At the Friday news conference to discuss coach Brian Gregory's termination, Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski danced around two hypothetical questions about how Gregory could have retained his job. Still, he acknowledged that Tech either making the NCAA tournament or the NIT semifinals would have created a different scenario out of which he would have been making a decision on Gregory’s future.
That both scenarios were hardly far-fetched speaks to the thin margin that often keeps coaches in jobs or has them looking for work.
Tech was 19-14 after the ACC tournament with an RPI in the mid-60’s. According to a website that projects RPI rankings, the Jackets’ RPI would have been No. 37 had they beaten East Tennessee Nov. 22 and Virginia Tech Jan. 16 , both one-point home losses in which Tech led late. With a 21-12 record and a top 40 RPI, the Jackets almost certainly would have been tournament-bound.
“I think if you’re in the NCAA tournament, then that gives you something to really leverage from a recruiting perspective,” Bobinski said. “Could that have changed the thinking? It’s speculative – I don’t know. It didn’t happen. But, clearly, that gives you something to think about. It’s hard to deny that would have caused a different thought and put us in a different position going forward.”
Tech lost 72-56 to San Diego State in an NIT quarterfinal Wednesday , a game in which the Jackets were tied at 31 at halftime. But, playing their second game in 48 hours in a raucous arena 2,100 miles west of the arena they played two nights earlier, the Jackets ran out of gas against a strong and motivated Aztecs team. If, perhaps, Tech had received a different draw than San Diego State or had an extra day of rest, the results might have been different. Tech would have had a 22nd win, a notable and feel-good achievement in reaching the semifinals, a small share of the spotlight and the chance to win the tournament.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we’d gone to New York,” Bobinski said. “It would have made an already sticky situation even stickier, again, because of who Brian is, because of the way Brian conducts our program. This is not something you’re rushing to do, because he is a genuinely just solid, solid guy who I know is a talented basketball coach.”
Of course, the hypothetical game can be played the other way. Tech survived a frantic Florida State rally to win 86-80 in Tallahassee, Fla., and beat Notre Dame on a last-second shot by Marcus Georges-Hunt. The Jackets came from 18 points down with 8:30 left in regulation to beat Clemson in overtime in the second round of the ACC tournament. Had those results been different, Bobinski’s decision-making matrix would have been changed, also.