Is Georgia crazy like a Fox, or just crazy?

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.

429 comments Add your comment

brewdawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:09 pm

Yeah, I said those same comments about Evans’ overrating the position in another column. I do like this better than I liked Haith or Purnell, and who knows, maybe UGA will get lucky. But I agree, we’ll likely be doing this again soon, maybe sooner than 2013. Now lets see how the decent pieces the Dawgs do have feel about it. I at least would like to keep Thompkins.

mike

April 2nd, 2009
10:09 pm

I am sick of hearing about grant. Fox beat him head to head. UGA did not need a guy who would have bolted to UF if billy munster ever left.

Whopper Dawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:12 pm

Eh? Mr. Evans is insane. Please remove all sharp instruments from his office and home.

mike28212

April 2nd, 2009
10:12 pm

As a fan, I hope this work. I just don’t understand the hire at all. My reaction was ‘who?’. I’m anxious to read what is said at the press conference to glean some insight.

brewdawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:13 pm

Mike,

Tired of hearing about Grant? Get used to it, especially with all the comparisons that will inevitably come over the next few seasons between Fox and Grant.

IndyDawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:14 pm

It’s official Georgia Basketball is DEAD. There is nothing to make us think that we could ever get a big time coach to come to Athens. I would have felt real good about Robert Montgomery Knight.

GradyGrad96

April 2nd, 2009
10:14 pm

This alumnus is not impressed. But will reserve judgement for at least a season.

RHB

April 2nd, 2009
10:14 pm

Mark,

2013? Try 2011. This is not good for all the reasons you put forth. Horrible. Georgia fans waited 60+ days for this? HE HAS NO TIES TO THE REGION. Damon better get it together because this does not inspire confidence at all.

brewdawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:15 pm

I don’t want to come across as unsupportive of our new coach before he even starts. Welcome Coach Fox and family. Make us all look like fools for being unsure of this hire.

Paul

April 2nd, 2009
10:16 pm

Wow, welcome to Georgia, Mr. Fox.

sickofugafans

April 2nd, 2009
10:17 pm

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! THIS is Damon Evan’s signature hire? ROFLMAO! I feel for Dustin Ware…he deserved so much better!

IndyDawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:17 pm

I love basketball but I LOVE FOOTBALL and until I see a big diffrence in basketball I will not be making the trip down 65 South to see basketball but I will be there next week for Spring Game

Chris

April 2nd, 2009
10:19 pm

I had no idea Evans was looking at this guy and I’m hesistant to support this decision. However, he did a good job at Nevada, they were always a top tier WAC team. Right now I am inclined to give Evans the benefit of the doubt and wait and see how this unfolds – I’m just hoping Thompkins stays and the rest of the young guys stick around..

I’m praying this works.

Big DAWG

April 2nd, 2009
10:20 pm

Looking forward to the Grant vs. Fox match up. I guess only time will tell. A splash would have been Knight. A coach that was just in the elite 8 was too good to be true for a non-basketball school. We have to build from the bottom up. Go DAWGS!!

rtr

April 2nd, 2009
10:21 pm

good job, uga.. good job

LOLOLOL

April 2nd, 2009
10:21 pm

what a joke of a hire…..you spend two months and this is the best you can come up with…..you actually think you’re going to compete with Kentucky…Tenn….Florida with a guy 99% of basketball fans will go……WHO????

BamaBob

April 2nd, 2009
10:23 pm

Would have been better off hiring former LSU coach John Brady.

old gold engineer

April 2nd, 2009
10:23 pm

Wasn’t this guy the coach of the team that knocked GT out of the NCAA tournament in one of their last appearances? Things aren’t looking any easier for Coach Hewitt.

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2009
10:23 pm

Even with hires I don’t much like, I can usually understand the rationale. But I really don’t understand this rationale.

stick jackson

April 2nd, 2009
10:24 pm

Compare the resumes, Mark. Fox has accomplished much more than Grant — more wins, more championships, more wins over high majors, more guys in the NBA. Forget Fazikas — McGee is turning heads with the Wizards.

I know the Prince of the Colonial Athletic Association has you more hot and bothered than any coach since Bobby Petrino, but there is no objective standard by which his resume is even close to Fox’s.

Ron Roberts

April 2nd, 2009
10:24 pm

Yeah, I have to admit, I’m a little mystified by this choice, myself, given that plucking a mid-tier ACC guy from Clemson or Miami or Florida State (in my opinion) would’ve been plenty of sizzle for us. Oliver Purnell, in my mind, would’ve been a good hire, when you consider the guy has a program that, much like Georgia’s, has made brief interludes with success every so often, but never seems to gain traction. Under his guidance, he has Clemson regularly competing for tournament bids and within grasp of the UNC’s and Dukes and Wake Forests’ of that basketball power-conference.

I don’t “not” like this hire; he’s known to be a fairly strong recruiter out west, and there’s no arguing his success in Nevada (Nevada??? The WAC???). C’mon, that school and that conference aren’t known for their basketball prowess until recently. It’s just that, when you compare what Kentucky did, what Alabama did, where SC is headed and where Florida already IS… it just doesn’t seem to compare.

Yeah, I would’ve preferred Grant, too, no doubt; but I think the worry with Grant was that he’d not be a Georgia “lifer” had he come and been successful. We’ve been down that road with Tubby Smith, and I think we were gu-shy for that reason. Billy Donovan’s not going to leave Florida, ti would seem, but what if…. what if Mike K hangs it up at Duke eventually and the “better offer” comes a-calling? What if Billy retired and Florida wanted him to come “home,” then?

The “always looking over your back” way of living sucks, and I think that’s why we didn’t show any interest, frankly.

Personally, I think Damon Evans’ BIGGEST mistake was making so much noise about “aiming high” and “putting priority” on this hire, then hiring a guy that the hum-drum, casual fan’s ever heard of. This could be a really great hire, but the denizens who don’t know enough are already grumbling, and that’s not good for the program in and of itself.

DaveMac007

April 2nd, 2009
10:25 pm

Explain to me why, after all the time taken, or not taken, searching for the perfect fit, that we seem to have “ended up” with Fox. He’s no Bobby Knight, Nolan Richardson, etc. Meaning, he won’t be selling any tix himself. Even if he does ok, don’t you think that he would find the same job closer to his roots in a few years? Bad move by the dawgs all around. Especially with a “search firm” heading this up?

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2009
10:25 pm

Fox was Trent Johnson’s assistant when Nevada lost to Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16 in 2004. Trent Johnson left after the season to go coach Stanford. He’s now at LSU.

IndyDawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:25 pm

What major recruit knows this guy? Because I sure didn’t and it doesn’t seem like anyone else did. Considering he was not on anyone’s radr to be a new coach. Do you think Arizona was looking at him? Or maybe Memphis was looking at him probably Washington State!!!

jojo sunshine

April 2nd, 2009
10:26 pm

You have got to be kidding me. What?…Why?…Why in the world would you make this guy the coach? This is the same scenario we just came out of with Coach Felton. Felton had a good winning percentage at Western Kentucky, but could not get any “real” players from his own state-Georgia. Now this hire. What?…Why? It makes no sense when you could have had the winningest men’s coach in college basketball history. You have got to be kidding me.

LOLOLOL

April 2nd, 2009
10:27 pm

Is this the worst basketball program in the SEC East? Seriously…not busting balls…but who’s worse?

willie

April 2nd, 2009
10:27 pm

This proves that nobody worth their salt would take the UGA job and you can’t blame them. UGA is a football factory, plain and simple. They care about nothing else, and everyone knows it.

mike

April 2nd, 2009
10:29 pm

brewdawg,

I will say it again. I am glad UGA did not hire a coach who would be out of town in 30 seconds if UF came calling, and why do all UGA fans seem to automatically feel UGA is a better b-ball gig than ALA and they could have gotten him here anyway? Seems to me the grant thing was media driven, grant may not have even been damons choice for unknown reasons.

Ron Roberts

April 2nd, 2009
10:29 pm

“GradyGrad”… you’re giving him ONE season? See, that’s ridiculous. It’ll take 2-3 years for anything this guy does to have a positive impact on the basketball program, pure and simple.

Here’s a name that SHOULD have been on their list….Dip Metriss, Augusta State University. Two back-to-back Final Fous ar D-2, and the guy recrutis what his program needs and plugs guys into the holes that need filling.

Having grown up in Augusta, I’ve N-E-V-E-R seen that city support that program, until now. When they were Division 1, and had home games at the August Civic Center, and would play Georgia there, I never saw support. When they were in the Big South Conference, one game shy of reaching the NCAA tournament, there was no fan support.

Dip Metriss has fan support for that program now. He’d have been a solid hire, I think.

brewdawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:30 pm

Oh yeah, and as promised, here it is: I was wrong about Billy G being our next coach. Still think it would be a better fit than Fox, but again, we shouldn’t get our pitchforks and torches ready just yet. Let’s give him a chance.

doc

April 2nd, 2009
10:31 pm

uh, before you denounce this guy and the hiring company that participated it might be emphasized that paul johnson at tech came out of the same search team. it isnt like the sec is that competitive a league for basketball historically.

as far as recruiting, the one and done guys ultimately ruin the basis of your program, unless there are five to eight mid level kind of guys to give some consistency to the team anyway that need to be coached. roy williams has a formula to get guys good enough to stay for three to four years and require seasoning before bolting. coach hewitt better hope this guy falls flat on his face or the comparison will be made quickly.

“pick against bradley” might mean this guy is a star on the rise. probably wont cost 2.3 mil either which was absurd. it was like they knew the guy wasnt going to sign. evans might look as good as wren who was lambasted for letting furcal and aj get away. good riddance.

ugadawg94

April 2nd, 2009
10:31 pm

As a season ticket holder, I would love for Fox to work out, but I see this as just another Felton. Great stats at a smaller school, with zero results when it comes to SEC play. I don’t think Fox will be able to keep players away from TN, FL, Bama or KY. I see SC and AUB with our players as well. Only hope is we can take them from Tech, but not sure I would want them anyway.

I hope in 4 or 5 years I’m wrong and we have been in the touney and getting big time players, drawing full crowds, etc. But not holding out hope for this.

In the end, all this says is no one wanted UGA and we are left with someone who will make a nice buck, then go back to the mid-majors.

Chuck Uga

April 2nd, 2009
10:32 pm

Well, this guy did study (non-staff) Roy Williams’ program at Kansas. He has won some big games in the NCAA (Mich Stae and Gonzaga) and may be able to win 18+ in the regular season. We will see, but something tells me he will be around for a while. What UGA needs is a ew arena, but that won’t happen for at least 8-10 years. If he can build a good staff and recruit, he could be very dangerous. Hopefully UGA doesn’t lose a bunch of the current players. Hey Mark , you are forgetting one 1st Round NBA draft pick (whose name escapes me) that he recruited and coached, and that is pretty darn good for a program like Nevada-Reno. As for UGA, no way was UA going to get Anderson or Capel. Again, it isn’t that attractive of a job until a new arena is built and some consistent winning takes place. Sorry, but that’s the way it is as I have followed UGA hoops since 1972. Thank God for Hugh Durham starting something respectable.

Mike In Valdosta

April 2nd, 2009
10:33 pm

As a Georgia Alum and rabid fan all I can say is thank you Mr. Fox for stepping up to the challenge. You have th opportunity of a lifetime to prove yourself and access to talent to make it happen.

Go Dawgs!

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2009
10:33 pm

I’ll give Damon Evans this: He shocked the world. Nobody saw this one coming.

yomamma

April 2nd, 2009
10:33 pm

Enter your comments here

BobMc

April 2nd, 2009
10:33 pm

Mark:
you say he’d have to meet all the ATL AAU coaches, but wouldn’t Mark Few have to also? You say it’s a lateral move, but why is Nevada/Reno lateral, but VCU isn’t? You question why a major conference coach would come here to coach in a “barn”, yet you criticize Evans for not hiring a major conference coach. You seem to be a little selective in your criticism. It’s obvious you prefered Grant. Since he’s off the board, who would you have hired at this point? Hindsight, a commentator’s best friend, doesn’t apply now. And if Grant was such an obvious good choice, why is Fox with an equal or maybe better coaching record a seemingly obvious bad choice to you? Are their records that much different?

Jeff

April 2nd, 2009
10:34 pm

Not excited, but better than what we were hearing earlier today with Haith or Purnell (who has never won an NCAA game). Preference would have been Tubby or The General.

LOLOLOL

April 2nd, 2009
10:34 pm

Chuck Uga….you hit the nail on the head….that barn over there is horrible…you can’t get kids to come play at a school with a great practice facility and the worst arena by far in the SEC East. They need an upgrade there….or at least a major overhaul.

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2009
10:34 pm

JeVale McGee was the 18th pick in the 2008 NBA draft out of Nevada. He’s with the Washington Wizards.

tdawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:34 pm

What a wac hire!! Rididculous.

IndyDawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:35 pm

This is very disapointing. I have scoured the web every day and looked at the AJC everyday hoping that I would hear the splash that would be UGA’s coach. This is what we get. I hope that it works out because I want something to talk about and brag about in Indiana after football season.

majordawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:35 pm

Took the job at Nevada in 04. Won the league four times. Recruited a McDonalds All American to NEVADA!

I don’t see any reason to doubt that this guy can coach. I’m pretty sure that’s what we were after, right? A coach? Let’s let the guy do that a couple times before we declare him dead man walking.

Check the resumes folks. This guy’s got a better one than Grant if you’ll look at it.

JT

April 2nd, 2009
10:35 pm

Mark — I get it, you are paid to offer an opinion, but is it too much to ask that it be an informed and researched opinion? If you are going to contrast Fox against Grant, did you make any effort at comparing the list of accomplishments or lack thereof? I guess it is okay to just shoot from the hip and make gut assessments — if you are just a hack blog poster, but I would hope that the columnist actually would do the homework necessary to provide informed analysis.

yomamma

April 2nd, 2009
10:36 pm

What happened to Damon’s promise to hire a big name coach from a major conference? And since Fox couldn’t even get his team into the NIT, much less the NCAA, why did he take so long to make a hire? This is embarassing.

Wynn

April 2nd, 2009
10:36 pm

Who will be the first to mention Fox and the hounds?

majordawg

April 2nd, 2009
10:36 pm

Great post, JT.

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2009
10:37 pm

Why would I have preferred Anthony Grant? Because he’s from Florida. Because he has worked in the SEC. Because he did great work in a mid-major conference that seems to me a more difficult place than the WAC. (Remember, George Mason is based in the Colonial.)

Why would I have preferred Anthony Grant? Because Georgia wouldn’t have had to recruit against him, and now it will.

jojo sunshine

April 2nd, 2009
10:38 pm

It is not too late. Tell this guy Fox you made a mistake and go get Brad Stevens. Stevens is one of the youngest coaches in the college basketball and his 2 year record at Butler is 56-10. He has taken Butler to the big dance both years he has coached. This would be a hire that would make sense. Anything but Purnell…never could win against good competition, Miami’s coach…choked at the end of the season – got blown out in the acc tourney by va tech – and his players looked as if they could care less, and now this guy Fox = WOW!

Spoke

April 2nd, 2009
10:39 pm

I remember the criticism when Duke hired a coach with a middling record from Army named Mike Krzyzewski. Worked out OK. (And he also has a bit of a temper.)

I like Fox. No way to tell what he’ll do in an SEC environment until he gets here, but he’s proven he’s capable of beating at least one SEC team: UGA.