It’s again time for Georgia Tech to dream big hoop dreams

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Georgia Tech needs a new basketball coach, and we’ll get to that. There is, however, a greater need. The Institute needs to get serious again about basketball.

The elements that enabled the indomitable Bobby Cremins to turn this program into a major national player remain in place. Tech is still based in Atlanta, which is still in Georgia. Tech still plays in the ACC.

Atlanta’s a world-class city. Georgia’s a state that produces world-class basketball talent. The ACC has a hoops history no other league can match. There you go. There’s your recruiting pitch. You don’t need slogans or #hashtags. You point to Atlanta. You persuade players from Georgia to stay in-state and play in the ACC. That should do it.

As Josh Pastner’s time at Tech grew short, the relentlessly chipper coach looked toward next season as a time of great potential, which sounded odd, given that next season would have been his eighth here. What would make 2023-24 any different from 2018-19? Tech, Pastner said, was about to get into the NIL – name/image/likeness – game. Which, on first hearing, really sounded odd.

NIL money has been the coin of collegiate realm for two years. Where had Tech been? Its campus abuts Coca-Cola. Its city is HQ to Delta, UPS, Georgia-Pacific and The Home Depot. The opportunity for business/athletic tie-ins would seem greater here than in, say, Clemson, S.C.

Somehow, though, Georgia Tech missed the NIL memo. Under athletic director Todd Stansbury, the Jackets apparently were content to watch as others around them – go ask the folks in Athens and Tuscaloosa about NIL – took sponsorship money to the bank, as it were. Last fall, Tech president Angel Cabrera replaced athletic Todd Stansbury with J Batt, who’d worked in, ahem, Tuscaloosa.

Tech has now joined the NIL fray. Its collective is The Tech Way. It arrived too late to save Pastner, but maybe Pastner wasn’t the guy to take this program where it needed to go. Maybe Amir Abdur-Rahim will be.

Apologies to Kennesaw State, which under Abdur-Rahim is about to take part in the NCAA tournament, but your coach already is a hot item. His work with the Owls – from 1-28 to an ASUN championship in four years – leaps off the page. Tech can consult with all the big-ticket search firms and conduct a worldwide search, and it mightn’t find anybody better than the guy who’s working in Cobb County.

At KSU, Abdur-Rahim has recruited to a suburban school that hadn’t seen a winning season since joining Division I in 2005. He blended those recruits into a team that could bust brackets this time next week. He’s from Atlanta. He played at Wheeler High, a premier program. As Tom Crean’s assistant, he helped lure the massive recruit Anthony Edwards to Georgia. Abdur-Rahim’s older brother Shareef was among those 5-star prospects who fled the state.

Nobody knows Atlanta and Georgia better than Abdur-Rahim. Is he ready for the ACC? Well, Cremins came from Appalachian State, Paul Hewitt from Siena. Each took the Jackets to a Final Four. Between them, they led Tech to 14 NCAA tournaments. The two coaches since Hewitt – Brian Gregory and Pastner – took Tech to one Big Dance over a dozen years.

Pastner arrived from Memphis with the reputation of being a better recruiter than coach. At Tech, he was a better coach than recruiter. For whatever reason, he couldn’t lure a big-name Georgian to Georgia Tech. According to 247 Sports, the nation’s top senior is Isaiah Collier, a guard from – wouldn’t you know? – Wheeler. He’s headed to USC. For Tech again to matter, that’s the sort of thing that must cease.

Much should be expected of Tech’s next coach. Without Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim, the ACC is wide open. In college hoops, one recruiting class can change a program. In college hoops, the right coach at the right place can move mountains. If it hires the right coach – and supports him to the fullest – Tech can be that place.