Originally posted on Jan. 29, 2009:
I never like to see a good man lose his job, though with the kind of buyout clauses big-time basketball coaches have in their contracts, the sympathy is measured. Dennis Felton is, by all accounts and appearances, a good man. He just wasn’t a very good head basketball coach for an underperforming program at a big school in a major conference. As an administrator, Felton appeared to be a bit too inflexible, judging by the number of players he ran off over the past few years. OK, maybe some (or all) of them deserved to be run off. But that probably means Felton wasn’t recruiting the type of players he needed for his type of program. He sure wasn’t recruiting the talent needed to win big in the SEC. Or, this year, to win at all in the SEC. As a game coach, the verdict on Felton was mixed. I’ve seen games where he looked at times like a master strategist and others where he appeared out of sync with or even indifferent to what was happening on the court. I heard someone say he couldn’t have done much worse this season if he had picked his starting five, headed out the door and just let them play. So now comes the hard job of finding the right coach. Ideally, Damon Evans and Michael Adams will find another Bruce Pearl or Tubby Smith, a coach who can quickly turn things around, attract some of the major talent growing up in the state of Georgia and, more importantly, ignite a fire under the UGA basketball program and get the Bulldog Nation excited. And do it all without bending rules or signing questionable characters. And then, once we’ve found him and he gets the program on solid ground, we need to keep him. With Smith, I’m not sure any amount of money would have dissuaded him from taking the job at Kentucky, the Mount Olympus of college basketball. When a dream job is offered, there’s not much you can do, as Florida may find out when Notre Dame comes calling for Urban Meyer. But Evans and Co. need to commit to funding a big-time coach and keeping him happy if they want to have a big-time program. Time for Evans to prove he’s the man for his job by finding the right man for the basketball job.