Reporters’ notebook: Votes are in on Atlanta United’s manager move

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda watches action during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /



Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda watches action during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find it informative, insightful and fun.

The results are in

After Atlanta United fired manager Gonzalo Pineda on Monday, the AJC posted a poll online asking readers to vote on the decision. Did they agree with the decision? Yes or no.

As of Friday morning, more than 1,200 readers registered their vote. It was one-sided. It was a 93% vote for yes. That’s 7% for no.

Raheem Morris on the team’s mental health awareness

The Falcons are plugged into June as Men’s Mental Health Awareness month.

“It is tough duty to play in the National Football League and when I got here, I actually talked about it, if you guys watched the first team meeting that we had,” Morris said. “I talked about the mental health of the guys.”

The Falcons are in the process of hiring more professionals to help in mental-health spaces.

“(We want them) to be able to help our guys and make sure our mental health is strong,” Morris said. “To make sure our character is strong. To make sure their personal life is strong.”

The Falcons’ player-development and player-engagement department is led by Fernando Velasco and Lovie Tabron.

“Those coordinator roles that really go out of their way to help our guys get better,” Morris said. “Whether they be personal life skills. Whether it be on the field. Whether it be performance or whatever the case may be. We only want to make that thing grow into this structure that’s a little bit different in the National Football League — because we want to be different than everybody else.”

Embracing how to address mental health is important to the Falcons.

“When we got here, we talked about being world-class, and I think when you talk about being world-class, you’re talking about world-class in every single thing,” Morris said. “I think that’s one of the rights that you need to have for these guys and how important that is not only to myself, but to our ownership in Arthur Blank. ... I just think is so important for our guys to be well-rounded across the board when it comes to those types of things.”

Tech athletes score 1,000

Georgia Tech had four programs (men’s cross country, golf, men’s tennis and men’s track and field) with a perfect multiyear Academic Progress Rate of 1,000, according to the latest APR data released by the NCAA on Tuesday.

Thirteen of Tech’s 15 programs had multiyear APR scores that surpassed the national average in their respective sport and eight of 15 sports boasted a perfect single-year APR for the 2022-23 academic year. Men’s track and field exceeds the national average in its sport by 26 points

The APR data is the latest academic achievements for Tech athletics. In each of the past three years, Tech has set an institutional record for its NCAA Graduation Success Rate, with its latest GSR coming in at 92%. In the spring 2024 semester, Tech athletes posted a mean GPA of 3.25, the highest in Tech athletics history.

Tech volleyball adds two

Tech volleyball added a pair of freshmen to its incoming class, signing middle blocker Mira McCool and defensive specialist Lydia Zeng to the roster.

Zeng joins Tech following a strong career at Walton High School. The Marietta native saw playing time on varsity for all four years, starting the final two seasons as the libero and her final season as team captain. She finished her high school career with 525 digs, 73 aces and 87 assists while leading Walton to a 7A GHSA state championship appearance in her senior season, earning herself a spot as one of the top five liberos in Georgia, according to

McCool comes to Tech following a four-year career at both Homewood High School (Ala.) and Alabama Performance Volleyball Club. The 6-foot-3 net front presence earned herself a spot on the Alabama High School Volleyball Coaches Association Class 6A All-State team in both her junior and senior seasons, being named first-team all-state after her junior year, when she posted 382 kills, 128 digs and 35 blocks.

Her senior year, McCool stepped up as team captain, leading the team its third consecutive area championship while reaching over 500 career kills.

Bulldogs back to Bahamas

Looking for something to do heading into Thanksgiving week? Georgia basketball coach Mike White might have a suggestion.

UGA is contracted to play again in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship basketball tournament in the Bahamas. The Bulldogs are set to play Marquette and St. Johns on Nov. 23-24, respectively, at the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Paradise Resort. That’s the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving, which is on Nov. 28 this year.

Georgia football plays host to Tennessee Tech on Nov. 23 and to Georgia Tech on Nov. 29, a Friday, at Sanford Stadium.

This past week UGA released the basketball team’s contracts with Baha Mar, St. Johns and Marquette in response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s open-records request for documentation of any new football or basketball game agreements. No financial terms were included beyond force majeure and cancellation fees.

Georgia played in the Bahamas Championship in November and lost both games it played. The Bulldogs lost to No. 11-ranked Miami 79-68 and to Providence 71-64.

Interestingly, White, the Bulldogs’ third-year coach, hinted recently that he might not schedule quite as ambitiously as he did for last season. Georgia went 20-17 this past season and reached the semifinals of the NIT. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start, going 4-3 in November, including a loss to Oregon in Las Vegas to open the season.

However, they did log a road win against Florida State and beat Wake Forest at home. Georgia plays Georgia Tech in basketball every year and will face the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, likely in December. The Bulldogs also have signed an agreement to play Charleston Southern at Stegeman Coliseum on Dec. 22 for an $85,000 guarantee for the visitor.

“I’m not sure it was in our best interest to start with a couple that we started with,” White said during the SEC Spring Meetings last week in Destin, Fla. “That’s on me, but you live and you learn and you own it. Having said that, we won one or two of those and got to talk about the great schedule we put together.”

White anticipates opening with four “winnable” home games in November. “Hopefully we can get some early momentum this season,” he said.

Early look at college football rankings

It means little, obviously, but the SEC has 11 teams in the top 25 in ESPN’s early FPI football rankings, leading with Georgia at No. 1. The Bulldogs will face Texas (No. 3), Alabama (No. 5), Tennessee (No. 9), Ole Miss (No. 16) and Florida (No. 20). It wouldn’t be surprising if the SEC comprised at least half of the new 12-team playoff this winter.

Baseball notes

*In 2020, the Mariners drafted Bulldogs right-hander Emerson Hancock at No. 6 overall, Georgia’s highest draftee since the Braves took Derek Lilliquist sixth in 1987.

*Slugger Charlie Condon, so important in the Bulldogs’ run, is expected to be a top-three selection this summer. That means he’ll end up in Cleveland, Cincinnati or Colorado (the latter two being the most hitter-friendly environments in MLB).

* Looking for another Braves prospect who might begin ascending? There’s been some buzz about 18-year-old Didier Fuentes. He owns a 3.34 ERA in nine games (eight starts) for Low-A Augusta, striking out 42 in 35 innings. Fuentes has only 30 career appearances, but he’s making a nice impression.

-Staff writers D. Orlando Ledbetter, Gabriel Burns, Chris Vivlamore and Chad Bishop contributed to this report.