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March 13, 2011

Who's Next?

With the Paul Hewitt era of Georgia Tech basketball in the history books, the Yellow Jackets will turn their attention to finding a new basketball coach. Athletic Director Dan Radakovich laid out his plans on Saturday for the hiring process and a wide range of names have been rightly and wrongly connected to the job.

"It is very wide-open right now. As you think about this right now, there are probably three buckets of individuals who fit right in this right now: current head coaches, current assistants and people who are not in one of those other two buckets," Radakovich said.
"We are looking for the best person to come in here and take over this job and lead our basketball program. We do not have a set level of criteria. That is what the search process is for."

Radakovich said in the press conference that he would be willing to spend top dollar for an elite or high profile coach. One name that has emerged early on is Alabama coach Anthony Grant. Grant is licking his wounds on Sunday after his team's bubble was burst by the NCAA after a 21 win season. Grant spent a decade as an assistant at Florida, won 24-plus games in three years at Virginia Commonwealth (2 NCAA appearances) and posted a 38-26 record while turning around the Crimson Tide this past year.

Grant is considered one of the top up and coming coaches in the country. He is making around $1.8 million in Tuscaloosa and a flirtation with the Jackets should at least give the talented coach a raise.

The coach that replaced Grant at VCU, Shaka Smart is also on the short list for the Georgia Tech coaching job. Smart is only 33 years old, but he has three years of ACC assistant coaching experience to go with his 50-19 record as the Rams head coach in two seasons. Smart also worked for Billy Donovan at Florida in 2008 as an assistant.

Some Jacket fans got a glimpse of two contenders coaching against each other on Sunday as Dayton's Brian Gregory and Richmond's Chris Mooney squared off. Mooney's modified Princeton offense led the Spiders to a 67-54 win. Gregory may be a bit of a stretch for the Jackets, but Mooney is very much in play according to our sources. Mooney's team are the polar opposite of the later era Hewitt teams and feature great passing, high shooting percentages and great team discipline.

It is often said when a school makes a coaching change they go in an opposite direction and Mooney would definitely be a major change from Hewitt. There is mutual interest between Mooney and Georgia Tech, but nothing can happen until the Spiders are eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

Former players are always very popular on message boards and websites, but it seems highly unlikely that either Hawks shooting instructor Mark Price or current New Mexico assistant Craig Neal, both former Jacket stars, will be serious contenders for the job. Radakovich may give them a courtesy interview, but neither seems to fit the criteria outlined on Saturday, nor does former Yellow Jacket Head Coach Bobby Cremins, who turns 64 in July.

Several other potential candidates like Xavier's Chris Mack (a Cincinnati native) and former Atlanta Hawk and current Missouri State Head Coach Cuonzo Martin (unproven track record) seem like long shots.

Expect Dan Radakovich and the Georgia Tech Athletic Association to look at a variety of options outside of the early front runners. Former South Carolina coach and Radakovich friend, Eddie Fogler will aid in the search process, so expect the Jackets to cast a wide net as they have the top open college basketball job of 2011-12. Radakovich also said he would like to have a new coach for the Yellow Jackets hired before the Final Four, which begins April 2 in Houston, TX.


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