Nov. 18, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Brian Gregory was a bit edgy Monday, when the subject matter turned him squirrely.
Georgia Tech (3-0) will play Dayton (3-0) Wednesday, bringing the Yellow Jackets’ coach face-to-face with his former team.
This is not his choice, and Gregory’s superiors did not schedule this game, either.
His contract at Dayton, where he coached from 2003-’11, stipulated that if he left the Flyers his new program would have to play his old program once at home and once away. Wednesday will be away – for Dayton.
Were it not for that language, Tech would, “Probably not,” be about to play the Flyers.
Gregory is well above average at worrying about the program that he is charged with running moreso than worrying about himself. They’re intertwined, really, those concepts, but there are plenty of college head coaches in several sports who misplace the order.
He’s not one of them, yet he knows that he’s in a situation here where winning won’t bring as much satisfaction as usual. It will be a big pill, a wide, chalky pill, either way.
“Every game has an emotional piece to it, some more than others. When you add that piece to it, it becomes that much more difficult,” he said. “There will always be a connection. This is the first time in three years that I hope they don’t win.”
Gregory coached two current Flyers, starting post men Matt Kavanaugh and Devin Oliver, and he continues many relationships from his time in west Ohio, astride I-75 north/south and not far from I-70 east/west.
“Homecoming wouldn’t be the word I would use. For eight years, it was such a big part of our lives,” he said, alluding to the fact that next year will be a better time for that word when Tech visits Dayton. “My daughter was born on a game day. She was baptized in the UD chapel. In that community everything revolves about UD basketball.”
That community often sends 13,000 fans or so to home games. Basketball is a very big deal at Dayton.
Gregory is third in school history with 172 wins (and 94 losses) as the Flyers’ coach, and the fact that Dayton has a 19-9 record against BCS schools over the past six years – a stat that Gregory referenced Monday – has much to do with him.
The Flyers have won four straight games against ACC teams, and they’re 2-0 against the Jackets. They beat Tech two years ago today, 63-59, in the Puerto Rico Tip Off Classic. Gregory was along the sidelines for that one, and Paul Hewitt was pacing for the Jackets. It was Hewitt’s next-to-last season on the Flats.
“It’s going to be a great test for us. They’re very good,” the coach of the moment said of Wednesday’s game. “They’ve had great success over the last six years playing BCS schools. They have a tremendous record.
“The reason why is because every player on the roster can play at this level. They have really, really dynamic guards and their big guys are getting better.”
Oliver is quite a player.
He’s about 6-feet-7, but different than when Gregory and current Tech assistants Josh Postorino (a former Dayton player) and Billy Schmidt recruited him. The pretty big fellow is averaging 10.7 points and team highs of 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists – from the power forward spot.
“When we recruited him, we really thought that that versatility was going to be his greatest strength. He’s gotten so much stronger,” Gregory said. “We recruited him as a wing, but what he is is a perimeter player who can defend post players and is a great rebounder, has a great feel for the game.”
The Jackets have played well, for the most part, in their first three games. The second half of the Delaware State game was sketchy, but Tech has shown several signs of improvement and they’ve done it so far without one returning starter in Chris Bolden (suspended) and senior swing man Jason Morris (injured).
Strength of schedule will tick up in coming weeks in a significant way, beginning Wednesday.
Strength of emotion will be in full force Wednesday night in McCamish Pavilion.
“Josh played there and coached there, Billy coached there,” Gregory said. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for the University of Dayton. A lot of good people.”
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