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Hewitt turns down St. John's, opts to stay at Ga. Tech

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATLANTA -- Saying he already feels at home, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt turned down a chance to move to St. John's.

Hewitt confirmed Thursday that he's staying with the Yellow Jackets after meeting with St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch.

While intrigued by the opportunity to return to the area where he grew up, Hewitt feels as though he's got more ties to Atlanta after coaching at Georgia Tech for a decade. His wife and three school-age daughters all wanted to stay put. Also, the coach's parents and a brother live here.

"We really like the Atlanta area," said Hewitt, who grew up on Long Island. "My family is very, very important to me. Those are the people I've got to make sure are happy. If they're not happy, my life is kind of miserable."

Hewitt is in the middle of recruiting season and felt it was important to make a quick decision on his future. After one meeting with Monasch near the Atlanta airport, he withdrew his name from consideration for the St. John's job, then held a late-night news conference in Atlanta after returning from a recruiting trip.

"No formal offer was ever made," Hewitt said.

When Norm Roberts was fired last week after six seasons at St. John's, Monasch said he wanted to hire "someone who has a record of success of getting into the NCAA tournament." St. John's hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2002.

Georgia Tech gave St. John's permission this week to interview Hewitt, who has been at the Atlanta school since 2000. He's taken the Yellow Jackets to five NCAA tournaments in 10 seasons, including the 2004 Final Four, but has managed only one winning record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I think what has transpired over the last few days speaks volumes about Paul Hewitt and about Georgia Tech," athletic director Dan Radakovich said. "Paul's credentials as a human being, a family man, a leader and a builder of character are impeccable. All of us at Georgia Tech are committed to assist him in providing an outstanding men's basketball program."

Hewitt said he felt compelled to at least listen to what St. John's had to say, considering his ties to the New York area.

"That's a unique situation," he said. "I've got a lot of friends in New York. Even my ninth-grade coach was like, 'Come on.' You think about it. Absolutely, you think about it."

Georgia Tech (23-13) advanced to the championship game of the ACC tournament this year and earned its first NCAA tournament victory since 2005 before falling to Ohio State in the second round.

The postseason wins followed a disappointing finish to the regular season that left Hewitt's job in doubt. St. John's was clearly interested.

Monasch has not mentioned any other candidates for the job.

Now that he's turned down St. John's, Hewitt said he won't listen to any other potential offers. He's also confident of winning back those Georgia Tech fans who might feel betrayed because of his flirtation with another school.

"We've got to win some games. We've got to win games more consistently," Hewitt said. "There's nothing that a few wins can't cure."

The 46-year-old Hewitt insisted last week he was not interested in moving.

"If they tell me they don't want me here anymore, that's fine, but my family likes it here. I like it here," he said.

Hewitt's six-year contract at about $1.3 million per year has an automatic rollover clause. The contract includes buyout clauses for Hewitt and Georgia Tech.

Monasch said St. John's is ready to offer a salary that could place the new coach among the highest paid in the country.

"Depending on who the coach is we will make the financial commitment and a length of time that is appropriate," he said last week.

Monasch was unavailable for comment Thursday.