Dogs defend their title! Seriously, though …

Athens – It was a year ago this week when implausible acts of God resulted in a tornado hitting Atlanta and Dennis Felton saving his job.

Raise your hand if you think this is a doctored photo.

Raise your hand if you believe this actually is a doctored photo.

It’s difficult to determine which event was less likely. But let’s just say that 12 months later, downtown is still struggling to forget and the Georgia basketball program is struggling to remember. I was hoping to get some perspective on it all from former Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton. But let’s just say our conversation was brief.

“I don’t really have time right now,” Felton said by phone. “I’m kind of busy. Let me call you back.”

Now, I’ve played this game before. He says he’ll call you back and sounds so earnest saying it. But he doesn’t. Then you call him back but he doesn’t answer. I had thought about trying to keep Felton on the line with some offbeat conversation. “Hey, how ’bout those Thrashers?” But I figured he’d just hang up. So I went along with it.

And here I sit. Still waiting. It’s like that line from an old country-western song: “If the phone don’t ring, you know it’s me.” For what it’s worth, “I’m kind of busy. Let me call you right back,” are Felton’s first public comments since he was fired six weeks ago.

The Bulldogs open play in the SEC tournament Thursday. They are not expected to win a game and a natural disaster is not expected to hit the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. You’re probably safe hitting that exacta this time.

“I told them I want them to act like defending champions,” interim coach Pete Herrmann said.

Might be hard. How do you even remember?

Georgia won four regular-season SEC games last season. Then it won four games in three days in two venues (Georgia Dome and Alexander Memorial Coliseum) to win the conference tournament. The Dogs were lunch for Xavier in the NCAA. But by then everybody in Athens had passed out from the altitude and barely noticed.

Athletics director Damon Evans had no choice but to keep Felton. But after seven straight losses and a 0-5 start in the SEC this year, he had no choice but to fire him. The rest has gone pretty much as expected, save an upset of Kentucky that even moved Felton to phone Herrmann.

“We talk a lot,” Herrmann said. “He called me after the Kentucky game and congratulated me. Funny but he didn’t call me after the South Carolina loss.”

Players and coaches will tell you anything is possible (again). In reality, they’re all just trying to get to the finish line. It has been particularly emotional for Herrmann, who hadn’t been a head coach since his days at the Naval Academy in 1992, and he certainly wasn’t wishing for this job, given the circumstances.

“Dennis and I have been together 11 years — every day, every practice and every game,” he said. “At the beginning it was really difficult. I told him when we talked the other day, ‘I’m still thinking about you every day,’ because we would go at this together: How are we gonna practice? How are we gonna play them? It’s been an emotional roller coaster. But I owe it to him and to these players to do the best I can.”

One more loss and Georgia officially closes the book on the Felton era. A year ago, he helped cut down the nets. Celebration pictures cover the walls of the basketball offices.

Now it’s hard to convince yourself that it ever happened.

56 comments Add your comment

brewdawg

March 10th, 2009
7:13 pm

To be fair, UGA wasn’t exactly “lunch” for Xavier. UGA lead pretty much throughout, and actually looked the better squad while doing it. If it weren’t for a remarkable foul discrepancy, the dream probably would have been extended another game.

usuxga

March 10th, 2009
7:27 pm

probably not

Class of '98

March 10th, 2009
7:58 pm

That UGA-Xavier game was quite close, Jeff. You’re usually better than that.

chad

March 10th, 2009
8:12 pm

Sad fact Felton is a much better coach than Paul Hewit and he isn’t coaching. As a Tech fan I would welcome anytime to run the ship at Tech. Felton got a raw job at ugay.

Jeff Schultz

March 10th, 2009
8:36 pm

Brew, Class ‘98: Lunch? Ok, let’s see. Lost by 12. Trailed last 7 1/2 of the game but had it as close as 3 with 1:21, then outscored 9-0 the rest of the game. Dogs made two field goals in final 3:40. But lunch might be overstatement in retrospect.

Terrible Truth

March 10th, 2009
8:46 pm

The man recently lost his job and you wanted him to wax nostalgic over what happened a year ago? Or were you hoping for some sour grapes? Pitiful, Jeffy, plumb pitiful. Next thing you know you’ll be inviting Furman to walk 36 holes on the rumor the paper is going to cut one columnist.

ValdostaMike

March 10th, 2009
8:49 pm

“Lunch” was definitely an overstatement, but otherwise a nice retrospective piece. Unlike another kind of “piece” this season has been. The guys have played hard for spurts and like the consummate fan, I believe they can do it again. Not saying I would wager $5 at 50:1, but they are going to play the games and I believe we will field a team. Heck, nobody expected us to get past the first round last year, least of all me.

BTW, thanks Jeff, for not suggesting a coach to be hired. I guess you only pretend to be GM of the Falcons (couldn’t resist). I believe you are the only comrade writing columns at the swirling AJC to have not shilled for a candidate, Brother Moore being the most inept attempt yet.

brewdawg

March 10th, 2009
8:55 pm

Xavier 33 free throws, UGA 5. Still boggles the mind. The better team definitely won, but man that is a ridiculous (and telling) statistic.

PTC DAWG

March 10th, 2009
9:12 pm

Jim

March 10th, 2009
9:21 pm

How do I remember? Easily. It was a thoroughly exciting few days, and Dogs were definitely not dined on by Xavier. One of the effects of this year’s disaster is to have made clear just how good S. Gaines was.

athensdawg

March 10th, 2009
9:27 pm

I THINK WE ALL LEARNED ABOUT DENNIS FELTON WHEN HE PROMISED HIS PLAYERS TO SHAVE HIS HEAD AND MUSTACHE IF THEY WON THE SEC. THEY DID AND HE TALKED HIS WAY INTO JUST SHAVING HIS MUSTACHE….SEVERAL MONTHS LATER. YOU MAKE THESE KIDS A PROMISE, YOU KEEP IT. THAT’S HOW YOU BUILD CHARACTER AND TEAM. WHEN HE DIDN’T SHOW UP CLEAN SHAVEN FOR THE GAME VS. XAVIER. GRANTED WE WERE OVERMATCHED, BUT IF HE WOULD HAVE WALKED INTO THE LOCKER ROOM BALD HEADED IT WOULD HAVE HAD THE SAME MOTIVATIONAL EFFECT THAT THE BLACK JERSEYS HAD AGAINST AUBURN.

THE RESULTS OF THE GAME WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME AS THE SECOND TIME THE BLACK JERSEYS CAME OUT VS. BAMA….A** BEATING.

BTW JEFF, I THINK IT IS PRETTY DARN SAD WHEN THE WORST TEAM IN PRO FOOTBALL IS RUMORED PASSING ON A “SURE THING” QB IN THE DRAFT. MAYBE STAFFORD ISN’T A ‘SURE THING’….JUST LIKE ALL THE KOOLAID DRINKING CHIWAWAS LEARNED LAST YEAR! I MADE SEVERAL ANTI-STAFFORD COMMENTS DURING THE SEASON AND ALMOST GOT LYNCHED. DAVID GREENE,SHOCKLEY WERE TWICE THE COLLEGE QUARTERBACK STAFFORD EVER WAS. OOPS, LET ME SIGN OUT BEFORE I KNOCK OVER ANY MORE KOOLAIDE CUPS….DRINK UP, PUPPIES!

athensdawg

March 10th, 2009
9:40 pm

correction….green and shockley each were twice the qb that stafford was. heck..bobo was too for that matter. there was a math error and i am sure our brothers from the north avenue trade school will be all over that one…..

ValdostaMike

March 10th, 2009
9:50 pm

athnesdawg, excellent point regarding Felton and the promise, beyond tha, I need a few more drinks before I can understand what you are saying

thom

March 10th, 2009
9:56 pm

PLEASE! Ron Jirsa, Jim Harrick, and Dennis Felton – WE DON’T NEED UPDATES ON!

Trouble Funk

March 10th, 2009
10:42 pm

I’ve known Coach Felton almost 30 years and he’s always been a class act. I had mixed emotions when he was hired. I knew what he walking into. A no-win situation at BEST. He cleaned up the program and did a very good job at that. Last year (tourney)should’ve earned him more time to “right the ship” at least until the end of the season. Evans & Co. was afraid that the team was going to get on another roll and it would’ve been impossible to fire him. The facilities there need to be updated. If he would’ve signed the kid from S. Atlanta we wouldn’t be discussing this topic. No way he would’ve picked UGA over Tech after visiting that barn.

Michael

March 10th, 2009
10:50 pm

This is what happens when you have to use the non-hoodlums to play basketball. Yes, you get guys like Sundiata Gaines who can actually play, but you don’t have talented but very bozo players like Mike Mercer who force you to kick them off the team. Don’t forget that even Saint Mark Richt kept playing Odell Thurman, who may or may not be rushing Michael Vick in the penal league right now.

Felton cleaned up the program after Harrick severely tarnished it. For that, Felton was usually left with a shell of a team. So he gets canned when the team loses. Well, someone has to pick what is wanted. Until the NCAA regulates how crappy the people playing sports can and can’t be, thus is the problem.

By the way, ugay? Really? We’re still doing that?

grahzny bratchny

March 10th, 2009
11:55 pm

Chad, sorry, you’re a loser for giving a backhandeed compliment like that. Seriously? With the male to female ratio on the Tech campus compared to UGA – can it really be UGAY. As far as I went to make the comparison, UGAY? Seriously, I am sick and tired of you tech fans appearing to be so good and intelligent to only come up with UGAY. Seriously? Did you have to go to a techinical school because you have no imagination or common sense?

You Tech students/alum sure can type but it’s the common sense that kills you! What kills you? You chose to go to Tech as a sports fan – a 2nd rate program. Get in line behind every UGA program. Maybe women’s volleyball with Urban Meyer’s daughter will be the clincher.

Pick a UGA program that is not mopping the floor with your program. Ya’ll love basketball but envy our fired coach? Ya’ll love baseball, just don’t meet UGA in the playoffs. Ya’ll won a football game for the first time 7 years. Great!!!

You Techies have to get it through your thick skulls that not everybody is scientifically or mathematically inclined. Plenty know what the square root of 144 is, few decide to pursue it. It does not make you all better. Seriously?

If you are a Tech fan and posting here – you care about sports – therefore, compared to UGA you are 2nd rate in this state. That is a fact!

What is the Tech motto to a UGA grad – one day you’ll be working for me? Is that at the Waffle House or the not so sold out Bobby Dodd stadium? I am just wondering. As a life long Atlantan and UGA grad, you Tech people are jealous. If you all had such a better education, when are you all going to be the better person?

zeus

March 11th, 2009
12:40 am

I think Chad and grahzny bratchny are hot for each other.

[...] AJC columnist Jeff Schultz weighs in — as only he can — on Georgia’s role as defending SEC Tournament champions. . . . [...]

Lance

March 11th, 2009
7:32 am

Dang Jeff– Did you even watch the Xavier Game. UGA had every opportunity to win that game and most betting outlets had them to win it. Do a better job next time with the story.

TW

March 11th, 2009
8:10 am

Until Georgia can offer kids a better venue in whicch to play, the future will be more of the same – good coaches not having success because the shelves are bare.

Perhaps they ought turn bball recruiting over to Richt?

Sautee Dawg

March 11th, 2009
8:34 am

Nothing wrong with “The Barn” as you fans call it. How does playing in a new venue make our team any beter? Maybe a few more recruits but, if you’ve played basketball before you would know a team with a good coach and the desire to win, would play on a dirt floor if need be, because of love for the game.
Hard to justify building a new venue with 1000 butts in the seats at every game.
Coaches and players are not the only ones to be blamed for a poor season. Lack of fan support don’t help either!

Roark84

March 11th, 2009
8:42 am

Nice column Jeff…for those who enjoy watching someone kick a dog while he is down!

gdawginkalamazoo

March 11th, 2009
8:49 am

Jeff, if you find eggs on your house today you will know why Felton was so busy! Other than not winning enough I don’t think Felton embarrassed the program. I do give the man credit for that and for being man enough to step into the situation as it was.

doodoobailey

March 11th, 2009
9:15 am

Felton won’t call you back because it is painfull enough to read your column; I can’t imagine speaking to you directly with your “isucreportingsports” abilities.

get some non-a$$wipe eyeglass frames while you are at it.

felton got robbed.

my diaper is wet, i need to go change it.

candrews

March 11th, 2009
9:22 am

Georgia’s basketball facilities are way better than techs. The S. Atlanta kid did not pick tech for the facilities because he will only be there a year. He picked them because they were the closest team that was in the ACC. Plain and simple.

Jeff Schultz

March 11th, 2009
9:40 am

Truth: Actually, the Bish already has retired, but he freelances a column back to the paper on Sundays. But I’ll let you know if there’s any roster moves coming up.

Valdosta: There’s a lot of great young coaches out there that could do the job at Georgia. I’ll leave it at that.

Brewdawg: I don’t have total recall on that game but, yeah, that’s alarming. But I’m sure you also know that’s dictated by how you play at both ends of the court.

Michael: Dennis did a great job cleaning up the program. But there comes a point where you have to bring in legitimate recruits yourself. I think Dennis was fired less for the losing this year than for the lack of expectation that things were going to get better. If he had landed a couple of top notch recruits this year, I think he’d still be there, losses or not.

Sautee Dawg: I agree with you. The argument of Stegeman Coliseum holding back the hoops program is thin. There’s a lot of great programs that play in barns. It’s about the product, not the glass and chrome.

Roark: How exactly did I kick Dennis? Remember, I’m the one who wrote BEFORE the SEC tournament last year that he shouldn’t be fired. This season was a different story. I called to get comment about the tourney and he didn’t want to talk. Should I have not put that in the column, that he didn’t want to talk.

DooDoo: Thanks for the tip on the glasses.

Charles

March 11th, 2009
10:15 am

Lunch for Xavier? Georgia led at halftime and well into the second half. UGA was easily Xavier’s most difficult contest until the Elite 8.

[...] Also in the AJC, Jeff Schultz goes looking for former Georgia coach Dennis Felton. [...]

ButlerDawg

March 11th, 2009
10:19 am

Poor Schultz. Felton isn’t calling you back because he knows you are a hack writer!
Dawgs were “lunch” for Xavier??? Did you watch the game? They lead up until the final couple of minutes and were clearly done in by a ref crew that was eager to blow the whistle on the Dawgs from one end of the floor to the other. Get your facts straight, then move back to NY or wherever you came from!

[...] Also in the AJC, Jeff Schultz goes looking for former Georgia coach Dennis Felton. [...]

JSS

March 11th, 2009
10:29 am

Hey Benny the Beaver, I bet you go to funerals and ask the bereaved family to loan you money? Nothing as low as a man who lacks the perspective to have an inner dialogue: “Geez, maybe I’m stepping over a line?”

You’re a hack, hump day, when can we expect another comment disparaging teenage girls from you?

Kevin M

March 11th, 2009
10:30 am

Jeff, I can understand that Felton didn’t want to speak. Heck, he might still be under a gag order?
I do hope the Dogs put on a good show this weekend as the defending champs, but their Kentucky win sure looks like a fluke, unlike my Kentucky team with their recent losses.
What I would really hope for in all the search for a coach in Georgia is simply this: a coach who can come in an represent the university as great representatives of the program, and actually be able to talk the highest rated Georgia kids into staying home and playing here. Has anyone ever been able to explain what is the real reason for this? There is just too much basketball talent here and very little media coverage about it to think that this will ever happen. This state should be able to talk basketball more than the month on March.
Can you imagine what Tech and Georgia would look like fielding a team of all local kids? They would both be potential tourney teams each year. Good luck to the Dawgs in finding that coach who knows how to turn kids into great university representatives and gives Georgia basketball a new standard.

[...] handful of conference games.)UGA:  Dennis Felton isn’t talking to the media but he has been chatting with Dawgs’ interim coach Pete Herrmann.Tons of Tennessee coverage from Knoxville today…UT:  As first practices go, Lane Kiffin was [...]

Scott

March 11th, 2009
10:44 am

Jeff, re-watch that Xavier game my man. Some of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen. Georgia outplayed Xavier.

BJohnDawg

March 11th, 2009
10:44 am

Jeff, Not bad, except for the Xavier comment.
I have listened to Georgia sports football and basketball since 10 years old.

When it comes to basketball, that is quite a few crappy years. Felton is a nice honest guy who wants to run a clean program. Well there are quite a few of those type of coaches out there, who actually can recruit and win. Short of it…Felton could not recruit in the state of Georgia worth a flip.To many quality players going elsewhere, the players that a successful coaches would get to stay in state.

And frankly I was never impressed with his game ability either.But I will give him credit for academically and morally cleaning up a nightmare program.

Dawg Nation is ready to move on to the next chapter of UGA Basketball.
This dawg hopes it is better than the last three.

blufftondawg

March 11th, 2009
11:08 am

The fact that athensdawg busts into a football rant on a basketball blog tells me UGA is not ready for a quality basketball program. Too many fans demand football success, but have no clue what big time basketball is. GET YER FOOTBALL stuff outta here!
Dennis would still be coach if he was only a little nicer guy. When one third of your players transfer in a 5 yr period it can’t all be the players fault. When a long time secretary is fired one month into his job, it’s probably not her fault.
Dennis took care of the program and restored it to honesty, thanks Dennis. However, he had good players his first and second year here and in three subsequent years the program is still in shambles. UGA must hire a coach on the same quality level as Billy Donovan, Bruce Pearl and Darrin Horn. That’s just to break even in the SEC east. Do it Damon!

foxdog

March 11th, 2009
11:12 am

The main reason Coach Felton lost his job other than lack of wins, recruiting. The top 100 players in 2009 according to Rivals lists 11 from the state of Georgia. The number of those 11 going to UGA, zero. And that, my friends, will get you fired.

azcat225

March 11th, 2009
11:23 am

zeus made me laugh out loud. Thanks, I needed a laugh this morning.

Have to agree with some of the more recent posts. Georgia needs a men’s basketball coach who can keep at least some of the incredible homegrown talent–well–home. Andy Landers doesn’t seem to have a problem getting his share of in-state players.

And by the way, Jeff, please solve those “technical problems” by next Tuesday. Most of yesterday was drab and lifeless…like the other four days of the work week.

spotts

March 11th, 2009
11:55 am

ahaha….nice, Jeff. It’s really hard to believe that we won the SEC last year. We had an okay team, but an unbelievable amount of luck. What with not having to face Florida or Tennessee, and not having to deal with big crowds of other fans.

This year’s team is pathetic. To think that we’re “defending” our title is a joke (hence your headline). Hopefully we can bring in a good coach(since we’re showering him with money) and a couple good recruits (and if that coach is Harrick, they’ll be showered with money too) for a little bit of hope.

Brian

March 11th, 2009
12:14 pm

Lunch for Xavier?

UGA was playing 5 on 8 that day and still almost pulled the upset.

Jeff, the Dawgs were a bit fatigued during the last few minutes of the game and rightfully so.

I copied the following statements from an article about the game.

But, as Xavier point guard Drew Lavender put it: “Fatigue finally caught them.”

The Dawgs were also up 43-32 with 16 minutes left in the game.

Lunch? I don’t think so.

I think TWoods’s comments summed up the officiating controvery:

“To come down, and every other play you get a foul called on your team, it’s ridiculous from our standpoint,” Woodbury said. “I feel like we played as hard as we did, but they just got the calls. We didn’t get any calls, so the momentum can change like that, very much in their favor.”

Dolph

March 11th, 2009
12:15 pm

Tech or UGA? Come on folks, the fact is that in basketball they are both terrible and a waste of time to watch. The State of Georgia consistently produces at least 5-10 players in the top 100 recruits nationally, and nearly every one leaves the state and plays elsewhere.
What does that tell you—–the coaches are BOTH terrible.

Gen Neyland

March 11th, 2009
12:51 pm

…and now, for he REST of the story…

Ed

March 11th, 2009
1:00 pm

“Now, I’ve played this game before. He says he’ll call you back and sounds so earnest saying it. But he doesn’t.”

Are we still talking about Felton? Or reminiscing about some painful high school memories?

Ted Striker

March 11th, 2009
1:22 pm

## Blufftondawg: Over the months, I’ve read numerous comments describing Dennis Felton as a “class act” or “a nice guy. I suppose perspective depends on who you ask but in the opinion of many within the AD, he was neither. Dennis Felton began his UGA tenure with arrogance and disregard toward numerous subordinates, particularly administrative assistants. Inside the AD, Dennis Felton was known for a filthy foul mouth and overstated claims of significance to UGA. He toned his act down when Vince Dooley left and Damon Evans arrived, but he never earned the respect of many inside the AD because of his actions from day one.

Coondawg69

March 11th, 2009
3:43 pm

Ted Striker, I’ve heard the same thing from folks who work in the AD and supporters at various Tip-Off type functions.

Jeff, too bad you never heard back from Dennis Felton. I believe that the best quote I ever heard from Felton was after the Texas A&M- Corpus Christi lost in Athens earlier this season. In the post game interview with Scott Howard, Felton said, “Well, you know, um, er, and, so, ah, yes.”

Pitbull

March 11th, 2009
4:50 pm

I think the thing that bothers me about Jeff and the AJC the most is how on one hand they talk down a school (any school) for not recruiting academically viable players and graduating 100% of them, but on the other hand when a coach recruits players who take their academics seriously but are not the best pure athletes to take the court, field, etc. then the writers criticize the coach for losing to schools that take a one and done attitude to get the wins.

It tells me that media writers like Jeff really have to set principles or values. But we all already knew that from his previous articles, didn’t we?

Felton came from a successful program to one that Herrick and son crapped all over. To his credit he righted the ship. Players who did not perform in the class were cut. Bad attitudes left for other schools. He had to start from scratch and it takes time to build long haul college basketball success. I think at least half the victory for him was that the basketball program was no longer an academic embarrassment to UGA.

AJC witers like Jeff just take the cheap shot one way or the other depending on how they want to slant the article. They know it and we know it.

So Jeff, just blow it out the end that the sun doesn’t shine on, and don’t forget to wipe.

vtfalcon

March 11th, 2009
7:30 pm

can’t say i blame him for not calling you back

dawggy

March 11th, 2009
7:41 pm

Baseball Dawgs win again… 14-0, I think

Terrible Truth

March 11th, 2009
9:58 pm

Andy Landers needs to be fired too before he hangs his Georgia Sports Hall of Fame plaque on the wall. The program has lost ground to twenty other teams the last five years. THAT might be a good job for Bob Knight.