Oct. 21, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
Brian Gregory has had time to settle back in after the ACC’s “Operation Basketball” earlier this week, and after his first go-round with league media and with nearly a week of practice as well, Georgia Tech’s new basketball coach has interesting thoughts on the league’s preseason gathering of coaches, players and media. He also has another new impression of his own players.
Gregory has made many comments about how impressed he is by the average IQ on The Flats, and admits one of the reasons he took such a great interest in the Tech job is because he relishes the idea of recruiting high-minded young men.
“No question. The only question that was consistent up there … I thought our players handled it even better than I did,” the coach said. “The question came up about our home arena not being available [during renovation] and how every game is kind of an away game.
“You know what? They said, `We’re going to have a home-court edge because of our fans. They’re going to be at Philips and [The Arena at] Gwinnett], and they’re going to help us through tough times. They’re a lot smarter than I am.”
Gregory has been consistently upbeat since he was hired in April, and although Iman Shumpert left school early for the NBA, Brian Oliver transferred to Seton Hall, and Maurice Miller and Lance Storrs graduated to leave his squad a bit short-staffed in year one, that wasn’t much of a topic with ACC media.
Almost all questions asked of Gregory related to the present and future.
“In terms of how we’re being perceived, I thought the media had a pretty good grasp of where we’re at, some of the difficulties that have led to where we are, and they were interested in finding out how we plan to change things,” he said.
“And again, I’m really proud of our guys. They handled questions extremely well, not with canned answers. They were forthright, and honest without dwelling on things that have happened in the past.”
There were some fundamental differences between the ACC preseason media gathering and what Gregory grew accustomed to while at Dayton. First, there was no Coach K, nor any peer like Roy Williams in the Atlantic 10, and there is another type of newness in his new league.
Eight of 12 head coaches around the league have two years of ACC experience or less, and, “The main difference that was really interesting to me is the coaches don’t vote at all in the preseason, not rankings or individuals. I was also surprised to learn that we don’t vote at the end of the year, either.”
Were he to vote, the Tech coach’s ballot would in some ways look a lot like the media consensus in that, “it starts with Carolina and Duke,” Gregory said.
Beyond that, Florida State will be a factor, and, “Virginia has a chance to have an exceptional season. Miami, with Jim [Larranaga] there, and the success that he’s had; Brad Brownell at Clemson . . . I think there’s going to be some surprise teams.”
Gregory even said that he has taken evidence from another ACC team and used it to drive home key points with the Jackets. Namely, he has pointed to the defensive acumen of Leonard Hamilton’s team at FSU and admired out loud from afar and told his players, “If you’re in a BCS conference, and you’re in the top 25 in the nation in field goal defense, you have a 97 percent chance of playing in the NCAA tournament. We research a lot of things; we want the guys to see what we mean.”
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