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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Updated: March 24, 9:39 AM ET
Sources: Hewitt meets with St. John's

ESPN.com news services

Hours after Georgia Tech granted permission for coach Paul Hewitt to speak with St. John's, the Yellow Jackets coach did so Tuesday night in Atlanta, multiple sources told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Hewitt has emerged as the front runner at St. John's, and if Hewitt feels comfortable with the situation, he would be likely to accept the job, sources told Katz.

Georgia Tech associate athletic director Wayne Hogan confirmed that St. John's was given the OK to speak with Hewitt. Earlier Tuesday, Hogan said that St. John's had not asked to speak with his coach.

"What's happened from there, I don't know," Hogan said.

Hewitt, who is from New York and previously coached at Siena, guided Georgia Tech to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Hewitt has guided Georgia Tech to five NCAA tournaments, including the 2004 Final Four, in his 10 seasons. His New York background and NCAA experience match St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch's stated criteria for a new coach.

"We want to hire someone who has a record of success of getting into the NCAA tournament," Monasch said. "In trying to find the right person, probably the safest choice is someone who has done it at this level, someone who believes in the mission of school and understands New York."

St. John's fired Norm Roberts last week.

Hewitt did not immediately return a phone message to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Georgia Tech (23-13) advanced to the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and earned its first NCAA tournament victory since 2005 before falling to Ohio State in the second round.

The postseason wins followed a disappointing finish to the regular season that left Hewitt's job security in doubt.

Georgia Tech ended the regular season with two straight losses and five in its last seven.

Hewitt is not in jeopardy of being fired at Georgia Tech because of an NCAA tournament appearance and a favorable contract.

Hewitt's six-year contract at about $1.3 million per year has an automatic rollover clause. He said he had offers from other schools when he signed the contract in 2004; one of those schools is believed to be St. John's.

After the ACC tournament, Hewitt blasted suggestions his rollover contract has protected his job.

"I could have made at least a half million more going someplace else but I felt really strong about the philosophy and mission of Georgia Tech," Hewitt said.

St. John's hired Roberts after Hewitt signed his new deal with former athletic director Dave Braine. The contract includes buyout clauses for Hewitt and Georgia Tech.

Hogan said it was too early to say if Georgia Tech would enforce its side of the contract and force Hewitt to pay his buyout of approximately $3.4 million.

"I don't think we're talking about the contract," Hogan said. "I think that's premature. I think a lot of water has to pass under the bridge."

Hewitt insisted last week he's not interested in moving.

"If they tell me they don't want me here anymore, that's fine, but my family likes it here. I like it here," Hewitt said.

Monasch said the school is ready to offer a salary competitive with top national coaches.

"Depending on who the coach is we will make the financial commitment and a length of time that is appropriate," Monasch said last week.

St. John's (17-16) lost to Memphis in the first round of the NIT. Roberts was fired with an 81-101 record with the school. St. John's has not been in the NCAA tournament since 2002.

Hewitt is 177-144 overall and 67-93 in ACC games in 10 years at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech could lose top freshman Derrick Favors and junior Gani Lawal to the NBA from a team that also included seniors D'Andre Bell and Zachery Peacock.

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.