ATLANTA - The pose said more than Paul Hewitt ever could: Georgia Tech's usually animated men's basketball coach sitting on the bench, his hands cupping his face, his eyes showing dismay and embarrassment at the same time.
Hewitt struck that position often enough last winter for an artist to paint a portrait. A team he hailed as the most talented he'd ever coached and a lock for the NCAA Tournament finished with an 11-17 record and tied for 10th in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
And the way the Yellow Jackets finished the season maddened the coach: They quit - and admitted it - down the stretch of their regular-season finale against the Clemson Tigers and were run off the court by the Maryland Terrapins in the ACC Tournament.
Hewitt lashed out days after the loss to the Terrapins, saying "11-17 at this place with all the things we have going for us is totally unacceptable. For us to go 11-17 is an embarrassment."
A program he took to college basketball's pinnacle - the Final Four and national title game - in 2004 should not slip so far so fast.
Focusing ahead came easy. The Yellow Jackets return all their key players this season and add four newcomers, including Hewitt's dream point guard in 6-foot-5 Javaris Crittenton.
Hewitt will have depth, experience and talent at his disposal.
The players expect to see Hewitt back stalking the sideline. Calling out plays and sets to those on the floor.
Coaching those on the bench. Lobbying the officials. Smiling. Wincing. Gesturing.
"He put so much of the blame on himself last year when he shouldn't have," forward Jeremis Smith said.
"He didn't let us down. We let him down. We owe him."
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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