Coach Hewitt Is in the House
Posted: August 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm, Last Updated: August 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm
By Jason Jacks
Much like his predecessor, Mason’s new men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt knows a thing or two about getting to the top. As head coach at Georgia Tech in 2004, Hewitt led an overachieving group of young hoopsters to the NCAA Final Four. And while his team lost in the title game that year, the experience, he says, has hardened his resolve to make a return trip to the biggest stage in college basketball.
“You want to get back,” he says of his previous team’s Final Four appearance. “That’s the most important thing you learn from it. It’s a great experience — one you want all of your players to have.”
An Impressive Resume
Hewitt was named the university’s ninth men’s basketball coach in the spring of 2011, after Jim Larranaga resigned to become the head coach at the University of Miami.
In the basketball-dominated Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Hewitt led the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for 11 seasons and compiled a 190-162 record, including five appearances in the NCAA Tournament and two in the ACC Tournament title game. Among his former college players is Chris Bosh, who is now part of the Miami Heat’s “Big Three,” which also includes LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
Before that, Hewitt was the head coach at Siena College, where he guided that team to a NCAA Tournament bid in 1999. He was also an assistant coach at Villanova University, Fordham University and the University of Southern California.
Hewitt has also coached for his country. In 2006 and 2010, he served as an assistant on two U.S. under-18 teams that won world titles. This summer, he was head coach of USA Basketball’s under-19 squad, which competed in the world championships in Latvia. The team finished fifth.
“Although we came up short in terms of medals, the kids were great. We finished 7-2, we won our pool. From a coaching standpoint, it was another great learning opportunity,” says Hewitt, who intends to parlay his experience overseas into recruiting more international talent to Mason.
“One of the reasons I decided to keep the position with USA Basketball was because I had some opportunities to make connections there that I’m sure I’ll be calling on,” he says.
Hewitt was born in Jamaica and moved with his family to Queens, N.Y., when he was 8. He went to high school on Long Island and earned a bachelor’s degree at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.
Carrying On the Patriots’ Winning Tradition
Today, Hewitt’s basketball journey continues at Mason, a school five years removed from its own historic run to the Final Four, and a few months removed from completing one of the most successful seasons in the school’s history.
At one point last season, the Patriots won 16 games in a row and finished at the top of the Colonial Athletic Association’s regular season standings. However, matching that success may be a challenge this coming season, as the team will have to contend with the departure of star guard Cam Long, who graduated, and forward Luke Hancock, who transferred to the University of Louisville in the offseason. Hewitt, though, feels the team has the talent to continue its winning ways.
“I think the return of Sherrod Wright, who was a redshirt last year, and (new recruit) Vaughn Gray, will help,” he explains. “And you might see some guys whose roles will change. Bryon Allen and Jon Arledge are two kids who can really score the ball. I do feel like we have the experience and the talent level to overcome those losses.”
Loss of players is one thing, but Hewitt will also have to fill the shoes left by the departure of Larranaga — who also happens to be the winningest head coach in Mason history. Not one to back down from a challenge, Hewitt says there is one way to ease fans’ worries during the transition from one coaching legend to another: win.
“I saw (this job) as an opportunity to win at a very high level,” he says. “And I think if we do that, everyone will be pleased.”
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