I’m still glad Mark Fox is Georgia’s basketball coach

You can question Mark Fox's use of timeouts Friday, but he's still done a remarkable coaching job. (Jason Getz / AJC)

You can question Mark Fox's use of timeouts Friday, but he's still done a remarkable coaching job. (Jason Getz / AJC)

At the office, I sit under one of the newsroom televisions, and early Friday afternoon a group of coworkers had gathered standing behind me. The boss walked by and cracked, “What, everyone’s watching Bill work?”

Sure, if by work you mean trying to edit a story while keeping one eye on the Georgia-Alabama game in the SEC basketball tournament.

It was looking good there for a while, but knowing the history of Mark Fox’s team this season I wasn’t too comfortable, even when the Dogs were up by 14 points with a little under 7 minutes left in the game.

About three minutes later, a couple of guys from sports were discussing plans for continued coverage of Georgia in the SEC tourney when I spoke up: “Hey, this game’s not over yet.” The lead had already been cut to 7 and I feared UGA was reverting to the midseason form that had seen them blow double-digit second-half leads before.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

Of course, like many other fans, in the immediate aftermath my first inclination was to question Fox’s curious decisions on timeouts late in game, failing to call one when Gerald Robinson was trapped and couldn’t get a decent shot off, and then doing the reverse and stopping the clock just as Dustin Ware let go of what would have been a game-winning and NCAA berth-securing 3-pointer at the end of regulation.

“We could have had the win, but he called timeout,” Travis Leslie lamented after the game.

True, but Leslie would have been more on point if he’d said, “We could have had the win but we choked and made too many turnovers, missed foul shots and got beat on the boards.”

In other words, Mark Fox wasn’t responsible for Georgia losing that game because it never should have come down to the buzzer.

As Leslie noted, with Georgia up by 14 “we probably got too comfortable and also fatigue was in place.”

The fatigue in particular was a big factor. The quick turnaround after Thursday’s win over Auburn worked against Georgia because the one thing Fox hasn’t been able to do in his remarkable two-year reclamation project on the moribund UGA program he inherited is build much of a bench. Georgia’s first five can play with anyone, but beyond that it falls off drastically. Maybe it was a case of tossing the dice, as Fox put it, by keeping his core players in the game so long Friday, but he didn’t really have much of a choice.

Yes, Fox’s execution might have been off at a few key moments during the season, but that doesn’t negate the terrific job he’s done bringing the program back to life. If not for those second-half collapses this season in a flurry of close losses, we might be talking about 30-win team! The Dogs have been that close to joining the elite.

Fox has made UGA basketball matter again.

So whether Georgia is picked for NCAA tournament or not, I have to agree with a Dog fan coworker who came by my desk after the game was over and the little crowd had dispersed.

“I’m still glad he’s our coach,” he said. And then, thinking of the Tubby Smith days he added, “I really hope we can keep him.”

Amen to that.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

76 comments Add your comment

Stevo

March 12th, 2011
10:47 am

Isn’t this the same old song and dance? I hate it, but I was joking with Bama fans yesterday about how we would collapse. It just seems inevitable!
Now I’m not one of those that’s down on UGA basketball. We’ve come a long way. But the quote from Leslie has been said probably 5 times this year. Let’s start to condition or at least get guys in there in the second half that want to dominate!
Here’s hoping for an NCAA berth, but if/when we get there, let’s try to learn from our mistakes in 5+ games from earlier this year.

supsalemgr

March 12th, 2011
10:51 am

It takes time to build a “team” which includes a good bench. That is an absolute necessity with pace of today’s game. I think Fox has done a terrific job in two years. Folks, I was in school when “Red” Lawson was the coach. Now that was ugly!

SWGADAWG

March 12th, 2011
10:59 am

Still glad he’s coach. He’s do a good job. But next year is gonna be brutal. And the next might be as well. Will we still be excited after 2 more years??? Not sure. Yesterday was about poor execution in the crunch from players…and a coach. Fox had a bad last few minutes for sure. I see NIT in our future and to compound the bad weekend…Hewitt will get canned….:(

kbp

March 12th, 2011
10:59 am

I’m still glad he’s our coach too, but he blew this one. Is there a good reason that Marcus Thornton and Donte’ Williams and Sherrard Brantley do not play consistent minutes in every game? We have depth, why not use it? No reason for fatigue to be a factor with this team. Sometimes coaches undermine themselves. No time out with Robinson trapped and then a time out with Ware running down the court for a final shot. Come on, man!

Jimmy

March 12th, 2011
11:14 am

We’re missing that ‘killer’ mentality. None of our players go for the throat at the end of the game. We DON’T have a player that can take the game over. I love Coach Fox but I don’t think this team is an NCAA Tourney team. I hope we make it but won’t be surprised if we don’t.

bamaguy

March 12th, 2011
11:24 am

Fox has done an excellent job at UGA and I believe he and Anthony Grant will have Georgia/Alabama contending for SEC championships in the near future (I am still grateful UGA passed on Coach Grant). That said, I do want to note that I work downtown and the UK fans outnumbered all the other SEC schools combined. Alabama and Georgia, unfortunately, reserve that kind of loyalty for their football teams.

Jimmy

March 12th, 2011
11:30 am

BamaGuy – Good luck today, I have a feeling you’re going to need it.

bamaguy

March 12th, 2011
11:38 am

Jimmy: I am hoping for a win but not expecting one. But since college sports are games coached by adults but played by kids, anything can happen.

Hoops Dawg

March 12th, 2011
11:41 am

One problem with this team is that it is not tough. I’m not going to defend Harrick, but his players had that ability to fight all the harder when facing adversity. Can you imagine Rashad Wright, Cris Daniels, and the Hayes twins blowing a 14-point lead in the second half. If this team had the mental toughness that those teams did, we’d probably have 25-26 wins and a #3 seed in he dance right now and might be an odds-on favorite to win the SEC tourney. I don’t pretend to know how you coach mental toughness, but if it can be done, I hope CMF (whom I like very much) discovers the magic formula. All Harrick’s teams, from Pepperdine, to UCLA, to Rhode Island, to UGA had that trait. So I suspect there is a formula for it.

Extremely Happy with Fox

March 12th, 2011
11:43 am

He seems to want to earn his keep. He doesn’t want a free ride, he’s not full of excuses, and he doesn’t try and hide shortcomings behind faith, like another high-profile UGA coach whose team plays in the fall. Fox has set an example for the type coach UGA should recruit. Those who are like the other coach have no self-pride, should be ashamed of themselves and should resign.

happy with Fox

March 12th, 2011
11:56 am

Dumbest comment I have ever read. You blame Richt’s faith for his shortcomings? Can you cite 1 example? Just 1? Didn’t think so moron. And how is Fox not making excuses? All coaches make excuses when they lose. You should resign from life you twit.

RaleighDawg

March 12th, 2011
12:11 pm

Ramblings from yet another homer…..anyone who actually has watched UGA basketball this year as opposed to listening to sound bites, reading press releases, and buying the spin knows that Fox is the ultimate opportunist who, just like he with with Coach Johnson at Nevada, has been the beneficiary of Coach Felton’s efforts.

Fire Mark Fox now – before it’s too late !

SoCal Dawg

March 12th, 2011
12:16 pm

Extremely Happy with Fox -”he’s not full of excuses, and he doesn’t try and hide shortcomings behind faith” Someday my friend you will see how little football matters in the whole of life, just hope that comes before it’s to late.

Greg

March 12th, 2011
12:18 pm

Our bench is terrible. 7 of our 11 losses have come after we’ve led at half. If you look back at those losses, fatigue wasn’t the problem. The problem was that we had 1 or more starters who fouled out or were in serious foul trouble coming down the stretch. Same deal yesterday with Price fouling out and Thompkins playing with 4 over the last 8 minutes or so. Barnes came in and missed layups on consecutive possessions..that ended the game for all intents and purposes.

Mark my words, if Bama gets in, they will get humiliated in round 1. It will be just like yesterday except a 5 or 6 seed will keep pouring it on over the last 5 or 6 minutes. Bama won’t score 50 points.

Joe Mac

March 12th, 2011
12:22 pm

Let me start by saying I too am glad mark Fox is our coach.

That being said, my view is that the things that were weaknesses/struggles at the beginning of the season remained through out the season/never improved.

Chief among them for me was the fact that Fox allowed Gerald Robinson to play out of control for several possessions in several different clusters a game in many, many games. Robinson would try, at times, to take the game over with dribble drives ending in highly contested shots and/or virtual trick shots which turned into crucial misses or turnovers.

Free throw shooting; especially Trey Tompkins. Somehow, some way, free throw shooting has to be close to/virtually automatic. No legitimate reason for it not to be.

Execution against the press. One could argue that it got better by way of number of turnovers (which the Dawgs had numerous) but, turnovers due to the press are merely one aspect. When facing the press it comes down to getting across half court then running the offense. Way too often when they got it across half court they were so out of rhythm that the half court offense went no where and possessions were basically lost.

2nd half implosions. We all know this song, not just in chorus, but verse by verse. Needless to say, improvement was basically non-existent.

I like Fox, A LOT, however, to some degree, a large degree, he has to be responsible for these areas as the head coach.

boots

March 12th, 2011
12:33 pm

Actually, Fox did cost the game when it came down to it, but it was a complete team effort to get us back in the position to lose. Really odd how this team runs out of gas or quits at the wrong time. I know it is easy to criticize, but they still have some areas in which to improve, that is for sure. I hope they still make it to the tournament, and they deserve to go. Fox is a great coach for us, but he has to learn from his mistakes and then help the team learn from theirs. On a brighter note, Hewitt’s firing might gain us a player…

VinceVanGo

March 12th, 2011
12:37 pm

Gerald Robinson should be a sixth man until his head catches up with his hands and feet. Give Brantly and Vincent Williams a chance. Dustin Ware is a much better floor general. Hey why not put Leslie at the 2 guard and start Marcus Thornton at small forward. Better defense and rebounding. Georgia can go 8 deep but for right now Robinson needs to be coming off the bench, and he needs to be sitting next to Mark Fox. Did you see when Fox pulled him out he sprinted to the end of the bench. He’s knows he’s screwing up big time and wanted to hide.

Dawg 39

March 12th, 2011
12:46 pm

Fatigue May have been an Issue ? Complacency May have been an issue ?. Seems like I heard the same things about the football team. I hope the new S&C program will help both teams. Late game collapses need to become a thing of the past & I believe that they will become a thing of the past in both sports.

RaleighDawg

March 12th, 2011
1:20 pm

Joe Mac – please help me understand WHY you like Fox as a coach given all of the deficiencies you noted, as well as your observation that “…a large degree, he has to be responsible for these areas as the head coach.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m in total agreement with the problems you noted and that Fox is responsible for them…which is why we need to FIRE MARK FOX now !

RaleighDawg

March 12th, 2011
1:28 pm

Extremely Happy with Fox – he doesn’t see full of excuses ? Have you watched the press conference after yesterday’s most epic collapse in SEC tournament history ?

http://www.georgiadogs.com/allaccess/?media=236257

The man accepts NO responsibility for what happened and puts it all on his players. Just sad, just plain sad.

FIRE MARK FOX !!

RaleighDawg

March 12th, 2011
1:30 pm

kbp – Amen brother !

FIRE MARK FOX !

RaleighDawg

March 12th, 2011
1:32 pm

Yeahright – Rap on, brother, rap on !!

FIRE MARK FOX !!

SiddyBoy

March 12th, 2011
1:42 pm

Fatigue??? Are you kidding me? These guys are supposed to be in shape Bill.They aren’t hungry enough and that’s Coach Fox’s job-Create an atmosphere of putting your opponent away.

NewnanDawg

March 12th, 2011
2:01 pm

I really can’t believe all the complaining about a 20 win regular season, winning SEC and road record, still a probable NCAA tourny appearance, and all of this 2 years removed from the horrific game coaching and constant players leaving under Felton. Dennis Felton was a very good recruiter and so is Fox. But having sat right behind the UGA bench for several years now, I can assure you that even with the mistakes he has made, we have gone from a Pinto to a Porsche when it comes to coaching. I definitely think that Fox had them slow down the game way to early several times this year, not only giving the other team a chance, but also taking our guys out of what had been working into a came they aren’t comfortable with. We turn the ball over more when trying to slow the game down than in the regular pace. However, I completely understand not putting in much bench against a team that plays the tight defense that Alabama does. We would have had double the turnovers. And to the Gerald bashers out there, have you ever seen Sherrard (not a bad player) trying to defend the guys that Gerald does? It’s not even close. I do wish we could have seen more of Vincent. Dustin keeps having to play the point for ball control when I would prefer to see him able to shoot more. Bringing in Caldwell Pope will help in that teams will have to defend another great shooter. Anyway, this mini novel is all meant to say – Chill out! we are progressing nicely and I expect to compete for the SEC next year and beyond, with or without Trey and Travis.
Go Dawgs!

Shane Falco

March 12th, 2011
2:46 pm

Newnan Dawg – do you actually watch the games from your bench seat or only the Dance Dawgs ?

topdawg70

March 12th, 2011
2:49 pm

It’s basketball who cares. Spring practice is here.I don’t need the NFL till November, and the Braves will get me to Labor Day. I don’t know why we have never been good at basketball, but Mark Fox seems like a nice enough guy and he is as good as most we have had and better than most. The last guy couldn’t keep good players on the team, the guy before that was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg (but he knew where all the president’s skeleton’s were buried), the guy before that left for he dream job (Which turned into his worst nightmare) and the guy before that made the final 4 so the kept him forever. Mark Fox isn’t the problem. UGA is to short and bow legged to play basketball, but he would make a great fullback.

Shane Falco

March 12th, 2011
2:49 pm

VinceVanGo – so glad to read that there is another honest and objective UGA basketball fan on this blog and not just the usual blind homers.

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LakeDawg

March 12th, 2011
3:14 pm

I think Fox is probably the right guy for UGA, but for the first time this season he is making excuses. Maybe its to shield the players, but fatigue was NOT an issue. These are 18-22 year olds who just came off a five day break. Fatigue becomes an issue on the third or fourth day, not the second day. Uga sure seemed to be full of energy 20 seconds before the collapse started with Leslie slamming home an ally-oop pass. Then Bama time out. Time for UGA’s players to realize just seven more minutes to victory and then the collapse. Its psychological, not physical.

Brian F

March 12th, 2011
4:06 pm

Fox has made us relevant again. Not his fault that we lost this game. Players win and lose games. Bottom line is that our Guards stunk at the end of this game. Guard play at end of games wins or loses and our was horrible. He needs to recruit some good guards that won’t give games away at the end. END OF STORY !!

DirkDawggler

March 12th, 2011
4:12 pm

If Tubby knew then what he knows now, I wonder if he would’ve ever left for Kentucky? Not saying that he wouldn’t have eventually left UGA, but if things in Minnesota don’t work out, he’ll end up being a nomad.

Blunder Dawgs

March 12th, 2011
4:16 pm

Mark Richt and Mark Fox.

JimmyD

March 12th, 2011
5:10 pm

As a high school coach of more than 20 years, I think Coach Fox has done a great job of bringing our program back to respectability. The second half collapses are directly the fault of a lack of SEC caliber bench players that can give our talented starters a break without allowing the opponent back in the game. When he recruits a quality 8 or 9 man rotation with post players that can score and hit crucial free throws, look out! It is a pleasure to watch a Georgia team that has improved consistantly in every aspect of the game and can play with anybody!

Blunder Dawgs

March 12th, 2011
5:13 pm

If UGA were to play NC,Duke or Clemson they would get blown away.

Jimmy A

March 12th, 2011
5:15 pm

Enter your comments here

phil

March 12th, 2011
5:29 pm

Dustin Ware made a play for the ages! It just doesn’t count.

Gordon

March 12th, 2011
6:57 pm

I don’t understand why Fox would catch grief for calling a timeout just before a guy makes a very unlikely shot. He was trying to set something up for a higher percentage shot. He probably should be criticized for not calling a timeout the play before, but he is obviously a great coach.

1953Dawg

March 12th, 2011
8:15 pm

Anybody that thinks Fox is a great coach doesn’t understand the game of basketball. And for these UGA fans that are content to finish 5th in the SEC east with 2 of the top 10 players in the conference are the exact reason UGA’s athetic program will always be a second tier program in the SEC. UGA fans will make excuses for any coach that is in the program. Why can’t these fans understand that UGA is the laughing stock in the SEC in all major sports. But yet, these pathetic fans come on these blogs and defend mediocre coaches and medicore performances by the men’s football and basketball, and now baseball programs. These pahetic coaches UGA has are nothing but excuse makers, and the bottomline is neither one of them has a clue how to coach when the game is on the line. Between Richt showing his gutless decision to kick a fieldgoal on 4th and inches against an inferior opponent in the bowl game, to this clown Fox not calling a timeout against Fl. at home, to him not calling a timeout when Robinson is trapped with less than a minute to go, to the clown calling a timeout with less than 2 seconds to go in the game. What coach with any kind of knowledge of basketball would not call timeout to help get his player out of a trap, and what coach with any sense at all calls a timeout with less than 2 seconds left in game. The answer is none of the coaches at any of the top tier programs in the SEC would kick a field goal, nor would any top coach call a timeout with 2 seconds left. Yet here are all of these pathetic UGA fans defending these overpaid coaches. And all the UGA fans can say to defend Fox is how he has turned the program around. If these fans knew anything about the state of UGA basketball, they would know that this guy was lucky enough to have 2 all conference players on the roster when he got to athens, and he has done nothing to add more talent to this roster in 2 years. And he will add one good player next year to go along with the miserable recruits he has brought to the program. There will be no big men on the roster next year that can play in the SEC.And the recruits this guy has brought in Donte Williams, Brantley, Marcus Thornton, and Robinson are all projects. ANd the fact is this coach has not played these guys enough to give them confidence for next year. So for all the fans that say this guy has UGA on the upswing are terribly misinformed. This will be a terrible team next year, and when you couple that with this coach that has no clue on how to coach on the bench during a game, and you have another 5th place finish in the SEC east. But UGA fans will be happy with that. That is where the problem lies. Fans that are happy with mediocre teams and coaches get exactly that. When will UGA fans raise their standards and stop excepting this garbage of an athletic department that UGa puts on the field and the court. The answer is never. Can’t wait until the fall when these fans can make excuses for Bobo&RIcht when UGA is 0-2.

Big Jacket

March 12th, 2011
8:46 pm

Come on Bill. You say Dawgs could have had 30 win season if they had won the close ones. One third (7 wins) were by 4 or less points. Dawgs could just as easily had a losing season.

gotta go

March 12th, 2011
8:47 pm

He is not the answer to anything more than quality losses.

mgdawg

March 12th, 2011
9:04 pm

People get too emotional too quickly. Remember where UGA basketball was before he came? It was nonexistent, if the rumors I heard were correct we had walkons getting playing time not too long ago. In two years he has put uga in the bubble for the NCAA tournament. He’s only had two years and like king said one big problem for them is they have no bench, that comes with time. UGA basketball is heading in the right direction.

Butterfly of Love

March 12th, 2011
9:48 pm

Let’s see how well he recruits this year. UGA too often settles for “pretty good” with our coaches.

bart

March 12th, 2011
10:09 pm

I have thought Fox was the answer to bring UGA back to respectability in basketball, and I think he has done that. But…can he bring us to the top ot the conference? Frankly, I don’t know. I have some concerns about the number of games where we have collapsed in the second half. Coaching has to have something do do with that. If it happened once or twice, that’s one thing, but to happen several times is something else. The next or 3 years should tell us a lot.

dog forever

March 12th, 2011
11:01 pm

you guys are dumb …… sherod brantley cant dribble …. thats why he is not in the game …. fox is over coaching

Glory Glory

March 12th, 2011
11:22 pm

There’s nothing dumber than a Georgia Bulldog fan. Absolutely nothing.

Ted Striker

March 12th, 2011
11:37 pm

Excellent summary, Bill!

college football

March 13th, 2011
12:14 am

HOw about those thugs at The Correctional of Auburn. THe Alabama State Patrol should move an office in there. What a institution!

nobody

March 13th, 2011
1:09 am

fatigue my …… time to go home…if it ain’t one excuse it is another….Fox needs to get his own players…these boys are complacent….no matter the stakes or the opposing team, there is always a “reason” they fail….go pro, quit, move on…

TampaDAWG

March 13th, 2011
3:16 am

I’m stunned by the fire Mark Fox statements on here. Two years ago we only had dreams of having a good team. Now, we have a team that does compete on a daily basis and its better to blow leads then it was getting blown out every game even by teams from weak conferences. Looking at the NCAA bid there are basically 8 team competing for 4 spots, from what I read UGA had the 2nd highest SOS and 3rd highes RPI, with 20+ wins you would think they would be in, but we can only hope. Next year really depends on what Thompkins and Leslie decide to do, and the development of Thornton, Williams, and Brantley. But anyone who doesn’t believe Coach Fox is on the right track needs to pay more attention.

TampaDAWG

March 13th, 2011
3:25 am

@ 1953 DAWG, are you really even a UGA fan, I read your post or your basic insult of UGA athletics and everytime you stated “these fans” and not once stated you yourself are a UGA fan, if you wanna talk smack about a progam the least you could do is let people know who you are a fan of. I mean come on! I enjoy being competetive with these teams that wiped us out before he got here, and not to mention if you PAID ATTENTION you would know that Leslie wasnt an all conference performer before Coach Fox got here. So next time you slam a program get ALL of your facts right! Pull for your team through the good, bad, and ugly no matter what! Go DAWGS!!

jwritz

March 13th, 2011
6:25 am

Mark, You have done a great job in two years. What a turn around…Thanks