Saturday, April 30, 2011

Report: Hewitt Headed to George Mason

It appears that former Siena basketball coach Paul Hewitt wasn't out of work long.

CBS sports' on-line site is reporting that Hewitt has come to an agreement to replace Jim Larranaga, who recently moved to take over at Miami.

If that is indeed the case, then the Patriots have hit a home run, if you don't mind a stolen metaphor from another sport.

Readers of this blog know this scribe's feelings about Hewitt, who coached three seasons at Siena and turned a downtrodden program into something considerably more vibrant with a trip to the NCAA's and to the NIT.

And, while it can easily be argued that Fran McCaffery's five-year run with Siena surpassed Hewitt's in terms of achievement (three NCAA trips), the opinion here is that it's Hewitt who remains the best coach ever to walk the Siena sideline.

That perception is based not only on results (but Hewitt's are exemplary, as well), but in an overall sense. Hewitt not only transformed a team (as did McCaffery), but an entire program, one that was restricted to second-rate road accomodations, participating in regional in-season tournaments and a miniscule recruiting budget. And, Hewitt left much more behind in terms of team personnel than McCaffery did up his departure for Iowa after the 2009-10 season.

Hewitt brought Siena basketball into the "modern" era. And, some of that came out of his own pocket. He passed on raises offered him, directing the extra money be used to increase the salary of assistant coaches and to better fund the program overall.

Hewitt was also more concerned with his players' post-college, post-basketball lives than any other coach who came through Siena. He mandated not only classroom attendance, but that his team members sit near the front of classes; if players skipped classes the entire team faced 6 a.m. runs; he had dress codes for class attendance and road trips; he mandated good grooming.

"When my players go for job interviews after college they're not going to get jobs if they have scraggly face hair or wear t-shirts to an interview," he once said, when discussing his off-court policies. "It's my job to get them ready for real life as well as for basketball."

Hewitt left Siena for Georgia Tech where he coached for 11 seasons, and took that program to the 2004-05 season's NCAA championship game. Overall his Georgia Tech teams went to national post-season tournaments seven times in his 11 years there.

Hewitt also always professed that his family, his wife and daughters, had rights of refusal on any job he'd become involved with and your scribe remembers that after his second year at Siena he ended his involvement with a very well-regarded high-major program because his family didn't like the location.

The guess is that the Hewitt family agreed that Fairfax, Va., just a few miles outside of Washington, D.C., is a good fit.

And the opinion here is that Hewitt will be a good fit at George Mason.

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