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Post New hoops neighbors: Martin and Gregory

Tuesday March 29, 2011

Tennessee hired their Dennis Felton in Cuonzo Martin. I’m not predicting that Tennessee will fall off the map as Georgia did from 2003 to 2004. They’re not going to gut the roster and force Martin to start from ground zero, so he’s already well ahead of where Georgia was. I mean that Tennessee got a mid-major coach on a bit of an upward swing who will take the job knowing what’s hanging over the program. Martin and his agent are smart enough to build insurance for that mess into his contract. But he’s still following a relative success who could recruit and who had led the program to five straight NCAA Tournaments. He has a tough job.

Brian Gregory at Tech has a different job. Few Tech fans are sorry to see new blood. Though the program is free and clear in terms of NCAA interest, Gregory will still have a few constraints. The program isn’t necessarily flush with cash. Tech’s not a large program to begin with, and now they’re paying Paul Hewitt on top of financing a renovated arena. They weren’t going to break the bank on a new coach; the bank was already busted. The arena situation, though a positive once it’s done in a year, will put a time constraint on Gregory’s progress. If fans aren’t excited about the state of the program heading into the 2012-2013 season when the new arena opens, the new building won’t have nearly the impact.

Success or failure for Gregory is more than likely going to come down to recruiting. You could always have a Pearl-like flameout, but that’s unusual. His coaching background and roots answer most questions about technical competence. So it’s down to people. Hewitt recruited well – maybe too well as the revolving door of one-and-done players disrupted much long-term continuity for the program. Gregory will have much the same issue Mark Fox did: he’ll have to lean on his staff to establish local recruiting ties at first. Gregory stocked the Dayton program with kids from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and he’ll have a good footing to get more players from that area like current Tech star Iman Shumpert. An interesting question is the future of the New York / East Coast pipeline that has formed the identity of Tech hoops for so long. `

The biggest adjustment for Gregory, the returning players, and the Tech fan base will be Gregory’s style and system. No one is going to accuse Hewitt of running his program the wrong way off the court, but Tech hasn’t exactly been known for structure and discipline on the court. Gregory will (or will try to) change that. Most any coach is going to talk about work ethic, but Gregory is known for a fairly intense system that traces its roots to Izzo’s Michigan State program.

That system and its rigidity came to a bit of a head this year as two skilled Dayton newcomers decided to transfer, citing discontent with Gregory’s offense. I tend to side with the coach when a player whines about the system holding him back, but it’s fair to say that the outcome of this season with no NCAA Tournament bid and two key transfers left Dayton fans a bit ambivalent about Gregory and the future of their program. Gregory might be a good fit for Tech, though there’s also a sense that it was the right time for him to leave Dayton.

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