Analysis: Hewitt Admits Where He Lapsed with Georgia Tech

By Terence Moore
Updated: March 20, 2007

ATLANTA — On the one hand, Paul Hewitt says this was the most talented of his seven basketball teams at Georgia Tech, and in case you’ve forgotten, he once took the Yellow Jackets to the Final Two.

On the other, UNLV is now in the Sweet 16 after much help from an opening victory during March Madness over a blatantly superior Tech bunch.

The game before that, the Jackets suffered a meltdown to start the ACC tournament against shaky Wake Forest. As a result, Tech was forced to sweat on the bubble of the NCAA tournament with the likes of Drexel.

So which is it?

Either the Jackets underachieved along the way to finishing 20-12, or they had some coaching issues.

According to Hewitt, this wasn’t a team of underachievers. That’s why he raised his hand the highest on Sunday when he gathered with his staff to discuss who was responsible for what the Jackets did and didn’t do this season.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah. I thought there were some things early on that I could have simplified to make it easier for them,” said Hewitt on Monday, referring to a loaded roster that included freshmen Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, a couple of future NBA lottery picks, maybe sooner than later.

“I was talking to Dean Keener, my former assistant, who is now the head coach at [James Madison], and I told him, ‘If this group comes back intact next year, what I definitely plan to do is to kind of streamline things offensively.’

“They’re so gifted. I just think you have to put them in a position where they can do something with the ball. Earlier in the year, I complicated things a little too much.”

Well, that and the Jackets had spurts where they forgot basketball consists of offense and defense. During their Wake Forest fiasco in the ACC tournament, they watched (and watched and watched) as Harvey Hale scored 21 points after regulation along the way to the Demon Deacons’ 114-112 upset.

Tech also was error-prone throughout the season, and it would be easy to cite overwhelming youth. Mario West was the Jackets’ only senior.

In addition to Young and Crittenton, there were freshmen Mouhammad Faye and Zach Peacock joining sophomores D’Andre Bell, Alade Aminu and Paco Diaw in giving Tech a mighty dose of young depth to complement West and standout juniors Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith.

Two things: During the modern era of college basketball, when few significant players stay long with teams before turning pros, many teams are youth heavy. Second, even if you take into consideration the inexperience factor, the Jackets looked disjointed too many times.

Was it just the old case of nice players who couldn’t complement each other to form a nice team?

“No, I think it was more an issue of paying attention to details,” said Hewitt, who isn’t at fault here. He is as intense and as precise and as adamant as they come regarding practice and game preparation.

Unlike most of his peers, for instance, Hewitt carries what he calls “skill building” and “individual instructions” from the preseason through the entire season.

What’s the problem then? Hewitt paused, before adding, “It’s not that they were uncoachable. It’s just simple things they didn’t do, like remembering to box out every single time. The concentration level just comes and goes at times.”

That said, Hewitt is confident the concentration level will come and stay next season to place the Jackets among the nation’s elite — with or without Crittenton and Young.

“There would be some relearning of certain things if they left, but we still would have a good team,” said Hewitt, before adding the clincher: “Don’t overlook the simple fact that we lost the fourth pick in the NBA draft [Chris Bosh], and the next year, we went to the [NCAA] finals.”

So they’ll be fine. Maybe not “finals” fine, but fine enough.