Hewitt turns down St. John's

Updated: March 25, 2010, 6:06 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt turned down an offer to coach St. John's, telling university officials Thursday he will remain with the Yellow Jackets after conferring with his family about its desire to stay in Atlanta.

Paul Hewitt

Hewitt

"My family and I have developed deep ties to Georgia Tech and the city of Atlanta," Hewitt said in a statement released by Georgia Tech. "I strongly believe in what Georgia Tech can do for young people, and I am committed to returning the Tech basketball program to the level of success our fans have come to expect. We took a step in that direction this past season, and I fully intend to continue on that path."

In its quest to replace Norm Roberts, who was fired last week after six seasons, St. John's is expected to turn its attention to Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg and Steve Donahue of Cornell, whose Big Red meet top-seeded Kentucky in the Sweet 16 Thursday night in Syracuse, N.Y.

St. John's officials have made overtures to Louisville's Rick Pitino and Florida's Billy Donovan, but an offer directly from the school to Hewitt is the first true proposal from the school and the first time the Red Storm have been turned down in their search.

Hewitt, 46, coached Georgia Tech into the NCAA tournament and a second-round appearance before losing to No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Midwest Regional. The No. 10 seed Yellow Jackets reached the ACC tournament title game before losing to Duke.

Hewitt met with St. John's officials on Tuesday night in Atlanta after the school was given permission to speak with him. Hewitt is from New York and previously coached at Siena. His Georgia Tech teams have reached five NCAA tournaments, including the 2004 Final Four, in his 10 seasons.

"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."

The Jackets' postseason glimmer followed a disappointing finish to the regular season -- two consecutive losses and five in their final seven games -- that raised questions about Hewitt's job security.

Hewitt is not in jeopardy of being fired at Georgia Tech because of an NCAA tournament appearance and a favorable contract.

Hewitt has a six-year contract at Tech for about $1.3 million per year, and the deal includes an automatic rollover clause. He said he had offers from other schools when he signed the contract in 2004; one of those schools is believed to be St. John's.

After the ACC tournament, Hewitt blasted suggestions that the rollover in his contract has protected his job.

"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," Hewitt said.

St. John's hired Roberts after Hewitt signed his new deal under former athletic director Dave Braine. The contract includes buyout clauses for Hewitt and Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech associate athletic director Wayne Hogan said earlier in the week it was too early to say if Georgia Tech would enforce its side of the contract and force Hewitt to pay his buyout of approximately $3.4 million.

"I don't think we're talking about the contract," Hogan said. "I think that's premature. I think a lot of water has to pass under the bridge."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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