances of remaining at Georgia Tech if his Yellow Jackets finish with another losing conference record? It’s pretty obvious that he would be viewed as more like Bzdelik than Lowe, and probably would not survive in his post past March.

Junior Marcus Georges-Hunt hopes to improve Georgia Tech's weak offensive production. (Jim Brown-USA Today Sports)

Junior Marcus Georges-Hunt hopes to improve Georgia Tech’s weak offensive attack.
(Jim Brown-USA Today Sports)

In order to get above water in this year’s ACC, Gregory will need his team to make great strides on the offensive end. The leader in that regard will be 6’5″ junior wing Marcus Georges-Hunt, a double-figure scorer in each of his first two seasons. Fellow junior Chris Bolden brings experience and defense to the backcourt, but he did not shoot well last year, connecting on only 3o.5 percent of his 105 three-point tries. If the Jackets are to compete for a spot in the upper half of the ACC standings, they will need two of their freshman guards to play like veterans. Redshirt freshman Travis Jorgenson showed some promise before tearing his ACL in the team’s fourth game last year, and he is known for his crafty point guard skills. But perhaps the real rookie breakthrough will come from the potentially explosive Tadric Jackson, who at 6’2″ and 215 pounds has the body of an NFL strong safety. One of four eligible transfers also joins Gregory’s backcourt. Josh Heath averaged about three points and four assists per game as a freshman in limited minutes at South Florida, and he was granted immediate eligibility after his dad, Stan Heath, was fired. In the frontcourt, the talent pool was depleted by graduation (Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey) and transfer (Robert Carter), so Gregory quickly replenished the post with three transfers – Robert Sampson, Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox. But the numbers they posted during their most recent seasons of action are not very encouraging, except perhaps in the area of rebounding.

GaTech Transfers

Their free throw numbers are particularly brutal, and with all three guys in at least their third year of college basketball, don’t expect a drastic improvement there. At least Mitchell has good ACC experience and will not be intimidated by a ramp up in competition. Overall, this looks like a tough and physical team that will once again be pretty good on the defensive end, but it remains to be seen whether this group can generate enough offense to push their coach to the upper half of the league and perhaps a little job security.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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