We were not jilted lovers, let’s get that straight. At the time of Brian Gregory’s departure from Dayton both parties needed a fresh start, as UD and Gregory were already at the “texting other people” stage of their relationship. The former Michigan State assistant entered with a bang, taking a stocked roster recruited by Oliver Purnell to an NCAA Tournament appearance during his first season in the Gem City. After that initial bout of success, Gregory’s tenure danced to an increasingly mediocre beat (albeit with an actual NCAA tournament win thrown in there for bewilderment purposes) and by the end of the 2011 season the natives had grown completely restless.
To recount, the Flyers finished that season with a 7-9 record in Atlantic Ten play, finishing in a distant ninth place. That UD team gave us fans one last thrill however, rolling over UMass, Xavier and St. Joseph’s to reach the Atlantic Ten tournament final against the Richmond Spiders (on CBS!). However, the Flyers never threatened Chris Mooney’s squad and the season mercifully ended in less than grandiose fashion, officially laid to rest just two days later as BG’s squad took a sound beating at Charleston in the first round of the NIT Tournament. In a totally related matter, Georgia Tech fired Paul Hewitt earlier that day.
Soon after the loss in the Palmetto State, Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman, vital members of UD’s Flop Four recruiting class, declared their intentions to seek their higher-education elsewhere. Some viewed this particular development as a positive, UD had Kevin Dillard (who was totally killing Staten in practice anyway, dude) and two highly-touted freshman, LaDontae Henton and Percy Gibson, coming into the fold. It was going to be addition by subtraction.
Georgia Tech was having issues of its own at this point. After dismissing Hewitt, they had to set their sights on a prospective coach that, as Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich said at the time, would allow the Jackets “to continue playing big boy basketball.” But there were problems almost from the outset. Tubby Smith, floundering in Minnesota, wouldn’t get out of bed for less than three million dollars. Chris Mooney listened with an intrigued ear, but decided a better situation was likely around the corner in the near future. Cuonzo Martin was whisked away to Knoxville and bathed in greenbacks. Former Yellow Jacket Craig Neal decided to wait it out in New Mexico. Mark Turgeon? He had no interest, having just signed an extension at Texas A&M before the season – although when Maryland came knocking a few months later, Turgeon was more than happy to answer.
After realizing the financial impact Paul Hewitt’s buyout would cost them, and considering their dwindling revenues, the Yellow Jackets were well aware that they would have to set their sights a bit lower than they anticipated. “Lowered expectations” is listed on Brian Gregory’s business card, right under “NIT Champion.”
Gregory’s move to Atlanta was fundamentally tactical, an easy option for a man who was increasingly running out of them. 90% of us would have made the same move simply to get a fresh start and extend the length of our career. As his predecessor Oliver Purnell could attest, it’s usually better to abandon ship as soon as a visible crack appears in the hull. Gregory’s motivation certainly wasn’t financial in nature, as his announced salary wasn’t a momentous increase from the monetary reward he enjoyed at Dayton. Nor was Georgia Tech the “big-time dream job” Gregory likely imagined taking someday when he became a low-paying assistant at Michigan State after his playing days at Oakland were over.
In hindsight, it’s difficult to feel anything remotely antagonistic regarding Brian Gregory’s exodus. Georgia Tech paid UD to take a growing problem off of its hands, a favor if there ever was one. Did attendance taper off after Gregory left? Of course not. Did recruiting suffer upon BG’s exit? Quite the contrary. Is the first lady of UD basketball less attractive? Nope, huge upgrade.
Gregory didn’t leave UD because winning here is impossible, BG left the Gem City because HE couldn’t consistently win here. In the end, Brian Gregory and Dayton each got exactly what they deserved.
The Yellow Jackets, like Dayton, are a perfect 3-0 on the season (and like UD haven’t played anyone of substance). Picked to finish eleventh in the ACC, the Jackets feature a roster that returns four starters from last year’s 16-15 club. The last time these two programs met, a Brian Gregory coached team knocked off the Jackets 63-59 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tipoff (sidenote: that Tech squad featured Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice, Jr. and Gani Lawal. I have no idea how UD managed to pull that one off. Coaching, I guess).
On paper, Tech appears to be a fairly solid defensive club — posting an impressive 35% defensive field-goal percentage and forcing 38 turnovers in three games. Again, not necessarily an indication of anything given the competition. Let’s give Gregory this much, his teams rebound. Tech has outrebounded its opponents in 40 of the 65 games BG has been stalking the sideline.
Curious news came out of Atlanta last week, when it was announced that Tech had decided to extend BG’s contract another year, running through the end of the 2017-18 season. The reaction from the Hive was…mixed.
- “Excellent. I like watching CBG’s team play – they can run inbounds plays!”
- “It seems that most of you fail to remember that BG is also responsible for performance in the CLASSROOM…hence the term, “SCHOLAR ATHLETE”! I personally appreciate gradual progress in W-L’s and conference standing while building solid TECH citizens…something the USA could use more of.”
- “This Coach is a keeper. He recruits well and his teams REBOUND and play DEFENSE! He disciplines players when they break the rules and coaches them up to play better! His emphasis on academics is remarkable in a climate where Calipari can be paid tons of money for wins and probations, but no graduates! As a graduate, I am once again proud of our team and this coach and own four season tickets, purchased the week after Coach Hewitt was shown the door!”
- “Wait, he gets a raise and extension before ever making any kind of post season tournament? Amazing. “
- “Extension!!!! With the way his team has looked thus far?? I don’t think anyone is knocking that door over.”
- “And the rest of the ACC rejoices!”
The comments eventually delved off into discussing Georgia Tech football and personal insults, but you get the idea. As it stands currently, Gregory sports a 27-33 overall record, 10-24 in ACC play.
Meet and Greet
Tech got a huge boost late in the summer when the NCAA granted Tennessee transfer Trae Golden a waiver to play immediately. Golden’s eligibility is a huge boost to Gregory’s chances this season. Although it’s all but certain that the Yellow Jackets will miss the NCAA Tournament again this season, Golden’s presence will lessen the bloodletting. Golden is Tech’s leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and primary ball-handler. If I ever go to prison for an extended period of time, Golden looks exactly like the guy I always imagined would end up killing me in the shower.
6’5″ sophomore guard Marcus Georges-Hunt (13.3 ppg/7.5 rpg) led Georgia Tech in scoring last season as a freshman, starting 30 of the Jackets’ 31 games. Georges-Hunt is a solid athlete, an exceptional rebounder for his size and possesses (that’s one of the oddest looking words ever, by the way) a very versatile offensive arsenal. 6’3″ sophomore guard Chris Bolden, suspended for the first three games of the season due to a DUI arrest, will make his season debut against the Flyers. Bolden averaged just over seven points last season, starting fifteen games, and largely scores from behind the three-point line.
Daniel Miller (11.3 ppg/8.3 rpg) is the Jackets’ big man in the middle – they actually list Miller as six feet and eleven AND A HALF inches on the Tech website. That’s kinda adorable. Miller isn’t as talented as prior Yellow Jacket centers, but he is a big body that can rebound and offensively make plays around the basket. For a man his size, Miller is a solid foul-shooter, connecting on 85% of his attempts this season.
Robert Carter, Jr. (9.0 ppg/7.3 rpg) plays alongside Miller and is a big-time shot blocker. Carter started every game last season and shed twenty pounds of what we colloquially call “baby fat” over the summer. 6’8″ forward Kammeon Holsey (9.0 ppg/7.3 rpg) is a banger with decent touch around the hoop.
6’8” freshman forward Quinton Stephens (3.7 ppg/2.7 rpg) graduated from my high-school, so that’s cool. The Poole brothers, Stacey and Solomon, add some depth to the Jackets’ backcourt. Stacey is a Kentucky transfer who has yet to find his footing in college basketball. The elder Poole has increased his production this season, scoring six points in just ten minutes played per game. Poole the Younger is averaging around five points and three assists per contest. Travis Jorgenson (5.0 ppg/2.0 apg), white point-guard alert, is a freshman with “high basketball IQ” and has already shown the ability to run the Jacket offense when called upon. Jorgenson has a trait I have never seen before — he seems to move and carry himself like a southpaw, yet he shoots the ball with his right hand. You’ll have to see him in action to understand what the fuck I’m talking about.
This is Dayton’s first foray away from the Sweater Centre, and that’s always a concern. The Khari Price/Trae Golden matchup is of particular concern, as Price’s contributions thus far have been crucial to the Flyers’ three victories. The onus will be on UD’s bigs to stifle Tech on the glass and limit second-chance opportunities. I think Tech’s size and depth will give UD problems and the Flyers will revert to their old ways — settling for shots from the perimeter. Pomeroy gives Dayton a 22% chance of winning and has the Jackets winning by nine. I don’t think UD will win, but I think they keep it close. 73-68, Brian Gregory’s team.
I’m already looking forward to Gregory coming back to Dayton next season.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.