No sophomore slump for Mason's Hewitt in second year as men's basketball coach
When Paul Hewitt signed on as the men’s basketball head coach at George Mason University in May 2011, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I was very concerned coming in---would these kids buy into what I was trying to get them to do – and they did,” said Hewitt. “The thing that really stood out was just how coachable the kids were. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to take over a program that was coming off of so much success, because they had success doing it one way, what would influence the change.”
With the help of last year’s star senior player, Ryan Pearson, Hewitt was able to get his new team to listen.
“I’m appreciative of the upper classman, like Morrison and Ryan Pearson in particular,” said Hewitt. “[To] help lead them in the right direction and help get the kids to really buy in to what the coaching staff and I were trying to change and implement.”
Having Pearson on board was influential to the players, and with his assistance, the team was able to fully believe in Hewitt as their new coach.
Hewitt is more than just a good-looking resume, although there’s no denying that he does look good on paper.
In his first year at Mason, Hewitt led the Patriots to an impressive 24-win season. And, prior to his arrival in Fairfax, in 11 seasons under Hewitt as head coach, Georgia Tech went to the NCAA tournament five times, played for a national championship, and played for two ACC championships to name a few of his accomplishments.
Hewitt’s experience and personality is what attracted Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor to hire him to replace beloved coach Jim Larranaga, after he left the school for the University of Miami.
“That was a big decision on my part,” said O’Connor. “I had known about Paul prior to the interview. I had been in his company, either directly or indirectly, so I knew a lot about his background and his persona. And then when we spoke, it became increasingly clear to me that he was the right person.”
Prior to his 11 seasons as head coach at Georgia Tech, Hewitt was the head coach at Siena College, which is similar to Mason’s philosophy with its basketball program and was another prominent aspect when O’Connor was looking into hiring Hewitt.
“First and foremost, he’s a very good teacher. He’s a great communicator, and he understands education and working with young people – above and beyond just the game of basketball,” said O’Connor. “Hewitt brings a wealth of experience – as well as a wealth of talent.”
Hewitt has an eye for talent and his ability to take players to the next level is an attractive quality that draws student-athletes to play for him. In his coaching career, he has had the privilege of coaching 10 NBA players, including Thaddeus Young, Iman Shumpert and NBA champion Chris Bosh.
“I looked up Coach Hewitt, and I saw how many pros he had, and how successful he was at getting guys to the next level, and how successful he was when he was coaching at Georgia Tech,” said power forward Erik Copes. “His main focus when he recruited me and his main focus now is to get back into the NCAA tournament.”
Hewitt’s passion and love for the game of basketball are apparent in his coaching style. He has an incredible ability to relate to players on a deeper level and the players here at Mason believe in him as their mentor.
“Coaching is like teaching. You have to try to find different ways to get kids to respond in a positive way,” said Hewitt. “The duty we have as college basketball coaches is to make sure our players are improving each and every day in practice. And, of course, that they are moving towards getting their degree.”
On the court, Hewitt brings an offensive philosophy with an up-tempo style of play and a unique defensive style with a full-court press that he is known for in the college basketball community.
“He’s a good fit for the community, but he’s a good fit for the players too. They respect him. I’ve been to his practices. He teaches well [and] he communicates well. They listen to him,” said O’Connor. “And during games – it’s just a minor thing – but at time outs, they look him right in the eye – and he gets their attention.”
With Mason’s 2012-13 season underway, Paul Hewitt is one sophomore name on the Patriots’ roster that never goes unnoticed. And in his second season as head coach, all eyes are on him.
Photo by Gopi Raghu