George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor said he wanted a "wow" hire in his bid to replace recently departed coach Jim Larranaga (Miami FL). And after spending no more than a week perusing the coaching market, O'Conner's search concluded with one Paul Harrington Hewitt, a man who was recently bought out for $7.2 million after 11 years of service with Georgia Tech in the ACC.
A 47-year-old veteran with nearly 20 years of power conference experience to his credit, Hewitt has coached and recruited a handful of current NBA players throughout his tenure (Chris Bosh, Derrick Favors and Thaddeus Young come to mind). He also happened to lead Georgia Tech to a title game loss back in 2004 against Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies. One concern however, is that while his 189-160 career mark in Atlanta was commendable, it included a mix of five losing seasons and five NCAA tournament berths. And when you consider that three of those losing campaigns were in the last four years, it makes perfect sense why Georgia Tech felt the need to hit the panic button and pony up big bucks for a buyout. Many schools around the country would have done the exact same thing.
On the flip side, entering the Colonial Athletic Association with a program that traditionally rules the roost anyway is an unbelievably soft landing for Hewitt's career. The Patriots will pay him roughly the same salary they were offering Larranaga to stick around, so it's not like they overextended themselves financially to lure him to Fairfax. That also means Hewitt will make somewhere around $2.3 million per season for the next five years, which is quite impressive for a guy who only wins 57.7% of the time.
In Hewitt, the Patriots landed an above average recruiter, an exceptionally loyal leader, and a coach who plays an exciting style of basketball. O'Connor was obviously impressed with Paul's three-year stint at the 'mid-major' level, when he won 66 games with Siena from 1997 to 2000 before Tech eventually stole him away. And considering the circumstances, it's impossible to label this hire as anything but ideal for each party involved. The coaching pool wasn't exactly loaded with experienced candidates for George Mason to choose from, and Hewitt was probably going to take a year off to bath himself in his fancy buyout money anyway. You can even make a strong case that Hewitt fell into a more desirable situation now that he's out of the ACC, and that George Mason went up a few notches on the recruiting scene due to Hewitt's endless list of contacts.
In some ways it felt like a large part of George Mason basketball died when Larranaga bolted for Miami, and O'Connor did a nice job making sure his demoralized fan base didn't crumble with the defection. Hewitt is a respected head coach, and was a grade-A candidate for this program when you take everything into account. The expectations in year one will certainly be high, but make no mistake, this has the potential to be a brilliant hire for the Patriots.