The day began with coffee, time with his two daughters and Bible study. It ended with him at home with his wife, Yvette, trying to understand “Downton Abbey.” In between, Georgia Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory continued his mission to return the Yellow Jackets to its once-glorious standing in the ACC.
“It starts on a daily basis, with the practices and stuff like that,” he said at his desk near the end of his 13-hour day. “It’s so important.”
Gregory, whose team plays Maryland at McCamish Pavilion at 8 p.m. Wednesday, allowed The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to follow him through the day Friday as he prepared the Yellow Jackets to play Virginia on Sunday.
Shortly after arriving at the basketball offices at the Edge Center, Tech’s athletic offices, Gregory's day begins with an 8:30 a.m. staff meeting with assistants Chad Dollar, Josh Postorino and Billy Schmidt and player-development director Bruce Evans in a conference room.
They start with recruiting updates. Dollar is considering staying in town Saturday after the team leaves for Virginia so that he can watch state high school playoff games. Schmidt reports a prospect wants to come for a visit over Easter weekend. They kick around the feasibility of the plan, given that most team members will return home and thus won’t be able to visit with the prospect. Gregory rattles off information on the player, including the family’s spring-break plans and his mother’s alma mater. He later recites the father’s occupation and both parents’ hometowns.
Said Gregory, “I have a pretty good memory.”
Postorino says that he’s been told that there’s a prospect in Michigan that “we’ve got to get up and see.” From his days at Michigan State, Gregory knows the coach running the feeder program for the player’s high school.
“I’ll have to get a hold of him,” he says, jotting down a reminder in black ink on a yellow notepad containing a list of to-do items.
After about 30 minutes, Gregory moves the meeting forward to a breakdown of Virginia. Everyone at the table has a copy of a Virginia scouting report in front of him. The assistants split the scouting duties, and Postorino prepared the Virginia report.
As a result, the discussion is mainly Gregory asking questions and brainstorming with Postorino, with the other assistants chiming in. They are particularly concerned with Virginia’s trapping strategy — sending an extra defender to help on a forward or center when he gets the ball in the post.
“We’ve got to have the scout team trap the post today,” Gregory said. “We’ve got to get them used to that.”
Postorino then runs through a series of Virginia’s plays as Gregory clicks through video clips of several examples of each on a large flat-screen television. The tone of the meeting is low-key and casual. Coaches occasionally punch out text messages. They comment on some of Virginia’s opponents and find humor in the clips, such as when a North Carolina defender surrenders an easy basket to Virginia, causing Tar Heels coach Roy Williams to stomp his foot in anger.
The meeting ends at about 10:30, just before Gregory has his weekly meeting with the team’s two academic advisers to go over players’ grades, assignments and progress. Gregory doesn’t take it lightly. Three scholarship freshmen made honor roll in the fall, and the team earned a 2.70 GPA.
After the meeting, Gregory watches Virginia’s recent loss to Miami. He usually reviews up to five games of coming opponents. Gregory adds observations and ideas to several pages of hand-written notes that he’s taken from previous Virginia games.
Said Gregory, “I’m not a computer guy.”
At about 1, Gregory heads out of the office to visit his daughter, Elyse, a second-grader at Christ the King School in Buckhead. In the past week, Gregory had put in a number of late nights and on Tech’s off day took a recruiting trip, so he has carved out time to see Elyse’s presentation on a famous Georgian. Elyse has dressed up as Gladys Knight, complete with microphone, and shares facts about the Motown star. Some of her classmates dress as Georgians such as Coretta Scott King and TV chef Paula Deen.
Gregory returns to the Edge Center after a brief visit and finishes mapping out the day’s practice while listening to Christian rock on his computer. (Gregory says his faith keeps him grounded and positive, but prefers to keep it a private matter.) Typically, the vast majority of practice time is spent preparing for the opponent’s offense, as there is less game-to-game variation in what Tech will see from the opposing defense.
Gregory leaves the Edge Center around 3:30 for the Zelnak practice facility, taking the court just before 4 p.m. Aside from the time he spends with his family, Gregory calls practice the best two hours of his day. At the start, Gregory circulates around the floor, chatting with players and coaches. As they stretch and go through warm-up drills, he paces with his arms crossed while holding the practice plan in a clear plastic envelope. He is getting himself ready, thinking about points of emphasis in practice and saying a short prayer for the team’s safety during practice.
At the start is scrimmaging between starters and backups. Just after 5 p.m., after free-throw work, the scout-team begins to run through Virginia’s offense, emphasizing the Cavaliers’ relentless screening.
“You can’t relax,” Gregory said, cupping his hands. “You can NOT relax!”
The starters handle the various looks successfully, sometimes defending certain plays only once or twice before Gregory is satisfied. The scout work finishes around 5:45, with 20 free throws for each player at the end of practice. Four players fail to make 16 of 20 and are required to run a sprint up and down the court.
The practice is over just before 6, and players and coaches head to the team meeting room for a quick video scouting report on Virginia. Postorino shows clips of the Cavaliers’ plays and individual highlights and offers breakdowns of strengths, weaknesses and favorite moves. Sitting in the back row, hands clasped behind his head, Gregory interjects praise to players from clips from the first Tech-Virginia game and adds comments about Virginia and its methodical offense.
“Can’t let ’em lull you to sleep, men,” he said.
After about 15 minutes, players are released until practice Saturday morning. Gregory grabs a boxed dinner and eats in a coaches’ room before heading back to his office around 7 p.m. He stays until about 10 p.m., reviewing the day’s practice video, watching more Virginia video and calling and texting recruits.
The work is not fruitful this time around. On Sunday, Virginia would wax Tech by 28 points, the Jackets’ worst loss of the season. It would not change Gregory’s adherence to the grind, though. Maryland was three days away.