George Mason hires Paul Hewitt

Updated: May 1, 2011, 2:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Paul Hewitt is the new men's basketball coach at George Mason.

The former Georgia Tech coach was hired Saturday to replace Jim Larranaga, who left this month for the University of Miami.

Hewitt was fired by the Yellow Jackets last month. He went 190-162 in 11 years at the school and was just 72-104 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Hewitt coached Georgia Tech to the 2004 national title game, losing 82-73 to Connecticut in San Antonio.

"It's a great job and a great location and that sold me on the location," Hewitt said of George Mason. "The plan was to stay out for a year and then get back into coaching. I never thought in a million years this would happen."

[+] EnlargePaul Hewitt
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireGeorge Mason hired former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt to replace Jim Larranaga.

Hewitt is receiving a $7.2 million buyout over five years from Georgia Tech, making him more affordable for a school such as George Mason of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Former Georgia Tech athletic director Dave Braine signed Hewitt to the deal that has Georgia Tech paying Hewitt. Georgia Tech hired Dayton's Brian Gregory to replace Hewitt.

Hewitt said he's excited to be in a league that had produced two Final Four teams in the last six years, in George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. He's also happy with the roster Larranaga left behind.

"Jim left a great team. I studied the roster and talked to a lot of people around the league. He did a great job in recruiting," Hewitt said. "This is one of the best jobs in this league."

George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor told ESPN.com that Hewitt agreed to a five-year contract with the total compensation package comparable to what was offered to Larranaga when he was considering leaving for Miami. That package was estimated at close to a $1 million a year in a "good year" when all bonuses would be met.

O'Connor said Hewitt's $7.2 million buyout that he is receiving from Georgia Tech had no bearing on the negotiation.

"We were in a market for a basketball coach and we wanted to make sure our compensation was in line," said O'Connor.

A Georgia Tech official told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that Hewitt's Georgia Tech contract had no offset if he were to take another job. Hewitt will receive the full buyout from the Yellow Jackets, an approximate check of $130,000 a month for the next five years.

Hewitt will meet with the players Sunday night and be introduced at a news conference on George Mason's campus Monday at 2 p.m.

O'Connor said he wasn't concerned that Hewitt had been fired at Georgia Tech. He said Hewitt told him about the struggles of the past two seasons.

O'Connor said that he had gotten to know Hewitt over the last five years while Hewitt was an active member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and while O'Connor was on the men's basketball NCAA tournament selection committee, including a year as chair.

He's a tremendous human being. I felt he had all the tools to be successful. I know he's a great X and O guy but he has the whole package.

-- George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor on Paul Hewitt

O'Connor said he was moved by Hewitt's memorial speech at the tribute service to the late NCAA president Myles Brand. Hewitt was the only coach to speak at the memorial in Indianapolis a year ago.

O'Connor said Hewitt wasn't the only coach interviewed for the position. O'Connor did talk to Rhode Island coach Jim Baron, whom O'Connor had known for years.

O'Connor said Hewitt initiated the interest in the position.

"He told us if he was going to stay in coaching then he wanted it to be a program where he knew he could be successful in like ours," O'Connor said.

O'Connor didn't hire a search firm.

"I was the search," O'Connor said. "I knew once I brought Paul in to meet everyone here that he was the whole package -- on campus and in the community. He's a tremendous human being. I felt he had all the tools to be successful. I know he's a great X and O guy but he has the whole package."

O'Connor told ESPN.com when Larranaga left for Miami that he wanted to hire a new coach quickly, especially with an experienced roster.

The Patriots are the consensus Colonial Athletic Association favorites for next season and an expected preseason top-25 team. Hewitt is going to a better projected team in 2011-12, as the Yellow Jackets are predicted to finish near the bottom of the ACC.

Hewitt had experience coaching at a conference outside the power six when he was the head coach at Siena.

Hewitt has been an outspoken member of the NCAA coaching establishment. At least one current ACC coach told ESPN.com that Hewitt was the most outspoken in pushing the new NBA draft rule that came out of the ACC and was passed in April by the NCAA legislative council and the board of directors.

But Hewitt said Sunday tha the and former NC State coach Sidney Lowe were the two against moving the date and that he was not in favor of May 8.

The new NBA draft rule calls for underclassmen to declare for the draft by April 10, 2012 without a period to test the NBA draft process. The current rule gives underclassmen a two-week period to test from April 24 to May 8, 2011.

"If we're going to move the date up then it has to be before the signing period," Hewitt said Sunday. "It can't be May 8. Sidney Lowe and I were the two saying it wasn't right, that they need more time. I didn't think it was fair to move up the date."

Hewitt said the initial vote in the ACC meeting was 10-2 before Lowe and Hewitt eventually endorsed the legislation.

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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