If a lack of “positive energy” submarined Paul Hewitt’s tenure at Georgia Tech, he did his best to reverse that trend on Day 1 at George Mason.
The Patriots introduced their new coach Monday as he made the media rounds and even held a live chat with fans on GoMason.com. Questions ranged from defensive philosophy to what he’s have on his burger at a local joint (“banana peppers, cheddar, gotta go lettuce and tomato, and just as a curveball, some cucumbers for crunch”).
And through it all, the guy was nothing but positive, which makes sense. He was ready to move on from Tech.
“I don’t mind saying I was a little beat up after my last job,” Hewitt said. “That’s part of the game, no hard feelings, but this was too good a situation to turn down.”
No kidding. Jim Larranaga – who accepted the Miami job after 14 years at George Mason – left the Patriots perfectly positioned for another regular-season CAA title. Cam Long’s the only significant loss from a 27-7 squad that reached the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
“This year, it’s important we maintain some sense of continuity,” Hewitt said. “When you win 27 games, you don’t want to change too much.”
Hewitt’s already reached out George Mason players, talked to the school athletics staff, spoke to Larranaga and is even pumped about moving to the D.C. area. Hey, he was supposed to be on vacation in St. Martin’s right now. Instead, he’s starting over at a new school.
But will the new start mark a coaching change for Hewitt? Will he maintain Mason’s success?
Just about every Hewitt story mentions his middling ACC record (72-104) and that he only had one season above .500 in league play, which came back in 2004 when the Jackets reached the Final Four. Hewitt’s recruited well, but he’s battling a perception that he hasn’t developed those players properly and underachieves as a result.
There’s some truth to that. But that ignores guys like Anthony Morrow or Mario West who stayed four years and consistently improved each season. Those will be the types of players he’ll lure to George Mason – 2-, 3- or 4-star guys who aren’t in a rush to get to the pros.
Who knew not recruiting the likes of Chris Bosh or Derrick Favors might be a good thing?
“Believe it or not, there are times in this game when you can recruit too well,” ex-Wake Forest coach Dave Odom told John Feinstein. “You recruit the kind of players Paul has recruited and you find yourself dealing with a lot of outsiders. The kids have their heads on a swivel trying to decide who to listen to every single day.”
Give George Mason credit for making a solid hire on an experienced coach. And give Hewitt props for bringing some enthusiasm to the gig.
Now, if he can beat Shaka every year, the Patriots will really have something.
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