Sometimes turnarounds come too late. Sometimes the coach who lost so much in his first four seasons and was hired by somebody else can’t possibly accomplish enough to save his job in year five.
Brian Gregory won a lot of games and earned a ton of respect this season -- from the players who played for him, to the people who worked for him to the media vultures who had long ago buried him.
But it's clear now that nothing short of a long NCAA tournament run was going to keep Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski from firing Gregory this season. Nothing.
So on Friday, Bobinski, who came from Xavier and fashions himself as a “basketball guy,” took his first step toward putting his stamp on something at Georgia Tech. He fired Gregory after a 21-win season with two years left on the coach’s contract -- because the only realistic alternative would have been giving Gregory an extension, and that wasn't going to happen on Bobinski's watch.
I spoke at length with Gregory a week ago. The Yellow Jackets were coming off an NIT win over Houston for their 20th win of the season, a significant moment in Gregory’s tenure and for that matter for a program that had won 20 games just once in the previous eight seasons.
Several family members and friends joined Gregory in a post-game press conference to celebrate the moment. But Bobinski wasn’t there. He had been offering few words of congratulations this season and to say Gregory never really felt supported would be an understatement. It's never a good sign with the athletic director is keeping a low profile.
Gregory didn’t like not being given some assurances about his future despite the success this season, and he didn’t like that the story of his job security was taking the focus off his players.
"You have to fight those (negative) thoughts," he said. "But I never want to fight it for personal reasons. I want to fight it for these guys. … I’d say I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that my story of uncertainty would overshadow the players."
Bobinski believes Tech can do better. OK, this is his chance to prove it. I'm not going to write that he made the incorrect decision here. The Jackets are going to lose several players from this team and are expected to take a step back next season, and Gregory just didn't have enough credit points on his resume to earn the athletic director's benefit of the doubt.
But Bobinski now has to convince a more-than-competent basketball coach to take a job at a program that will be paying salaries to two former coaches (Paul Hewitt and Gregory) and likely won't have much left to pay the new coach. Athletic director Dan Radakovich found the pickings slim after he fired Hewitt.
Will it be much better now?
(I'll have more shortly).
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