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Hewitt lashes out at critics as Georgia Tech's NCAA tourney opener looms Friday

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt is lashing out at suggestions his rollover contract is the only reason he still has his job.

The coach said Tuesday it is "really cheap" to say the expensive buyout of more than $7 million has kept him at Georgia Tech. Hewitt's Yellow Jackets finished 12-19 overall and 2-14 in the ACC last year and finished a disappointing 7-9 in the conference this season.

"Don't put the contract thing out there like I walked into somebody's office with a gun and a mask," Hewitt said.

Hewitt's six-year contract at about $1.3 million per year has an automatic rollover clause that becomes effective on April 15. He must be told 30 days before that date if the rollover clause will not be renewed. Tuesday was the 30-day mark.

He said he had offers from other schools when he signed the contract in 2004. Hewitt said he resents criticism of the deal.

"I could have made at least a half-million more going someplace else, but I felt really strong about the philosophy and mission of Georgia Tech and I felt it was really cheap and deceitful, really, to act like I pulled one over on somebody," Hewitt said. "I didn't pull one over on anybody. We went into this with eyes wide open on both sides and if Georgia Tech doesn't want me to be their basketball coach, that's their decision. I'm confident enough in my ability because of how hard I've worked and my reputation in the game. I think I'd have a pretty decent chance of finding another job someplace."

Last week, athletic director Dan Radakovich, responding to a question from The Associated Press, said it's too early for him to evaluate the season or Hewitt's status.

"As has always been the case since I came to Georgia Tech, I will not get into a discussion regarding the evaluation of a program while there are still significant games to be played and goals yet to be reached," Radakovich said.

Hewitt bristled when referring to reports of the statement from Radakovich.

"That's another thing that was really cheap. That nonsense that happened last week," Hewitt said. "There was no statement made. It was a question asked. ... To blow it into something that was almost a national story and I've got recruits calling me 'Coach, what's going on?' I thought that was really cheap."

Radakovich also released a statement to fans last week. Hewitt said Radakovich reached out to fans "because he saw it mushroom into something that really was a trumped-up story."

"And again, whether it was or wasn't, if they feel like I'm not the guy, trust me, I've got no problems, I'll walk away and do whatever I've got to do," the coach said. "But to act like I'm holding somebody hostage is really cheap. That really was disgusting."

Georgia Tech (22-12) will play Oklahoma State on Friday in Milwaukee in its first NCAA Tournament since 2007.

Hewitt is 176-143 in 10 years at Georgia Tech and only 67-93 in Atlantic Coast Conference games.

He was given the rollover contract by former athletic director Dave Braine after the Yellow Jackets advanced to the 2004 Final Four.

Hewitt has only one winning ACC record in 10 seasons, including five straight years of finishing sixth or lower in the league. Georgia Tech has won only one NCAA Tournament game, in 2005, since losing to Connecticut in the 2004 championship game.

There was much anticipation for this season when leading scorer and rebounder Gani Lawal returned instead of entering the NBA Draft, senior leader D'Andre Bell returned from an injury that forced him to miss the 2008-09 season, and a highly rated freshman class led by Derrick Favors joined the roster.

Favors, the ACC's Rookie of the Year, has averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while starting in 33 of 34 games.

Georgia Tech lost its last two regular-season games and was on the NCAA tournament bubble before making a run in last week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

The Yellow Jackets won three games before falling to Duke in Sunday's championship game.