All I have seen on Facebook and Twitter and everything that I have heard from students on campus portrays new coach Paul Hewitt as the savior of George Mason men’s basketball.
Comments of “Great hire!” and “Is anyone else as pumped up about hiring Paul Hewitt as I am?” filled the Tweetosphere on Saturday, shortly after Mason Athletic Director Tom O’Connor announced that Hewitt would be the new coach of the Patriots.
And there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact, it is great to see the incredible amount of support for coach Hewitt coming from the student body.
But how much do we really know about this guy?
Unless you are a fan of Georgia Tech – though that is highly unlikely – you probably don’t know a whole lot about Hewitt other than the fact that he is our new guy.
Allow me to fill in a few holes for you.
Hewitt was fired from Georgia Tech in March after another year in which his program underachieved.
However, numerous media outlets in Atlanta claim that the decision to release Hewitt was made for three different reasons:
1) As there is with everything in this day in age, there were financial issues involved. The Yellow Jackets are preparing to move into a new, refurbished arena in 18 months and a decline in basketball revenues, stemming from a drop in ticket sales, would have spelled trouble for the program.
2) Hewitt did not respond well to criticism. From students, fans and especially from the media. He fell into a common trap and engaged in a Twitter war last year with critics. Members of the media respected his loyalty to the players, as he always came to their defense. But his actions apparently backfired.
3) Perhaps the most intriguing reason was what Atlanta media called the “irritant side.” He was perceived as extremely arrogant and dismissive in public, though people close to him say he is one of the nicest and classiest men around. One particular Atlanta journalist wrote, “I told him on a few occasions he was one of the most paranoid individuals I had ever met. His response often was along the lines of, ‘The world is out to get me.’”
And, possibly the dagger in all of this, “The problem wasn’t merely a lack of belief that Hewitt could fix the problems — it was a lack of belief that he could rally the fan base into believing he could fix the problems.”
That would be an extreme change of pace for the Mason community. Jim Larranaga did a lot of things for Mason; one of which was using the fan base to create an atmosphere that showed students that the basketball team is an extension of the student body.
With all of that being said — and I apologize for the negativity involved in all of that — I do want to shine light on the fact that coach Paul Hewitt is a genuine individual.
He volunteers his time and serves on the board of numerous health-promoting organizations. He hosts an annual golf tournament to support children with lymphoma and leukemia. He has proven that he is an outstanding human being.
His focus on high-energy defense and transition offense could do wonders for our basketball team. Mason’s defense was one of the best in the nation last season and, Hewitt’s schemes likely will not allow that to change.
But their offense was based very much on a half court set, not allowing guards — and particularly Cam Long — to get out in transition and score the basketball.
Hewitt’s offensive scheme allows for a lot of shot attempts. And at the rate the Patriots shoot the basketball, fans could be in for some very high-scoring basketball games next season.
As it is with everything else, winning will breed a supportive atmosphere; thus, eliminating all of the criticisms Hewitt was subject to in Georgia.
Welcome to the family, coach Hewitt.