George Mason University announced today the firing of men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt. The move comes after four seasons under Hewitt, a time in which the team went 66-67 — with the last two seasons marking the first time that the Patriots have had back-to-back 20-loss seasons since 1993.
“Mason made a significant commitment to its athletic programs, especially men’s basketball, when the university moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference two years ago,” said athletic director Brad Edwards in a university press release. “The university has high expectations for the program and thus determined a change was needed.”
Hewitt came to Mason in May 2011 after being bought out at Georgia Tech, and signed a five-year contract to coach the Patriots. At the time of hire, Hewitt inherited a team that went 27-6 and bowed out in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, and Hewitt’s experience coaching a major conference program was seen as his main appeal to continuing Mason’s success as a program and building a perennial mid-major powerhouse.
Hewitt’s first two seasons resulted in 20-plus win seasons but Mason never reached a post-season tournament more notable than the College Basketball Invitational — which is seen as the third-tier post-season tournament following the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament.
Following Mason’s move to the Atlantic 10 Conference, the team’s weaknesses were exposed against tougher competition. Hewitt’s teams have consistently been out-matched and out-coached by A-10 rivals, resulting in an abysmal 8-26 A-10 record in two seasons that were marked by two losses to Fordham in consecutive years of the A-10 tournament.
In an interview with Fourth Estate in Sept. 2014, athletic director Brad Edwards gave a full vote of confidence to Hewitt before the season began. “[Paul Hewitt] is an excellent coach, and he is our coach,” Edwards said. “We are fully behind coach Hewitt.”
Edwards cited the difficulty in transitioning to the A-10 as a reason for the team’s struggle in transitioning to the A-10, but poor on-court play and decreased attendance over the course of this season contributed to Hewitt’s dismissal.