GTP isn’t a basketball blog, and this post should not be seen as an invitation to get into some sort of major debate over Mark Fox’ tenure. What I wanted to comment about, instead, was this post over at Georgia Basketball Blog.
One would swear that the media would want to move past Basketball Season already and get back to Football, the postmortems that have come out prematurely are a sure sign of this. The postmortems are forced reflections upon a regular season that has not ended. The premature rush to summarize or make judgments about the 2015-16 Season and the Georgia Basketball program as a whole should be considered troubling.
The sentiments from the old media represented by Bill Shanks, Mark Bradley and Chip Towers reflect antiquated attitudes and prioritization of a major College Basketball program. It should be noted that none of these journalists cover Georgia Basketball full time and even full time coverage is more-or-less defined as covering the sport from the start of Fall Practice through the end of the season in March. The pre-game pressers come during SEC season when the Georgia Football season ends. Journalists that try to cover Georgia Football and Basketball during the non-conference slate have to balance out the scheduling and try to avoid the ire of the readership.
Shanks does not cover Georgia Basketball and he admittedly does not care to cover it as he has mentioned in a segment on 960 WRFC-AM in Athens. Mark Bradley swoops in to provide commentary on Georgia Basketball on a typically annual basis. Chip Towers does Basketball coverage once the Georgia Football regular season and conference championship season ends, he could not pronounce Derek Ogbeide’s name after Thanksgiving when the media had already been pronouncing his name correctly. Towers was late to the party because priorities.
The rush to the postmortems on the season reflect a laziness and desire to shake up the conversation on a season and a sport that fails to capture the imagination of the Georgia fan base. The best way to shake things up is to sensationalize even if it is for Men’s Basketball. Creating that element of controversy is clickbait during a time of the year that is rather dormant for Georgia Football…
I’d argue it’s not even particularly effective clickbait.
The whole thing is emblematic of something bigger than the men’s basketball program, which, when you think about it, is pretty big, even at a football school like Georgia. The reality is that a large portion of the fan base cares little about anything at Georgia other than its football team. If you think I exaggerate, consider some of the comment threads we’ve had here about McGarity’s hiring/firing track record. Though it’s decidedly mediocre, many commenters in their desire to see Richt replaced were willing to dismiss it as being inconsequential.
Even though that came from a fan’s perspective, there is perhaps a certain element of truth to it from a strictly business perspective. Football is the economic engine that drives the athletic department train. That’s the house McGarity has to protect. Yes, men’s basketball doesn’t operate at a loss, but some of that is because of rising television broadcast revenues that have lifted all boats. (Just look at how much basketball head coaching salaries have started to rise over the past couple of years in the conference. It’s not because the SEC has gone any more basketball crazy.)
As much as he gives lip service to the pursuit of Directors’ Cup excellence, McGarity knows he can get away with mediocre coaching performances from his hires – to a point. Football doesn’t give him that luxury. On the other hand, if Smart succeeds at the level we want, there’s no reason to expect the benign neglect given to most of Georgia’s other athletic endeavors to change. We don’t care enough for that.