Paul Hewitt coaching in G League with Darryl LaBarrie

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt will coach the Los Angeles Clippers’ G League team, and he’ll have former Yellow Jackets assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie on his staff.

Hewitt confirmed the new role to the AJC on Friday, first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Hewitt has been a scout for the Clippers since 2016. The opportunity to get LaBarrie back into coaching was no small part of his decision to accept the job. LaBarrie, who played and coached for Hewitt, has been without a coaching job since he resigned his position on coach Josh Pastner’s staff during the 2017-18 season amid an NCAA investigation.

“I wanted to get him back out there, as far as people recognizing the quality of coach he is and quality of person he is,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said he has been happy in his role as a scout, was not looking to get back into coaching and has no thoughts about continuing to coach after this abbreviated season. But during the Clippers’ draft preparations in November, team president Lawrence Frank and assistant general manager Mark Hughes asked him to consider coaching the G League team, which will play a 15-game schedule in a bubble in Orlando, Fla., starting in February.

Hewitt accepted about 10 days later, seeing it as a way to learn more about the operations of an NBA team. But providing an opportunity for LaBarrie to return to coaching was so important to Hewitt that he said he even made it a stipulation in accepting the job.

“He’s a great guy,” LaBarrie said of his mentor. “I really appreciate everything he’s done for me.”

Hired by Pastner in 2016, LaBarrie resigned after he was placed on leave at the start of the 2017-18 season. LaBarrie was found to have taken a recruit to a strip club on an official visit (former Pace Academy and Duke star Wendell Carter, now with the Chicago Bulls). The NCAA also found that LaBarrie lied to NCAA investigators about his role before changing his story.

LaBarrie has acknowledged what he called a lapse in judgement in a career marked by NCAA rules compliance, but asserted that he was not guilty of all that the NCAA has alleged. (LaBarrie said he is still waiting for the investigation to be completed.) Away from coaching, he has done some broadcast work and private training. He also has worked at Chick-fil-A and Amazon and designed and sold T-shirts. It has been a long wait for LaBarrie, married with three daughters.

“First you convince yourself maybe you don’t miss it as much, you don’t love it as much, you want to do something else,” LaBarrie said. “But everything I kept trying outside of basketball didn’t work out or my heart wasn’t in it. I kind of knew this is what I’m meant to be doing, but I didn’t know if the opportunity was going to come again. I just had to be patient.”

LaBarrie played for Hewitt in his first season coaching the Jackets (2000-01) and returned to join his staff for Hewitt’s final two seasons. After going to Georgia State following Hewitt’s dismissal at the end of the 2010-11 season, he was hired by Pastner in 2016. Hewitt and LaBarrie have grown closer during LaBarrie’s exile.

“I’ll always look at him as a mentor,” LaBarrie said of Hewitt. “Not everybody disappeared on me, but a lot of people did. When you go through that type of trial and tribulation, usually your real friends and the people that care about you are in contact a little more than normal. I think this is one of those cases, for sure.”

Hewitt saw LaBarrie’s violation as a mistake by a good man, and one for which he has paid too steep a price.

“I was disappointed in how he was treated, and I felt like he needed to be back in coaching,” Hewitt said.

Additionally, Hewitt said, “he can coach at any level.”

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

After his Tech career ended, Hewitt went on to coach at George Mason for four seasons before he was let go there. At Tech, Hewitt led the Jackets to five NCAA tournament appearances in 11 seasons, including a run to the national title game in 2004. He remains the last coach to take Tech to the tournament, in 2010. While he had three losing seasons in his final four seasons at Tech, his overall record was 190-162.

Hewitt said that he has been charged by the Clippers with developing players over the course of the short season.

“The coaching part’s easy,” Hewitt said. “I think it’s pretty well established that we know how to put together a system to help develop players.”

At Tech, Hewitt coached no fewer than 14 players who played in the NBA, a group that included not only high-profile recruits such as Chris Bosh and Derrick Favors, but also the likes of Anthony Morrow and Mario West, who came to Tech as a walk-on and went on to play 162 NBA games.

“I feel very confident that we can teach these players and help them, which to me has always been my No. 1 motivation as a coach, to help people try to achieve their goals,” he said.

LaBarrie, who at Tech helped put Josh Okogie on his path to the NBA before his resignation, will be on the bench and in the gym alongside Hewitt, appreciative for a long-awaited second chance provided by a trusted mentor.

Speaking from Orlando, where the team already has convened, LaBarrie said he’s not thinking of what it might mean for the future. He’ll take each day as it comes.

Said LaBarrie, “I’m going to do the best I can do, and whatever God has for me in the future is what he has for me in the future.”