20 People to Watch - Brian Gregory: The College Basketball Coach

Georgia Tech’s new men’s basketball coach knows he must tap into Yellowjacket tradition to rebuild the program

When you meet first-year Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory, these are the things you should know so you don’t look like an idiot.

No. 1: Even though he is 45, has gray hair, and barely touches 5-foot-8, he will beat your rec-league ass in basketball. He played with David Robinson at Navy his freshman year and was a three-time all-conference selection while playing at Oakland University.

No. 2: If you are going to interview him, or talk hoops, or if you’re one of those smart-ass fans who likes to ask snarky questions about the team’s direction informed by your two-hour daily diet of sports talk radio, you’d better prepare yourself. Because Gregory is always prepared. He knows more about recruiting, building a program, and getting the most out of talented young athletes than you ever will. His playbooks are intricate, and he has a fondness for color-coding. The man is detail-oriented and will make you look dumb if your questions start out with the words, “So, anyway, um, I was just wonderin’ ... ”

No. 3: If you want to talk about his plans of how to return Georgia Tech to basketball greatness, he will talk more about his father (who was an elementary school gym teacher) than about Xs and Os. Because more than defining his team’s basketball style, Gregory is interested in being a teacher, about instilling the sort of traits that produce winners year-after-year, no matter the style of basketball.

“I’m not worried about having a great team, I’m trying to have a great program,” Gregory says before practice. “The first things we have to do have nothing to do with basketball. It’s about defining the culture and climate of the program. Georgia Tech can bring in talented players. It always has. But we have to make sure they’re high-character guys who understand that if they think about team success, the individual success will take care of itself. That’s how great programs repeat their success.”

In the meantime, he’s doing what new coaches have to do: recruiting (his strength); meeting with fans, students, and alums (seems to enjoy it); and trying to establish an identity to draw back fans who’ve left. “I’ve got to be aware of the entertainment value needed to draw fans,” Gregory says, “and I have a good feel of what the fan base expects. It’ll take time. For now, I want our fans to see in our players the passion and pride they’ve seen in all the great teams at Georgia Tech.”