Splitting the baby

Georgia’s basketball season pretty much played out as I anticipated in this post.

If you’re Greg McGarity, you pretty much know what you’ve got with Fox’ five years in Athens.  The only question left to answer is whether this season represents a floor from which Fox will inspire recruits to come to his program and lead Georgia basketball to bigger and better things, or a ceiling that shows the limit on how much Fox can wring out of the talent he’s able to coax to come play for him. That’s a conclusion you should have already reached by now.  We shouldn’t be reading tweets like the above and nodding our heads in agreement.

There are three possibilities about Fox’ fate.  One, McGarity is waiting to deal with an extension until after the season is over.  (That begs the question why, but roll with me here.)  Two, maybe Fox is gone, but McGarity doesn’t want that news to affect the rest of this season.  And three, McGarity is reluctant to make a decision, and is waiting to see if a decision can be forced upon him by a turn of events, like, say, Georgia shocking the world by winning the SEC Tournament and landing as a high seed in the NCAAs, or the opposite in a two-game flame-out in the SEC and NIT.

I have no idea which is the case.  If it’s the third scenario, what he’s likely to get is something in between, and what he’s likely to do as a result of that is uncertain.

He got something in between and has decided to give Fox a two-year extension.

Again, this is a football blog and my focus isn’t on what Fox deserves.  It’s on McGarity’s decision-making process, since he’s the guy the football coach – or any successor – answers to.  My thoughts on this are still muddled.  The extension smacks of somebody calibrating Fox’ fate based more on what happened in that brief four-game postseason period than on his entire body of work at Georgia.  If I’m wrong about that, and the extension was in the cards all along, it’s hard to understand why McGarity had to keep news about an extension to himself until now.  The surer Fox’ future in Athens is, the better you would think it has to be for him in recruiting.

I don’t want to make too much over this, but as I wrote before, Butts-Mehre doesn’t have the greatest track record in this area.  This call, like many others, strikes me as reactive and not definitive.  Just something to file in the back of your head the next time you think it’s time for a change.

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:  If you’re interested in his thinking about the extension, here’s Chip Towers’ Q&A with McGarity.  The essence of the man:

If next season is similar to this one, are we back here having this discussion?

“I’m not going to comment on any could-have, should-haves. You know my stance on that. Time will tell.”

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82 Comments

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82 responses to “Splitting the baby

  1. All I know about the basketball program is that Fox can coach, and we didn’t need this year to see that. It’s been obvious since his first season.

    What he hasn’t been able to do is recruit to the level required to get us to the top of the League. It’s a tough barrier to break at Georgia, understood. But that is what is holding him back, and certainly McGarity knows that.

    I just hope GM is doing everything he can to help Fox, if he’s going to go with him. And not just halfway measures, as we’ve seen from time to time in football.
    ~~~

  2. AthensHomerDawg

    Greg moistens finger and sticks it in the air. I don’t see much difference between Felton and Fox. Is Fox Felton 2.0? Felton had 2 NITs an NCAA and won an SEC tourney. Felton has an NIT, an NCAA and a bye at the SEC tourney. Felton loss of scholarships equals Fox lost of NBA talent? Meh. Winning percentage is similar. Fox haz a crayon? Fox’s agent has a HP financial calculator. La Tech coach is making 1.2 million less than FOX. Yikes.

    • Normaltown Mike

      Fox is a huge improvement on Felton.

      This is true in coaching as well as in building relationships with the players, administration and alumni. Felton failed in all four of the aforementioned. Though he signed Louis Williams, so there is that.

    • Go Dawgs!

      Fox also has a 20 win season and the best SEC regular season finish in more than two decades. Let’s not forget that.

    • We went over this last time you brought it up. Felton never lost scholarships. Due to the 5/8 rule that was in place at the time, those scholarship reductions never had any practical impact as 5/8 would have kept him from filling them anyway. Dennis Felton never had a scholarship taken away he couldn’t otherwise use. His scholarship issue was more him, and the fact that the kids he brought in repeatedly took off within 2 years because of how he treated them.

      And Louisiana Tech’s coach would face the same problems Fox did on arrival, but without the experience to know how to deal with them after doing so for 5 years. But yeah, let’s roll the dice on another mid major guy, because it’s worked out so well with Fox, and Felton, and Donnan, among others.

      If you can’t see the differences between Felton and Fox, you’re a blind man. The results may be similar, but the path they take to get there couldn’t be more opposite.

  3. Bulldawg165

    I’m not really a basketball fan at all so maybe this is a dumb question, but considering the amount of basketball talent the state of Georgia allegedly has, as well as the resources our athletic department has, why is it so hard for UGA to qualify for the NCAA tournament? You’d think with all that we’ve got going for us it wouldn’t be that hard to be one of the top 64 teams in D1.

    And don’t give me that “UGA is a football school” nonsense. Stegeman will be sold out for every major home game if we put up a legit team.

    • Normaltown Mike

      The reason we currently struggle to succeed is b/c the talent in our state doesn’t sign here.

      The reason talent doesn’t sign here is largely b/c Fox doesn’t recruit dirty with the Atlanta AAU circuit.

      • Bulldawg165

        No offense but I don’t buy the whole “everyone else is dirty and that’s why we suck” excuse.

        I’m just asking us to be in the top 1/3 or 1/4 which shouldn’t be that difficult given our inherent advantages.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        Mike I guess I’m starting to sound like an Eeyore Dawg. My bad. But still…. the doesn’t recruit dirty meme has the Techish feel of “we have high academic standards” meme. Fox has three things on his plate. 1. Recruit 2. Coach. 3. Win. He’s paid 1.7 million dollars a year. A heck of lot more that he who “haz a crayon”. It’s been five years. It ain’t happening. He doesn’t have the stones for it. He’ll be successful somewhere else. THIS is not his deal.

        • Normaltown Mike

          But to what standard do you hold him, Georgia or some other school?

          Jim Harrick was a known line crosser and he did just that while at Georgia. Jirsa sucked, Felton sucked, Tubby barely unpacked and was successful and Hugh Durham had a few good years and many many poor years.

          This doesn’t read like a place for hoop dreams.

          I don’t know who coached prior to Hugh, but I’ve met several people that played in the 60’s and they all say that playing b-ball at Georgia was something to be endured. No joy. No success. Just play because the university ought to at least have a team.

          If firing guys every 5 years is the plan, than we’re due. If moderate success at the worst b-ball program in the conference is your goal, than mission accomplished.

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            Jim Harrick was successful at Georgia. Harrick was dirty (we all know that). Tubby Smith was successful at Georgia. (Frankly, I always thought Tubby was dirty.) Like it or not, to have the level of success we want at UGA we will have to have a coach like John Calipari–

          • Tubby barely unpacked and was successful ….

            I’ve often wondered if Tubby now regrets leaving Georgia.
            ~~~

          • Bulldawg165

            “But to what standard do you hold him, Georgia or some other school?”

            I am comparing our basketball program to D1 taken as a whole. We aren’t cutting it. I don’t care if we’ve failed to cut it in the past. You can’t excuse the current coach’s poor performance because of all of the prior coaches’ poor performance. That entire line of reasoning is flawed.

            Again, I’m not asking for the world over here. Per wikipedia, there are 351 division 1 basketball schools. I’m not asking us to be in the top 1%, 5% or even the top 10%. I’m just asking why we can’t be in the top ~20% on a regular basis.

            • Actually, you can do that if you want to acknowledge just how bad the situation was that Fox walked into. Refusing to acknowledge that means we’ll just go through a perpetual cycle of unfulfillment, never giving anyone enough time to actually do the job we want them to do, unless as mentioned with Harrick that you are willing to cut some pretty big corners that don’t need cutting.

              • cube

                So did Tubby Smith “cut corners” too?

                • Normaltown Mike

                  I don’t think so, but he came to Georgia when we had significantly more talent.

                  Georgia had its first McDonald’s All-Americans (Carlos Strong) and two future NBA draftee Terrell Bell and Shandon Anderson.

                  After taking his first team to the Sweet 16 and losing a buzzer beater to Cuse, they lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney (as a #3 seed) to UT Chatanooga in his 2nd year, so let’s not look back with rose colored goggles.

              • cube

                And Fox didn’t walk into a bad situation. He inherited a program that had finally somewhat recovered from the Harrick fallout. He inherited a team with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie.

                Now Felton, on the other hand, walked into a bad situation.

                • Felton had better players than Fox on arrival. Thompkins was lazy as it gets, and Leslie a PF in a SGs body. Felton got an NBA player in Damien Wilkins, one of the best PGs we’ve ever had in Rashad, and a pair of high caliber bigs in Steve Thomas and Jonas. He also still had some fan momentum that Harrick had built on wins. He lost it all. Fox had to still deal with the Harrick fallout since those who advise these kids still haven’t forgotten how we bombed out that 2002 team, and had to rebuild the decimated pile of crap Felton left in terms of morale and enthusiasm around the program.

                  • cube

                    Felton had Wilkins, Rashad and Jonas for 1 season before their eligibility expired
                    Steve Thomas was kicked off the team before Felton’s first game
                    Thompkins and Leslie were both drafted; the only player drafted from those inherited by Felton…Rashad (the last pick in the draft)
                    Fox inherited Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price – both quality big men
                    Fox had Thompkins, Leslie, Barnes, and Price for 2 years

                    As far as atmosphere, we didn’t even get the NCAA ruling about the Harrick mess until late in the summer between Felton’s first and second seasons.

                    I won’t even get into you asserting that Fox had to deal with the Harrick fallout even though Felton was his immediate successor and dealt with it for 6 years before Fox even came on the scene. Get real.

                    • Thomas was kicked off because of Felton for problems running wind sprints when he had severe bronchitis.

                      And Wilkins is still in the NBA. Chris Daniels and Reshad have both have solid European careers. Is Thompkins even playing still?

                      And yes, Fox still had to deal with the Harrick mess and fall out. That is real, and verified by those who can directly speak to such things.

              • Bulldawg165

                “Actually, you can do that if you want to acknowledge just how bad the situation was that Fox walked into.”

                He’s been here for what, 5 years now?

    • PTC DAWG

      Top 64 (68) do not qualify…..about top 40 or so do. Others are small conference winners etc..

      That said, we should be in as much as we are out..recruit better..

    • Kids who love football grow up in Georgia cheering for UGA football. Makes recruiting them a whole lot easier. But I doubt if you can find any top level basketball prospect anywhere that grew up cheering for UGA basketball. I bet you’d be hard pressed to even find one that has sat down and watched an entire UGA basketball game while they were growing up, unless they were tuning in to watch the opponent (UK, UF, etc).

      Now Fox has to find a way to break through those walls eventually, but it’s gotta be rough recruiting against over 100 years of mediocrity.

      • Bulldawg165

        “over 100 years of mediocrity”

        When it comes to recruiting teenagers I’d think only the past 5-6 years really matter. Regardless, coaches in various sports overcome it all of the time.

        • At the end of the day you’re right, Fox is being paid to overcome those obstacles. I was just commenting on the size of the obstacles. I get what you’re saying about the last 5-6 years, but I think it would be naive to suggest that a school that can claim a high number of Sweet 16’s, Final Four’s, National Titles, etc isn’t being given a head start in the recruiting process against teams like us. A football player knows he’s gonna be there at least 3 years, so he can be part of building something and righting the ship. Top basketball players have much shorter term views, which gives a lot more incentive to just go to an already established program.

          It can be done, and done the right way, Billy Donovan is a great example. But it sure seems like especially in basketball, when a coach quickly turns around a long-time mediocre program, there’s a lot of shadiness going on behind the scenes. Bruce Pearly and Jim Harrick being the first couple of examples that jump to mind.

          • AlphaDawg

            Donovan was a known recruiter when he was hired, his coaching was the biggest question mark and thats proven out as well. The whole AAU business is total nonsense. Every single player on the roster from GA played AAU ball. Fox isnt a bad recruiter, he’s horrid. He not only misses out on the best prospects in the state, he misses on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best in the state.

            We need a new coach.

            • Mayor of Dawgtown

              “We need a new coach.” Maybe what we really need is a recruiting co-ordinator. Fox can coach, we all can see that. Plus he was pretty successful at his previous gig. This looks more and more like an AD issue.

              • As I understand it, Fox has been pretty resistant to suggestions about his recruiting, some of those suggestions coming from the direction you point to.

                • I have been told that he changed course on that last year, and his attempts there were rebuffed by the administration repeatedly in what lead to the seemingly inexplicable hold up on officially promoting Jonas Hayes.

          • A football player and his coaches advising him also know that if the shit hits the fan, we’ll support him and the program. Basketball players and their coaches have seen us repeatedly, when shit hits the fan, administrators scatter for cover and leave the kids exposed to soak up the crap.

    • Go Dawgs!

      We had a legit team this year. Stegeman wasn’t full.

      • Bulldawg165

        Our team wasn’t even in the top 1/3 of the country as evidenced by our exclusion from the NCAA tournament and our performance or lack thereof, in the NIT.

    • Football school actually is an issue. David Boyd, a highly successful long time HS coach around Atlanta, said as much about how his kids rarely if ever looked our way because they were treated like second class kids compared to other athletes.

      And that mindset has permeated through out AD for years, whatever basketball does, just don’t hurt football. We’ve failed to support this program in good times or bad for decades, and those who advise these kids around the state know it. They aren’t going to send their kids to us, when we treat them like dog poop repeatedly, particularly when places that will actually take care of the kids are offering.

  4. Bob

    With rare exception, we have one of the worst “traditions” in a conference dominated by Kentucky and recently Florida. The general perception is that the fan base and students in general could really care less. Tech used to recruit pretty well because they have a little more tradition than we do, but now even they suck. These players who do opt to go to college at all don’t have an interest in helping to build a program because they think they will be gone in one year and you can do that and your draft status a lot better at Kansas or UNC or UCLA or Michigan State.

    Pretty obvious that Fox has a real challenge recruiting. He also tends to shy away from the AAU route, which really hurts, but I can understand why with their sordid record of dealing with kids. As for coaching, he is LIGHT years better than Felton … not even close. And his kids are doing much better academically and staying out of trouble (at least until most recently with the old expired drivers license bugaboo).

    I like him. Next year should be a good year with just about everyone coming back. The NBA might be relooking one and done. We might have some light at the end of that tunnel.

    • Compare our history with Florida’s before Donovan and Kruger, if we find the right coach, there is no reason we can’t have a similar uprising.

      • +1 – UF signed Donovan, gave him what he needed, kept others away from him, and then convinced him that Orlando was an NBA graveyard after he took the job.

        We had a chance to do that with Tubby, but it was impossible to keep him away from UK when Pitino went back to the NBA. I still wonder if Tubby wishes he had never taken the call from Lexington because even with a national championship, the UK fans never embraced him.

      • Normaltown Mike

        That’s true, but recent history indicates we are 0-4 on picking the “right coach”.

        Shall we continue to hire and fire every few years?

        I’d say canning Fox now is akin to Ole Miss canning David Cutcliff back in the day. The question, “who do they think they are” is appropriate with Georgia B-ball as it was/is with Ole Miss football.

        • We have better resources than Ole Miss could even imagine. And I still say Tubby was the right call. And he might have stayed considering his young sons, if we tried to compete and fight for him instead of just wishing him well and goodbye.

  5. uglydawg

    Giving Fox two years is really kind of hamstringing him. He can’t tell a recruit , “I’ll be here all four or five years for you”. Instead, it advertises that he is at least hovering over the hot seat. I see no compelling reason for it. It’s not as if a highly respected program is slipping. Mediocrity settled into the basketball program long ago. Give the man a hearty endorsement and spend the money it takes to support him. Even small schools can muster enough talent in a 5 player sport to be competitive, so it’s much harder to excel (go deep in the NCAA T) than is it in football, where you only have to deal with the larger schools (to the most part).

    • cube

      It’s a two year extension, which adds on to the 2 years he already had left. Now his contract runs through the 2018 season.

      4 MORE YEARS! 4 MORE YEARS!

  6. D.N. Nation

    IMO, this means Fox is gone after two years. The team could be an NCAA bubble team next year if the pieces come together a little more, but after that relevant contributors graduate and there’s really nothing doing recruiting-wise after that. Especially if Fox is stuck with just a two-year deal.

    So, essentially- a stopgap solution. I’m unimpressed.

    • cube

      The problem is that if we make the tourney next year, Miggity Mack McGarity will be reluctant to make a change the following year unless we’re really bad (which I guess we could be).

    • Go Dawgs!

      His contract wasn’t up this year. He’s under contract for four years. He is signed through 2017-18.

      • But in two years, he’ll have two years left and we’ll be in the same position as this past season I believe is DN’s point. Two years from now, you have to either extend again or fire him, for the same reasons we had to make that decision this past year of extend or fire.

    • If he makes the NCAA these next two seasons, and considering the experience in our backcourt, he should, but have 2 straight NCAA trips, and I’d assume we extend again within that 24 months and solidify his position (whether that’s a good or bad idea depends on how much better he recruits in that 24 months, since they’ll be the ones making the difference in the following 24 months).

  7. Tommy

    It feels like an effort to make Fox more attractive to a team that might want to buy him out. We want to enter the coaching sweepstakes again, but we don’t want to have to fire our guy in order to do it, because it would be a terrible signal to send to the market.

    For all our gains, we obviously aren’t playing the same sport as Florida and Kentucky. But, if Fox proves us wrong in the next two years, then oh happy day.

    • Go Dawgs!

      So your theory is that we want to get rid of Mark Fox and that to make it happen we’re signing a contract to keep him here two years beyond the time that we were already obligated to do so in hopes that some other program will want to pay money in order to hire the coach we’re so desperate to get rid of (a program of sufficient quality for which Fox would want to leave Georgia).

      • Tommy

        I’m not endorsing the idea or even implying it’s a good one. The term “good idea” rarely shows up in the same sentence as “Georgia’s stewardship of its basketball program.”

        But is this the kind of mush-mouthed, kick-the-can-down-the-road tactic that would appeal to an athletic department that’s been so historically indifferent to its hoops program? Yes. Yes it is.

  8. Bright Idea

    And now we get to see Fox begin a season with higher than normal expectations for UGA men’s basketball.

  9. Sh3rl0ck

    It would be nice if some of the 4-5 star players coming out of Atlanta thought about this:

    http://collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/24/nations-top-coaches-at-player-development-may-surprise-you/

    The three 4+ star players he has had at Georgia have all been early entry draft picks. You would think a player who thinks they have the talent to be a “one and done” would want as much development during that year as they could get. I understand the guys that go to Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UNC, Louisville, MSU, etc. What I don’t get are the “Top 150″ guys from Georgia in 2013-2014 that picked: Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Tulane, South Florida, LSU, FSU, and UWV.

  10. AthensHomerDawg

    “PAY THE MAN” ;-)

  11. cube

    The only significant contributors we have returning at the 4-5 spots are Djurisic and Thornton. Both are 6-8 and both will be seniors. Behind them are Tim Dixon (6-10 rising senior) and nobody. And we have nobody coming in.

    Not exactly a good situation entering year 6 of your regime.

  12. Dog in Fla

    If our Athletic Director doesn’t care about basketball, why should we except for the fact that if CMR has another down year we’ll know he’ll get a least a two-year extension because, as Auburn and Tennessee have shown, in this league head coaches get extended first and then fired. But I digress because CMR is only beginning Year Four of the Third Five Year Plan

  13. On a positive note, I’m glad to see that McGarity is open to considering implementing some sort of general admission seating for the basketball games. My parents, my 2 daughters, and I went to the La Tech NIT game and it was nice……we got there early so we got great seats right at half court, and it was cool having the students intermingled with the older fans. There were a bunch of students in front of us that stood the whole time which was fine by me, but even the folks who didn’t want to stand, they just moved up a few rows, not a big deal. I think they should do general admission for any games that are less than 70% sold out the day before the game. It made a big difference having everyone seated down closer to the court. I emailed as much to McGarity after the game.

    If I knew I could get to the game early and get a really good seat, I’d be much more likely to drive from Greenville SC to some games every year. I think they should still sell the tickets with seat numbers, but again if it’s less than 70% sold out the day before, put out the announcement that general admission seating will be in play. Reserve a couple of sections for the season ticket holders (which they did for the NIT game as well), and you can still charge extra for those premium seats on the very first row or two, but open everything else up. It was a much more enjoyable experience from a fan perspective. If it’s over 70% sold out, then you gotta sit where your ticket says. Seems like a pretty straightforward plan to me……..if 70% doesn’t work as a benchmark for whatever reason then change that, but somewhere in that neighborhood makes sense that it should work.

    • General Admission seems problematic for season ticket sales. IMO, the splitting the baby solution there is keep normal seating, but reduce the current ticket checker system to just more ushers, so the practical impact is like general admission but if season ticket holders show up they get their paid for seats. It worked well back around the turn of the century (i.e. 98, 99, 2000, before the checkers started around the lower bowl in the 01 or 02 season).

  14. Bulldog Joe

    The $3.4 million dollar question is,

    “What is he asking for in recruiting that we are not providing?”

    • I mean, yeah. I’d sure like to know Fox is getting everything he needs in order to compete on the recruiting trail. We know the man can coach.
      ~~~

  15. Otto

    UGA Basketball has image problems, the problems are that basketball is viewed as distantly behind football and that any coach who takes the job will be fired or will use it as a stepping stone to a basketball school.

    The ways to change that are spend money on facilities, and to spend money to retain a good coach. South Carolina football is an example of a program that turned in the right direction. Sure we like to look down at the them but for the past 4+ years they’ve been firmly in the picture for the SEC East division champ. Facilities were on par with anyone in the SEC back in ’05 (a cousin was recruited there, they were quick defend USCe facilities) Spurrier’s first 4 years were nothing to brag about but he has since lead USCe to likely their best string of success in program history and USCe is now retaining more of that top in state talent that UGA or UT was taking from their backyard. It doesn’t happen overnight. Looking to Auburn as a reason to justify facilities not being the answer is only part of the picture.

    Is Fox the coach that can bring stability and change the image of program. Maybe, maybe not, I think he has earned the chance for a 4-5 year deal. Holtz didn’t get USCe any titles but he did help bring USCe into the discussion laying the groundwork for Spurrier to win the SEC East and beat their in state rival 4 years in row something that never happened or hasn’t in a very long time. Again I’d give Fox his chance, portray the image that he is the man for the job, and that UGA is serious about Basketball.

    • Otto

      Further big time 1 and done players want big time games to get big time contracts. UGA is not viewed as getting many big games. UGA needs to get into the tournament and contend for conf titles to attract that palyer regularly. I too would like to hear what Fox wants, maybe facilities, maybe a good assistant that can recruit and coach that also makes a splash in the press, again making the image that UGA is serious about basketball.

  16. BulldogBen

    cube hit on some of my big concerns. Not only is Fox not getting the big time recruits but the roster management is lacking as well. I think making the tournament is a possibility next year with all the people coming back but I also think a 1 and done result is probably likely.

    So, now we’re looking at ceiling of 1 and done in the tourney and then having to replace 4-5 Seniors with freshman.

    And the cycle continues…………BLECH.

  17. AusDawg85

    I’m sorry…what was the question?