By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
Fans of the University of Dayton’s men’s basketball team get a chance to earn bragging rights against a former UD head coach when the team takes on Georgia Tech Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga.
Dayton will be facing a former head coach for the first time in its history, as Brian Gregory leads the Yellow Jackets’ program against the school he previously coached for eight seasons.
The history between Gregory and UD is not something that interests current head coach Archie Miller.
“Has zero to do with me,” Miller said. “Has zero to do with our team. … All in all, I’m sure Coach Gregory would speak to it the same. This is a different time and obviously two programs trying to do something on their own.”
In his eight-year run at the helm, Gregory compiled a 172-94 record and amassed the third most wins as a head coach in UD history. He also led the program to an Atlantic 10 championship during his first season in 2004, two NCAA tournament appearances in 2004 and 2009, the school’s first NCAA victory since 1990, and its third National Invitational Tournament championship in 2010.
Only three players, all seniors, who played under Gregory, remain at Dayton: forward Devin Oliver, center Matt Kavanaugh and guard Brian Vonderhaar.
Miller said he thinks they’ll be thankful to see Gregory because of the opportunity he provided for each of them to play at Dayton.
“Devin and Matt both being guys that were recruited by Coach Gregory, they owe him some gratitude for offering them scholarships number one, and bringing them and coaching them here and giving them an opportunity to play in front of these great fans here and get a great degree from an unbelievable university. They should be humbled,” he said.
The history behind the game hasn’t gone over the heads of those who have arrived at Dayton under Miller’s regime either.
Sophomore guard Khari Price said he has heard about the relationship between Gregory and UD, but doesn’t expect it to come too much into play.
“I can tell a lot of guys that are rooting for us definitely want us to beat them pretty bad just because the past and things like that,” Price said. “At the same time, I know we just have to go in there and play our game and just continue to improve.”
Georgia Tech, out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, will provide UD its toughest test of the season after the team started with wins over IPFW and a pair of St. Francis squads. Price called the upgrade in competition, “faster, bigger stronger.”
Senior guard Trae Golden, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, leads GT in scoring this season at 15.3 points per game, and sophomore forward Marcus Georges-Hunt averages 13.3.
Sophomore guard Chris Bolden returns for the Yellow Jackets, who also are off to a 3-0 start, after being suspended for the first three games of the season for a violation of team rules. Bolden started 15 of the team’s final 16 games last season and averaged 7.3 points per game.
Miller said senior center Daniel Miller at 6-foot, 11-inches, and sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr., at 6-foot, 8-inches, are big anchors to Georgia Tech’s post game.
“Georgia Tech is off to a good start,” Miller said. “You can tell everything is built around a toughness level that works inside out both on offense and defense.”
It will be the first meeting between the two schools since a matchup in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 19, 2010, a 63-59 Dayton win that was a game between two top-25 ranked squads.
Gregory led UD to victory that day. With both coaches now in their third years of building their respective programs, fans will see Wednesday how each has done so far. Next year, they can see it in person when Georgia Tech comes to UD Arena for a return game.
For Miller and Gregory right now, it remains business as usual during the long regular season.
“He’s done a tremendous job early on building in a tough spot,” Miller said. “And we’ve done our best to try and reload our roster with a lot of departures due to graduation. We knew that this was coming. Kind of both working into year three here, and wishing him the best, although on Wednesday we’re going to try to win.”