NORMAN AREY COLUMN: What’s going on with Georgia Tech basketball?

February 2, 2017 GMT

The success of the Georgia Tech basketball program is bordering on unbelievable. Understand that when new coach Josh Pastner took over, the Yellow Jackets did not have a single player returning that averaged more than five points per game, that the Techsters haven’t been to an NCAA tournament since perhaps Reagan was president and that they were picked to finish 14th in a 15-team conference.

Now look what’s happening. The Engineers are 13-8, 5-4 in the tough ACC — tied for fourth — and must now be seriously considered for a bid to March Madness. This is heady stuff for Tech, which hasn’t received this kind of attention since the heyday of Bobby Cremins.

Just since Christmas, the Pastner-led team has beaten then-No. 9 North Carolina, No. 6 Florida State and No. 14 Notre Dame. The team is now finished with the toughest part of its schedule and should enjoy even more winning before the end of the regular season. Pastner himself has been a refreshing presence on The Flats. He’s often referred to as the “most likable college coach in the business” and is known for returning every telephone call and answering every letter and email.

Others outside of Atlanta and the ACC have noticed what’s going on. USA Today ran a feature on the program early this week. Now if Pastner can just recruit like he coaches, the Jackets may have found something.

And speaking of Georgia Tech, football coach Paul Johnson lambasted the Atlantic Coast Conference after the league football schedule was released. Johnson maintains that the conference is responsible for “a ridiculous schedule” and “the conference tried to screw us every way they can.”

Johnson’s beef is that Tech must play three different conference games when its opponent has the week off before their game. Of course, that gives the opposition an extra week to practice against Johnson’s unorthodox triple option offense. Tech and Florida State both have three such opponents this year.

Out & about

Since Mike Krzyzewski had back surgery and took a leave of absence six games ago, interim coach Jeff Capel has led the Blue Devils to an inglorious 3-3 record.

Things got so bad with the Devils playing like duds, Krzyzewski held a team meeting at his home, banned the players from the locker room and forbid them from wearing any kind of Duke shirts or Duke apparel on or off campus. … When the Chargers announced they were leaving San Diego for Los Angeles, the San Diego-based Poinsettia Bowl announced it was closing its doors. The bowl had been in existence for 12 years. … Tiger Woods’ debut on the PGA Tour last week ended in his missing the cut at Torrey Pines. But he wasn’t alone as No. 1 Jason Day and highly-ranked Dustin Johnson joined him in an early exit. … President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan is sure to hurt the U.S. and Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Here & there

It was amazing to see Venus and Serena Williams both reach the finals of the Australian Open. It was the first time there was a Williams sister final in a Grand Slam event since 2009. There are lots of people who are ready to crown Serena as the all-time greatest woman tennis player. It depends if you refer to her as the best or the most important and influential. If you go with the latter, I’d ranked them 1. Billie Jean King, No. 2 Chris Evert, No. 3 Serena, No. 4 Martina Navratilova and No. 5 Steffi Graf. (Just my opinion).

Other stuff

Duke trouble-maker Grayson Allen was involved in yet another altercation when he was shoved into the bench by Wake Forest player Bryant Crawford. … Former Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman has turned up at Utah. He is deciding if he wants to walk on as a wide receiver or not. … Arizona State has hired Alabama wide receiver coach Billy Napier as its offensive coordinator. Napier is the third significant coaching departure suffered by the Crimson Tide in the offseason. … Next season’s Chick-fil-A college opener between Alabama and Florida State should be one of the top college openers in history since both teams are sure to be in the preseason Top Five. It’ll also be the first big game in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.