ATLANTA — The losses mounting, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt knows the spotlight that surrounds his team is beginning to grow with each passing game.
“It’s very interesting to go through something like this,” he said Saturday afternoon after his Yellow Jackets (10-14, 1-10) dropped another ACC contest. “You learn a lot. You learn a lot. You often hear the cliché ‘you learn from adversity’ and that kind of stuff, but you do. You learn to appreciate a lot of different things.”
Fielding sharp, critical questions following the 86-65 loss to N.C. State, Hewitt was the epitome of a word-savvy politician, understanding just how serious some might take his statements.
“It’s so different when you’re on the inside,” Hewitt said. “Especially sometimes when I hear some of the things people say on the outside. I’m like, ‘Are you really looking at the same things I’m looking at?’
“Nobody’s happy, especially me and our players.”
Among the things the head coach — in his ninth year at Georgia Tech — has heard from the outside are whispers that he should lose his job for the way this past season has gone. Several fans have also publicly shared their displeasure in the Yellow Jackets’ knack of dropping close ballgames late.
Voiced on team message boards and on radio talk shows, the grumbles have grown into loud groans from some outsiders. But to Hewitt, there is no reason for them to be heard; he’s focused on not allowing this type of season to return.
“I don’t want to put our school through this ever again, and I don’t want to do that to our fan base either, which has been tremendous,” Hewitt said. “Despite what people may say, trust me, the vast majority of people I come in close contact with — be it through e-mail or a phone call or a chance encounter at the airport — they’re all Georgia Tech people, and they’re really supportive of what we do.
“We should be better, no question about it. We’ve had tremendous opportunities to win seven or eight of these games, but we haven’t done it. Like I say, ‘You learn a lot.’”
One of the things the Yellow Jackets have learned this season is that their shooters have to become more aggressive with their shooting. Through the course of the ACC season, several players have mentioned that by having a passive nature shooting they’ve taken themselves out of several ballgames.
In recent weeks, Hewitt has complimented his team on taking more shots. The problem Saturday, however, was that many of their attempts weren’t falling.
“This was a different deal (Saturday),” Hewitt said. “We didn’t turn the ball over, we’ve been shooting free throws better, we just missed a ton of layups.
“One of the things we’ve been strong on all year is around the basket. We’ve been finishing our inside drives and really taking advantage of people. But (Saturday) was just one of those days, I guess.”
One player who made several key shots in the first half of the contest was freshman guard Iman Shumpert. Knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers and following through several key drives to the basket, Shumpert tried to take the game over and keep his team in it early.
When things aren’t going Georgia Tech’s way on the court, the young guard said he feels pressured to do just that.
“Yep, a lot of times I do, but I still want to stay within the offense and try not to rush things and not get too crazy, because sometimes I do,” Shumpert said. “After so much, people (on the bench) start to sometimes put their heads down. We just have to fight through that and keep our intensity up and keep fighting and make a decent run with what we have left.
Hewitt has been glad to see his young player taking on that daunting role.
“Iman has been shooting it well, and he’s got some courage, too,” Hewitt said. “He really kind of took things in his hands and took it upon himself to get us united, and he made three in a row at one point. It’s just that’s what he decided to do. And that’s what you need is a really good player like that. He doesn’t mind stepping up and putting himself on the line.”