Durham looks at Georgia now and sees potential, not cows

For anybody who believes Damon Evans has a hard sale when it comes to convincing the masses (and a coach) about the potential of Georgia basketball, Hugh Durham has a story for you.

It was about 31 years ago when Durham was hired as the Bulldogs coach. He was introduced on a Friday and the following morning walked into his office, picked up the phone and began recruiting.

Hugh Durham's view from courtside was far better than the view from his office window.

Hugh Durham took Georgia to five NCAA tournaments and the Final Four.

“Back then the basketball team shared the coliseum with agriculture,” he said. “We didn’t have central air or anything. All the fans were off. So when I got there I had to open the windows. Well, back then, the barns were right below my window, and I remember calling this kid on the phone, a point guard from New York, and all of a sudden the cows start mooing. The kid says, ‘Coach, what’s that noise?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of horns.’ He must’ve thought, ‘Gee, the car horns sure sound different down there.’ ”

The recruit must’ve bought the story because he came to Athens. Durham won 297 games with five NCAA and seven NIT appearances and over 17 seasons — which isn’t bad, considering Georgia had never been to either and for a long time shared its arena with traveling rodeos and the 4-H Club.

It also was 26 years ago this weekend that the Dogs upset Big East champion St. John’s (with Chris Mullin) and defending champion North Carolina (with Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan) in the East Regional to reach the Final Four.

They lost in the national semifinals to N.C. State, but the point had been made. It can be done and it has been done — even amid curious sounds and smells.

Evans is shooting high. He’s looking for a new coach, possibly among schools that were still alive in the tournament entering the weekend.

That doesn’t make Evans deluded. It means only that he brings an attitude that Georgia has long needed in basketball.

Durham, who retired from coaching in 2005, dealt with the “football school” mentality far more than the next basketball coach will. He believes the Georgia job is “an outstanding job. It’s far better now than it’s ever been.”

The reasons, he said, are obvious: 1) The state is a fertile recruiting ground; 2) The school has an athletic director committed to building the program; 3) facilities.

You mock Stegeman. But the arena is far ahead of the days when the court was taken up after the season and replaced by dirt and cow pens, which prompted Durham to steer recruits to other parts of campus. He also believes the Dogs’ practice facility should help recruiting.
“Georgia won’t lose a kid because of facilities now,” he said. “If you win, you can put 10,000 in the Coliseum and the building will be just fine.”

Tubby Smith followed Durham and won for two years before leaving for Kentucky. Then came the splat (Ron Jirsa). Then the embarrassment (Jim Harrick). Then scorched earth (Dennis Felton).

So much misery blurs memories of the 1983 Final Four. But it did happen, and the coach back then operated under far worse circumstances. All you had to do was open the window.

  Jeff Schultz, fighting to stay relevant with peeps under 40, can be reached via email (jschultz@ajc.com), Facebook, Tweeter (SchultzAJC) or carrier pigeon (make a right off 400).

75 comments Add your comment

blazerdawg

March 27th, 2009
10:15 pm

Sure do miss Coach Durham. He knew his b-ball and was a class act.

Jeff Schultz

March 27th, 2009
10:38 pm

He’s still a class act, Blazer. Spoke to him for about 40 mins on the phone. Great guy. Still enjoying life.

Cuz

March 27th, 2009
11:35 pm

Coach Hugh was well liked as soon as he hit campus. He had an easy going demeanor that fit in well. I was at Georgia when Hugh got there and I cannot even remember the name of the Coach before Durham. Time has dimmed some of the memory of that 83 Final Four team but they were a very special group. After losing Dominique to the NBA the year before, nobody gave them much hope of accomplishing anything. But they jelled together and won games against teams no one gave them much hope of beating.

The livestock pens were behind the colisieum and I bet Hugh got a noseful as much as an earful when he opened that window. We had a lot of livestock shows, rodeo’s and a couple of tractor pulls at Stegeman. Yep dirt was put down on the floor and the wood was taken up. I would imagine that most of Durham’s recruits were not going to attend the Ag school which dominated South Campus and where Stegeman is located. The image of Hugh and some inner city kid waiting for the cows to walk by makes me laugh now. I never saw it from Hugh’s perspective. You are right Jeff, a class act and I wish him the best. Thanks Coach for your service to UGA.

swgaboy

March 28th, 2009
12:18 am

Thanks for sharing that Jeff. The best thing that ever happened to UGA basketball was hiring Hugh Durham. It didn’t take him long to make UGA a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. And that was at a time when UK and LSU were going to Final 4’s and Alabama and Tennessee were frequent visitors to the Sweet 16. I can remember listening to his call-in shows and several times a season, UK fans would call in and tell him that they respected Hugh more than any other coach in the league. Of all the coaches that took multiple teams to Final 4’s, UGA and FSU have to be the unlikeliest pair. But it was possible because of Hugh Durham, who beat Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith to get there.

kinggene

March 28th, 2009
9:04 am

Durham and Tubby Smith were both class acts for UGA basketball. Here’s hope Damon Evans can make the men’s team relevent once more, instead of the emberesment it has been.

AltamahaDawg

March 28th, 2009
10:05 am

The guy was funny as hell too. (or still is). I remember making sure to catch the Hugh Durham show as much for his humor as the BB highlights.

seahawk

March 28th, 2009
10:26 am

I appreciate coach durham for all he did. i am a 35 yr UGA basketball fan. there is no program i care more about than UGA’s. However, it was time coach durham moved on when he did. His spirit was gone.
Today, well i believe there is nothing holding UGA basketball back except UGA itself. Our first goal should be to go .500 in the SEC and 20 wins each year. We don’t need a great coach to do that. We only need a good coach and the backing of administration, fans and PRESS. Jeff, read the front pages of Lexington, KY and Tuscaloosa today. We have to turn the attention of UGA fans toward basketball. It ain’t a minor sport like i’ve been reading on these blogs. It’s MAJOR, folks. Stegeman might have been a bad venue at one time, but take a look lately. Stegeman is fine, and it will rawk with the coach and program in place.

buckheadbill

March 28th, 2009
10:27 am

How I remember the great years with Hugh Durham. Malinda is one of my favorite people in the whole world. Coach Durham is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. When he came to GA, the coliseum was painted “Miss. State maroon”. One of his first acts was to re-paint. I wish I had a CD of Coach Durham and some of his Roger Banks stories. Coach, have fun in the NC mountains. Can your horses handle the mountains?

LRGK9

March 28th, 2009
11:17 am

Heck of a Racquetball Player too.

GW

March 28th, 2009
12:00 pm

As a UGA student, I used to rush out after the games to hear Coach Durham’s postgame radio show. He was a riot. Center Lavon Mercer, a great guy himself, was often the target of Durham’s jabs, all in fun. Don’t forget that he brought Dominique Wilkins to UGA.

Bo Williams

March 28th, 2009
12:24 pm

Durham got little respect across the board. I remember how Larry Munson always called him “Durham” on his Sunday evening show, while he addressed Bill Dooley as “Coach Dooley”. That stuck out like a sore thumb. I liked Munson, but was very disappointed on those occasions.

Coondawg69

March 28th, 2009
12:24 pm

You nailed it Seahawk.

I’ve been going long enough to remember Jackie Dorsey, Walter “Stinker” Daniels, Tony Flanagan, Lucious “Cheap Shot” Foster.
The Coliseum rocked after Jimmy Daughtry’s running foul line jumper to put us into OT against LSU. The Coliseum rocked when LSU came to town in 90… it rocked when Eric “Sky Dog” tried to drive the lane against Sam Bowie in double OT, It rocked when The San Diego Chicken came to watch Tony White and Tennessee win a 2OT thriller. It rocked when they brought out “The Tub” before games, and it rocked when Harrick’s Hounds took out 6th ranked Tennessee in 2OT.

WITH the correct hire, it can rock again…. and hopefully for a long time!!!

Sven Ottke

March 28th, 2009
12:58 pm

A 35 year UGa basketball fan? Good grief, man. Get yourself some help.

Cuz

March 28th, 2009
1:06 pm

I knew we had a basketball team when I arrived in 1978, I just did not know why. No clue who was the coach then.

Pitbull

March 28th, 2009
1:49 pm

Love Coach Durham and hated to see him leave. He was devoted to his job.

For all of those who think Stegman is not an acceptable BB venue, may I direct your attention to Butler College. They regularly seem to be in the NCAA’s and play in what can only be described as an old field house. The movie Hoosiers was filmed in it.

The difference between Butler College and UGA BB is that Butler has players with discipline & desire, and coaches who know how to run a program.

UGA should be going to Butler to learn from them.

If we hire the right coach and give him time to build a quality program by keeping the instant gratification nutjobs and media at bay, then we might be successful.

However it is the instant gratification nutjobs and media that stir up the most commotion when things are not going well.

It has not always been that way. If it had been, Coach Dooley would have been gone in the 1970’s and we would not have had those wonderful teams in the 1980’s.

Think about it.

Cuz

March 28th, 2009
2:06 pm

I remember a Sunday morning in the Fall of 1979 when Coach Dooley woke up to over fifty For Sale signs in his front yard. I am not saying who might have been involved, the Statute of Limatations may not have run out on this one.

EMRBG

March 28th, 2009
2:09 pm

I thought that Statute was firmly placed in New York Harbour.

Whopper Dawg

March 28th, 2009
3:58 pm

Disappointed that Evans let Bama get the VC coach wihout even talking to him according to reports, I thought that was a perfect, perfect fit. Obvious choice to me. With Kentucky and AZ now in the mix. it is going to be harder to get the right fit. I think that Evans is waiting to talk to Capel, which I think would be a mistake (he’ll leave for a “bigger” job if successful at UGA).

Douglas

March 28th, 2009
4:09 pm

What I am tired of is hearing that UGA is just a football school and the fans will not support men’s basketball. I went to UGA when they hired Durham: and once they started winning, the fans came to the games. If they hire a coach who wins and recruits well, the fans will come. It has happened before….it can happen again.

RS

March 28th, 2009
4:16 pm

Ask Coach Durham how many players graduated in 10 years of coaching at UGA? You can pick A) 10, B) 5, or C) 1. I choose C. The twin from Roswell who went on to be a doctor is the only one (I think he died). Please prove me wrong about this.
Is this the type of coach you really want representing UGA?

Bruce in Kennesaw

March 28th, 2009
4:34 pm

I was at UGA for Coach Durham’s first game. He had seats installed close to the court to get us close to the action. There wasn’t a big crowd – no problem getting the tickets. I was excited because Terry Fair from Macon (high school national champs at the time) was on the court. I had also read in the Red and Black that some guy called the human highlight film was going to be there too. He blew the place away with his first dunk. I found out quick who the real star was.

Coach D. was a great guy. He was a racketball playing machine and jogged the campus every day. Good times

Not Disappointed

March 28th, 2009
4:45 pm

I’m a Die Hard Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, but I really admire this Coach Durham. Leaving in Bulldog Country(And Household), Washington, GA. Dad would drive 42 miles over to Athen and watch the team. He really is a great Coach. Go Jackets!!!!

Not Disappointed

March 28th, 2009
4:49 pm

Sorry, meant to say Living in Bulldog Country!!

johnboy

March 28th, 2009
4:55 pm

Then it very obvious…we need to bring in a coach who is hard working. hard playing.funny and will restore UGA Basketball to the days of old…who fits the description?

Ted Striker

March 28th, 2009
4:57 pm

“An inexperienced official, if you get on him right after he blows a call he’s gonna give you a ‘T’. A confident, experienced official will let you have your say. Then he’ll say, ‘OK, that’s enough.’ And he might say, ‘Coach, I missed it.’ If you rip the inexperienced guy, he’s gonna T you. He hasn’t built up the positive reputation of being a good official. So he uses the power of the whistle.” — Hugh Durham

DawgFan24

March 28th, 2009
5:01 pm

Whatever, we dropped the ball by letting Grant go to Alabama. Why didnt we pick up on this guy as soon as his NCAA tourney run was finished? Jeff, can you provide any insight?

Jeff Schultz

March 28th, 2009
5:25 pm

DawgFan24: It became obvious in the past week (or more) that Grant did not rank that high on Damon Evans’ list. Why? I don’t know. But it seems clear he wanted to talk to somebody else first and wasn’t going to make a commitment to somebody else.

I, Too, Remember Jacky Dorsey . . .

March 28th, 2009
5:44 pm

Durham had a sharp sense of humor. I remember a postgame radio interview. Dominique Wilkins had been knocked down in the paint several times in the paint, with no calls. Rather than invite a fine by complaining directly about the refs, Durham spent the interview lamenting that he had misjudged Wilkins. Far from being a great athlete, he couldn’t even seem to stand up.

He is absolutely right about the Coliseum. Put a winner in there and it will rock instead of being out of date.

David C

March 28th, 2009
6:12 pm

Twenty-five years, nine NCAA Championships, 16 SEC Championships, 33 individual titles, 68 All-Americans and an absolute plethora of rabid gymnastics fans later, it appears that the Gym Dogs have…well more than accomplished the lofty goals which Yoculan set for her program in 1984.

All the accomplished at the same “smelly” place that Ga. basketball has failed. It isn’t the building. Its the leadership.

'ol sport

March 28th, 2009
6:28 pm

First of all, to the blogger who could not remember, John Guthrie, another class act, was coach before HD. Guthrie’s salary was $ 16,500 which was so pathetic in the late 70,s. I don’t know how he lived on it. Guthrie was also a class act, but perhaps not quite as good a coach. He later served as Associate Commissioner of the SEC.

It seems that Damon Evans is so hung on Capel and maybe one other, and it really makes me mad that he did not at least intereview Anthony Grant. I am very disappointed in the narrow mindedness that Evans showed here. In fact, I am real concerned, and afraid that we will wait and be left out, choosing only out of necessity. If Adams is the hold-up, we need to run him out of town (should have long ago). If it is all on Evans, well, he has created some real doubt in my thinking of him.

I have supported UGA athletics for 50 years, the good, the bad, the ugly. This could be another ugly, and if Capel were to be the one, he will leave just as soon as Duke calls. We need someone like Mark Richt likes in a recruit, meaning someone who WANTS to come to UGA, and someone that has proven himself. I saw where someone in another article suggested talking to UK’s fired coach since he is big on defense. Why not? The UK job is one that any coach in his right mind would not have unless he had a guaranteed contract and the agreement to give him a few years of real support. The two years he got is just an example of the basketball mentality in Lexington.

Damon Evans, you too are young. If this is on your shoulders, I would suggest you get busy. Some seasons are over for some schools, so waiting on the NCAA’s to end could make it doubly hard.

GO DAWGS!

TW

March 28th, 2009
7:14 pm

Coach Durham did an excellent job of bringing top talent to UGA. Sadly, the place was a bit of a sieve for talent while he was there, as we both underachieved as a team and did sub par job of getting choice talent to the next level. With the SEC having stepped up significantly with its commitment to basketball since the Durham days, it’s questionable if he could have got the same caliber kids to come to Athens today.

Jeff, at the moment I am pretty ticked off that Grant went to Alabama. I agreed whole-heartedly with your pitch for him last week. Please come through with another article that will excite me as much about another candidate. Would Capel actually leave OK for UGA? Can you give me another Grant-like name or two to hope for?

[...] Schultz goes one on one with Hugh Durham about the opportunity in Athens, his trip to the 1983 Final Four, and the upgraded facilities in [...]

Bo Williams

March 28th, 2009
7:26 pm

RS, quit blaming the coach for the academic performance of the players. Blame the players themselves and the academic advisors. Dont blame my son’s teacher if he acts up in class. It is my fault.

Jeff Schultz

March 28th, 2009
7:30 pm

I know a lot of people wanted Evans to hire Grant. But I’m going to hold off making a judgment on the coaching search until I see who he ends up hiring.

Dawg Tired

March 28th, 2009
7:44 pm

Does Evans really believe that UGA can compete with AZ an KY for a basketball coach? We could have competed with Alabama. What’s he thinking?

freshd

March 28th, 2009
7:54 pm

better get the guy from mike anderson from missouri, he is only making 850,000. if you hire capel, he”s only gonna stay until coach k. retires from duke.

dawgfan1911

March 28th, 2009
8:30 pm

If not Grant, it better be Mike Anderson from Mizzouri. Jeff Caple, I am not sold on. Maybe Mark Few, but his teams tend to be soft. I do know that with the KU and Arizona job open, Georgia may not be able to get that prime time coach they seek. I would rather they go after John Calipari at Memphis. Give him what he wants. I am hearing that Kentucky is going to offer him anything he wants. Arizona’s job is weird. I am not sure what they are going to do or who they will persue, but it is known that they want a prime time coach is well.

Ted Striker

March 28th, 2009
8:51 pm

The lack of white smoke coming from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall & Sistine Athletic Chapel is no reason to assume that UGA is off schedule in selecting a roundball pope.

Indications are that UGA is approaching this the right way — refusing to rush an important decision. (Although some masochists would clamor for Bob Knight until he stole Richt’s parking space or kicked Uga in the “arches”)

I understand the appeal of an Anthony Grant. Good coach, impressive resume, two big dance visits as a head coach. (Hey, didn’t a guy named Felton have 3 at Western Kentucky?) Not saying Grant is Felton. But to cite another example, wasn’t Billie Gillispie the uber coaching commodity of ‘07? (Prior to YouTube moments, untimely text messages to his former team, embarrassing losses, recruiting an 8th grader, etc).

UGA will be fine. Georgia’s recruiting base will have a top notch recruiter and coach salivating. How does Stegeman compare to Rupp? Rupp is a little nicer but it also comes with 23,500 assistant coaches.

p.s. I see that of former UGA basketball coaches, Durham is a little more talkative than Felton.

Endymion

March 28th, 2009
11:11 pm

That final four team had a bunch of home grown players. Many from the top high school team of that day, Southwest Macon. That’s what we lack today. GA’s highschool stars aren’t drawn to UGA.

RS

March 28th, 2009
11:37 pm

Bo,
I agree to a degree and eventually the individual has to be responsible but the concept of the student/athlete wasn’t in Durham’s playbook. Play bball until you use up your 4 years and then see ya!
That’s just not the way it should be. You can win with student/athletes: Villanova & Duke for example. UGA now prides itself as being a quality educational institution and hopefully they will find a coach who will put pride in winning with student/athletes.

FLDAWG

March 28th, 2009
11:57 pm

Iwas hoping that Grant would get serious consideration, I think he would have been a good fit. However, based on what DE has said, he is shooting for someone with more NCAA experience, as is evident from his actions, at least he is being true to his word. I hope he is able to pull it off.

Hugh was a great coach and represented UGA well. Thanks Coach Durham.

Steve

March 29th, 2009
12:32 am

Mike Anderson is not a great recruiter – look at his last 3 classes at Missouri – Capel is outstanding in recruiting – I would rather get John Thompson III (he can possibly be had) than Anderson. Nothing personal against Coach Anderson. He had a great season, loaded with Seniors that he didn’t recruit. Great coach, not so great recruiter. Hope we get Capel, Thompson, or Gillispie – in that order. Would have said go after Jim Calhoun, but that was before this latest debacle in recruiting.

Steve

March 29th, 2009
12:37 am

Also, wish the Felton bashing would stop. Terrible team this year, but he was recruiting perfectly – lots of A- talent – very good, but usually not good enough to leave early. His last 3 classes (including this one) were outstanding, just not experienced enough yet to reflect in won loss, in my opinion. Next year would have had Thompkins, Jackson, Barnes, Price and Miller up front. Guard play was a killer though.

swgaboy

March 29th, 2009
1:31 am

I haven’t look at Anderson’s classes at Missouri, but he did sign a GA player that UGA wandted and couldn’t get. So I’m guessing that he’s not too bad at recruiting.

I can understand people liking Grant. We could’ve done a lot worse than he. But Dennis Felton had just as good of a record, if not better than Grant, at another mid major school. Not sure why people assume that’s the best candidate that UGA can draw at this point. For those that are talking about another coach leaving us as soon as possible, Grant put Alabama on hold until he saw whether or not Gillispie would be fired and then what would happen with Donovan and Florida.

It’s also interesting to see that we’ve got folks who are already judging Damon Evans without seeing what is going to happen first. I don’t know who we will get in the end, or if he’s a better candidate than Grant or whoever. But I like the way that Evans is handling this. It’s obvious that he’s swinging for the fences, and you can’t blame a man for doing that.

Cuz

March 29th, 2009
1:36 am

Don’t hammer to hard on Hugh about guys not getting their degree. It was a different era. Lots, probably most major sports atheletes did not get their degree. Two friends of mine played on the football team in the late seventies and early eighties. One got a degree, the other became a bouncer then bar manager. Anyone remember Pulpwood Smith? We all knew he would not get a degree, he ran hard one year and flunked out that Spring.

But back to basics. Give me a coach who will come to Athens and embrace the concept of being the Dawgs coach until he retires. Sort of like Coach Richt, Coach Youclan, Coach Landers and yes even Coach Durham had that plan. All others need not apply. The line forms this way.

I think it is a proven fact that Kentucky will not be happy until the Lord comes down and coaches on the sidelines. What ref is gonna call a tech on God.

[...] a conversation with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz former UGA basketball coach Hugh Durham talks about the great opportunity Georgia hoops represents for the next man to occupy the top [...]

brewdawg

March 29th, 2009
8:44 am

Dawgfan1911,

If you think UGA would even consider John Calipari after the Jim Harrick fiasco, you are crazy. Calipari ain’t exactly squeaky clean.

bout time

March 29th, 2009
8:47 am

Eddie Martin at GAC, will motivate, recruit, and win. Georgia has nothing to lose, we are losing players and face in the SEC. He’s not a famous name, but will get the job done.

Lane Ely

March 29th, 2009
9:50 am

Complaining about the cows and agricultural events at the Stegman Coliseum is fine for the basketball and athletics at UGA but it should also be acknowledged that the Coliseum would not have been built if not for the cows and 4-H. The legislators at the time would not put money into a basketball facility.

Judge Dawg

March 29th, 2009
11:06 am

We need someone who can sell the program like Coach D and Tubby. We have to recruit the Atlanta area and run a first rate program. Everything else will fall in place.