WASHINGTON – As speculation swirls around Georgia Tech and the future of coach Brian Gregory, forward Charles Mitchell gave a different, impassioned perspective on the man he called a mentor.
“The thing I hate about the critics and people outside the program is, he’s been such a great help to so many of us,” Mitchell said following the Yellow Jackets’ defeat to Virginia at the ACC tournament. “People don’t realize that. On the outside looking in, so many people worry about the numbers, but in the locker room, outside the locker room, he has been the greatest help to me, and I will always respect that man, I will always have his back.”
Mitchell came to Georgia Tech a year and a half ago, a transfer from Maryland who was a ferocious rebounder but also carried a reputation for his temper. He probably could have stood to be a little lighter, too.
In two seasons, Mitchell’s game has developed as Gregory gave him a larger role than the one he had at Maryland. He is tied for 25th in the country with 15 double-doubles, good for third in the ACC. He will likely fall just short of becoming the first Tech player to average a double-double since Alvin Jones in 2000-01 and third Yellow Jackets player overall since the school joined the ACC. His emotion has made him the soul of the team, a role he has embraced.
His play has improved thanks in part to having lost 25 pounds, dropping from 279 to 254, over the offseason and extra conditioning work done in the morning apart from the team. Mitchell credits Gregory.
“There is nothing I can replace that he gave me as a person, as a man, as a player,” Mitchell said. “He just gave me the opportunity to play at the highest level, gave me an opportunity to change my lifestyle, just to change my environment. He believed in me from the get-go. As soon as I transferred, he told me he had my back, and I’m going to have his back.”
Ultimately, of course, the numbers that Mitchell referred to do matter. It’s why he and his teammates so fervently wanted to win the ACC titles and make an NCAA tournament run. And, undoubtedly, the less visible aspects of what Gregory has done at Tech, namely straightening up the team’s abysmal academic record and infusing the program with his drive, organization and optimism, will be considered, as well.
A decision may not have been made regarding whether or not Gregory will be retained, but Mitchell’s deliberations on at least one matter are complete.
“I’m not worried about (if) they replace him, because he’s a great coach,” Mitchell said.