After he made the decision in March to retain coach Brian Gregory following Georgia Tech’s 12-19 season, Athletic Director Mike Bobinski said he wanted to see a clear sign of progress in the coming season.
Asked Thursday about the progress that the Yellow Jackets have made, Bobinski said that Tech plays much better on offense than it did in Gregory’s first four seasons, one of the directives that Bobinski gave him at the end of the season.
“But at the end of the day, there’s a report card that’s out there for everybody to see,” Bobinski said Thursday. “We have a record, and that’s obviously an important indicator as we move forward.”
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bobinski declined to speak directly about Gregory’s future at Tech, but nonetheless made it clear that whether Gregory returns for a sixth season is to be determined. It would appear that the Jackets have a lot of work to do to give Gregory a chance to keep his job, in no small part because the report card thus far — 13-11 overall and 3-8 in the ACC — is hardly glowing.
Tech has seven regular-season games remaining, starting with a game at Clemson on Saturday. As was the case last season, the Jackets have had difficulty getting over the hump to win close games. Tech was 0-12 in ACC games decided by seven points or fewer last season. This season, all 11 ACC games have been decided by single digits, with Tech winning three.
“I would have hoped we would have been 6-5, something like that, 7-4. That would have been more like what I felt like coming out of the nonconference (schedule),” he said. “So we haven’t yet achieved to the level that we would like to do. We’ve got seven games left in the regular season, so there’s still room to run here.”
While frustration within the Tech fan base has grown since the start of the ACC schedule, with calls for Gregory to lose his job, Bobinski asserted that he has not made a decision and won’t until the end of the season.
“If you’re in a business situation and you’re halfway through your year and you think you have a chance to get it right, and someone says, ‘You’re not going to get that chance,’ it just doesn’t seem like something that makes any sense,” he said. “Why would you make a decision now? There’s no advantage gained whatsoever on anything like that.”
In some ways, it is hard to say the team is not improved. With three senior transfers added to the lineup, Tech has improved from 210th in adjusted offensive efficiency to 59th, according to kenpom.com. One of the transfers, guard Adam Smith, has given the Jackets firepower and accuracy from the perimeter. Another, forward Nick Jacobs, has added a skilled low-post threat. With a lighter burden, guard Marcus Georges-Hunt is thriving. In ACC games, he ranks in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring at 18.5 points per game.
However, as Tech’s offense has gained in efficiency, the defense, long Gregory’s strong suit, has suffered.
And, in the most critical category, the results have not differed significantly. The Jackets are two wins ahead of last season’s record after 24 games. It bears mention that the Jackets’ schedule to this point has not done them any favors. Multiple ranking models place Tech’s strength of schedule in the top 20, including one that puts the Jackets in the top five.
Bobinski holds high expectations for where he believes the Jackets can be in the future — a competitor for ACC championships and a regular NCAA tournament participant with expectations to advance. Tech has made the NCAA tournament once in the past eight years.
“I know you don’t snap a finger and get there tomorrow,” he said. “There’s a process to arrive at that destination, but that needs to be what we’re aiming for. Absolutely nothing less is acceptable.”
Speaking Friday, Gregory said he will “concentrate on the things that you can control, and that’s the next game.”
Before this season, Bobinski said he thought the team had postseason potential. At this point, even the NIT would be a challenge for the Jackets. In the past five years, the nine ACC teams who played in the NIT averaged 19.9 wins with a minimum of 18 after the ACC tournament. With seven games left in the regular season, Tech is at 13 wins. Bobinski said Tech’s postseason status will be a factor in what he termed a “qualitative evaluation” of the team.