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Georgia Tech nearing that all-important moment of truth with Hewitt

Paul Hewitt’s up-and-down Georgia Tech tenure might be coming to a close soon. This is notable for more than a few reasons.

Hewitt has three 20-win seasons, four NCAA tournament berths and a trip to the 2004 national championship game. He’s recruited NBA-caliber players as well as nearly an ACC coach. If he’s out, he’ll have a $7 million payment awaiting him. Those are usually good reasons to keep a coach.

But the growing sense in Atlanta is that Georgia Tech has to move on or it’ll become an ACC bottom-dweller.

Attendance has plummeted the last few seasons as the Jackets won just two conference games in 2009, posted a sub-.500 conference record last season and had just five league wins this year. (Losing to Kennesaw State at the start of the ’10-11 campaign didn’t help either.

Hewitt could turn things around. The guy’s always brought in good players. But if public perception is that he can’t get Tech back to the top of the ACC, it might not have a choice. From Jeff Schultz’ column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

When athletic director Dan Radakovich fired football coach Chan Gailey, it wasn’t because Gailey couldn’t coach. It wasn’t even because he couldn’t win. Fact is, Gailey never had a losing record. He won seven games every season – save the year he had nine. He went to a bowl every year.

But fans were divided on Gailey. Radakovich felt the need to galvanize and ignite the fan base. He believed the only way to accomplish that was by changing coaches.

Perception is reality. If Hewitt meets the same fate as Gailey, it will be less because of a belief that Hewitt can’t win any more than it will a belief that not enough folks around the program are buying in.

If that’s the move, that’s the move. However, Tech and Radakovich should consider what Wake Forest endured this season after firing Dino Gaudio last season – when Gaudio posted 61 wins in three seasons – one of the worst seasons the ACC’s ever seen.

That happens, Hewitt won’t look so bad.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.