Mark Fox is not Mark Few. Mark Few coaches Gonzaga and would be a terrific hire for anybody. Mark Fox coached Nevada and is coming to Georgia. He’s not such a terrific hire.
It isn’t that Fox can’t coach. He won in the WAC, which is a nice mid-tier league. But the Western Athletic Conference isn’t the SEC East, where he’ll be working against Billy Donovan (two NCAA titles) and John Calipari (two Final Fours), plus the showman Bruce Pearl and the erudite Kevin Stallings and the rising star Darrin Horn.
The same Georgia that seemed to have little interest in hiring a winning coach from a mid-major with ties to both the SEC and the South just hired a winning coach from the Pacific Time Zone who has never worked east of Manhattan, Kan. Alabama was clever enough to scoop up Anthony Grant. Georgia wound up with a guy known mostly for his temper.
Given two months to search, Damon Evans found a coach who won’t sell many tickets and who’ll have to learn the names of the Atlanta AAU coaches to gain entrée to this state’s wealth of talent. The most accomplished Nevada player in Fox’s five seasons as head coach was Nick Fazekas, who’s playing with Lyon-Villeurbanne, which is based in France. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Nick Fazekas is no Derrick Favors.
Evans’ first big hire turned out small. Evans was right to aim high – Jeff Capel of Oklahoma and Mike Anderson of Missouri – but the athletics director seemed to overrate Georgia’s place in the basketball firmament. Why would a guy in a major conference who has just reached the Elite Eight leave to come work for a place where the team practices in a palace but plays in a barn? Just for money?
Plan A (Capel and Anderson) was fine in theory, but Plan B seemed haphazard. Grant was the obvious choice who, for whatever reason, was gone to Tuscaloosa before Georgia moved toward him. This leads us to believe Evans was never all that high on Grant, which leads us to ask: Why wasn’t he? What is there about Fox that makes us believe he’ll be better able to navigate the Deep South?
Much was made over Georgia’s employment of Dan Parker’s Atlanta-based search firm, and if this hire is any measure it could be time for the Bulldogs to start searching for better searchers. Three SEC schools made hires over the past seven days, and Georgia’s seems the least inspired by some distance. Calipari, Grant and … Fox?
Granted, there’s always the chance an odd hire will pan out. The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a headline after the Reds named a new manager, asking the question, “Sparky Who?” Forty-six years ago, more than a few folks thought Georgia was nuts for hiring an Auburn assistant, name of Dooley, to come coach football.
We cannot know today if the fullness of time will reveal Evans as having been crazy like … well, a fox. All we can say for certain is that the Bulldogs stepped to the plate and swung mightily and, if they’re really lucky, they’ll manage to leg out a bloop double. And if they’re unlucky, they’ll get to do this all again come 2013.