Paul Hewitt Firing Deserved: Doesn't Understand The Basics

Paul Hewitt Firing Inevitable Despite Unbearable $7.2 Million Golden Parachute

In respect to Paul Hewitt, and the Georgia Tech Basketball program, I have waited to share my February, 2009 direct interaction with him until now, after his release. Up until this last 2010-2011 season I was a five year GA  Tech basketball season ticket holder of five tickets through a local alumni I know. After five seasons of watching horrendous under performance and ludicrous coaching tactics, I couldn’t take it any longer and I decided not to renew my season tickets. With his dismissal finally, I look forward to again enjoying ACC basketball in Atlanta.

On February 6, 2009 I wrote Paul Hewitt a letter challenging his coaching in six areas:

  • Over rotation/substitution of players
  • Wasteful player energy expended back court
  • Fast break: not keeping the ball in middle of court long enough
  • Offensive approach identical despite different capabilities of your players
  • Giving offense confidence

The above letter can be seen in completion at the end of this posting for which I also copied [and physically mailed to] Dan Radakovich, who happens to reside in my high school district and I tangentially know through some mutual friends.

Paul Hewitt responded in a handwritten note on official Georgia Tech Basketball stationery within a few weeks.  See his actual hand written note, Paul Hewitt Handwritten Note on Official GT Stationery.

With all due respect I’m not sure you know what you are trying to say in your two page letter. I have always made it a personal policy not to comment on a team unless I attend practices and know the personalities involved. I’m sure you are a fine basketball coach. Best of luck to you in the future, Paul.

Paul Hewitt Critique: The Guy Is Clueless and Arrogant

Let’s address each sentence of his response as it clearly evidences his lack of basketball knowledge and ignorance to acknowledge another person’s perspective even if he was not in agreement:

I Don’t Know What I’m Talking About?

First Sentence: “With all due respect I’m not sure you know what you are trying to say in your two page letter.”

I do understand basketball. If you read the two page letter I sent him I think you will appreciate that I know my Xs and Os. I coached tournament middle school and high school basketball in conjunction with my three sons. I coached alongside numerous dad’s who played Division I and II college basketball, most notably Dave Bucklin who played Division II basketball and is Tom Izzo‘s brother-in-law. Dave each summer works with Tom at his summer basketball camps in Lansing. Many of you know that Tom Izzo is considered “Mr.March” with his top winning percentage in NCCA tournament play.

For Paul Hewitt to say “I’m not sure what you are talking about” shows both (i) his ignorance for the technical  and philosophical elements of the game and (ii)  his arrogance  to think he can’t take seriously any input from a seemingly knowledgeable source.

I Don’t Have The Right To Critique His Team Without Attending His Practices?

Second Sentence: “I have always made it a personal policy not to comment on a team unless I attend practices & know the personalities involved.”

How ludicrous is this statement. I operated hotels for 20+ years. The analogy of his comment is that my hotel guests should not be allowed to comment on their experience satisfaction without attending internal training sessions and knowing the personalities of the employees. In any public business we are involved in, management is responsible for delivering a quality product and should welcome feedback. Through openness and feedback we all get better. It is obvious that Paul Hewitt feels he is different than everyone else who delivers a product in the marketplace.


I look forward to a new chapter in Georgia Tech basketball !!


Paul Hewitt Letter I Sent Him February, 2009 and Copied Athletic Director

February 6, 2009

To:       Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech Basketball, Head CoachCc: Dan Radakovich, Georgia Tech Athletic DirectorFrom:  Paul Heller, Cell: (xxx) xxx-xxxx and

RE:     You Are A Great RECRUITER But I Can Not Understand Certain Elements Of Your

Coaching Style/Approach

I have been an avid Georgia Tech Basketball season ticket holder for now 5 years.  Starting this Fall, 2009 I will also become an Adjunct Professor at the College of Management at Georgia Tech teaching two sections of Marketing Management at the undergraduate level.

You are an incredible recruiter no doubt.    However I have come to doubt certain coaching patterns/philosophies of yours over the years.  You have had terrific talent to work with, but it does not translate to court performance.  The year you had Javaris Crittendon, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Morrow and Ra’Sean Dickey was incredible talent but Georgia Tech had a very disappointing season.  I have come to be very critical of certain elements of your coaching style, especially now seeing what Anthony Morrow is accomplishing with Golden State. Anthony Morrow was one of college’s best pure shooters he was unable to realize his potential under your direction at Georgia Tech.  I also think Ra’Sean Dickey with effective coaching could have contributed so much more.  I believe Dickey was one of the top low-post players in the country during his tenure at Georgia Tech.  I remember him scoring (I believe) the first 10pts at home versus Duke.

I have coached AAU youth basketball for 8+ years along side fellow fathers that have played Division I and II basketball in college.   One of these fathers I coached with for years was Tom Izzo’s brother-in law (Dave Bucklin) who played Division II basketball.   He regularly assists Tom each summer in his summer camps, and is considered one of the best volunteer middle school coaches in Atlanta.   He is a volunteer coach as he has a full-time management information systems position.


What I can not understand about your coaching approach:

1.. Over Rotation/Substitution of Players.

I understand that you are trying to rotate players based on maximizing their offensive and defensive talents.   However I think this is a BIG mistake as players need continuous, steady minutes to get into to the flow of the game and have OFFENSIVE continuity.  Constantly removing players from the game interferes especially with their ability to contribute offensively.  Part of this “interference” is getting into the flow of the game, and part of it is hindering their offensive “confidence”.   So much of OFFENSIVE success of players is having “confidence”.

I have been totally astounded that regardless of whether a player has made a couple of three’s, etc. you will constantly make substitutions.   We all know that basketball shooting often runs in streaks and to take out a player when they are HOT is criminal [even if it is for 45 seconds and they are coming back/possibly].

2.. Wasteful Player Energy Expended Back Court:

Pressing backcourt can be very effective if you have your 3 and 4 players positioned in the passing lanes to steal the pass of the trapped backcourt player/guard.   Throughout most of the game you trap the ball handler with two players, but never have your 3 and 4 players up in the passing lanes for a potential steal.    This results in the following problems:

  • Maybe you use up a couple ticks of the clock; but you end up consuming/wasting a lot of defensive energy that takes away from player’s energy available on the OFFENSIVE END.
  • Quite often teams find easy baskets because they have a 4-3 advantage at the beginning of almost every offensive set as your two trapping players are out of position.

You have the athletic talent to effectively full-court press in either a bona-fide Diamond or 2-2-1 approach; but you need to either not press at all; or legitimately press with FOUR, not only two players involved.

I find college teams very vulnerable to bona-fide full court presses.  I think if you had your 3 and 4 players cover the passing lanes that Georgia Tech could have numerous steals.

Having a combination of the 2-2-1 and Diamond presses can really confuse teams, even at the Division I college level.

3.. Fast Break:  Not Keeping The Ball In Middle Of Court Long Enough

Time and time again your fast breaks, “break-down” as the point guards pass the ball up court to the far sides instead of keeping it in the middle until farther up the court.  Once you pass to the far sides it take less defensive players to cover the court and you have cut-off the important triple options of staying in the middle of the court.

4.. Offensive Approach Identical Despite Different Capabilities Of Your Players.

Offensive talent comes in different abilities as recruited players and lineups change year after year.  However, it seems you have the SAME offensive approach regardless of the player talent you have.   Ra’Sean Dickey was a tremendous low-post player.  Anthony Morrow was one of the best pure shooters in college basketball.   Unfortunately your same “pass it around the arc and screen offense” didn’t exploit their talents.

Georgia Tech doesn’t get the ball in low-post and immediately get the ball back out to the arc for open three point shoots (what Duke does so effectively).  Too, too often the low-post player has multiple players collapsing on them and either takes a forced shot, or creates a turnover.

5.. Giving Offensive Confidence

Whether its Anthony Morrow, Lewis Clinch , Iman Shumpert these talented outside shooters need two things to score BIG for Georgia Tech:

  • Continuous Playing Time (not being constantly rotated out for defensive purposes)
  • Encouragement to shoot and keep shooting even if they miss multiple shoots. Your focus on defense (which is of course important) I think drags the attitude of some of your incredible offensive players down.  Not everyone is the best defensive player.

I would welcome the opportunity to get together and discuss basketball.


  1. George P. Burdell says:

    While I agree with your general comments and critiques, I have to say that what you did was way out of line. While I am not a big fan of Coach Hewitt’s coaching myself, I still respect him enough to not write him a two page letter criticizing him (several statement you made were beyond critique—but disrespectful!) only to berate him more when he sends you a personal handwritten response. (Wow, a personal response! He must be so arrogant!) He did a lot for the students in his time here, and I wish him the best. If you think you could be a better coach, by all means submit your impressive resume to the AD.

  2. Paul Heller says:

    I appreciate George’s comment to my post and respect his position. I will say that if you are going to respond to a fan and a knowledgeable fan, then why not be “polite”, “reasonable” and “respectable” . First, Paul Hewitt makes a comment that states he doesn’t think I know what I’m talking about? Secondly he states that I am not in a position to comment on his team unless I attend his practices and understand the personalities of his players?

    There are much better ways to be “polite”.

  3. Wow, AAU, huh? And you wonder why he dismisses criticism from a little league coach. You are a pompous know it all who judges others in substantial ignorance. Coaches reward hard work in practice with playing time in games. If you were truely a coach, you would not have to have that explained to you.

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