One thing Damon Evans got right: Hiring Mark Fox for UGA

Mark Fox: He's rounding up new Bulldogs, and that's a good sign. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Fox: He's rounding up new Bulldogs, and that's a good sign. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Damon Evans’ powers of judgment let him down at least once, which is why he’s out of work. But, in the matter of finding a basketball coach, the deposed athletics director seems to have been sublimely sagacious.

I didn’t like the Mark Fox hire because I didn’t think Fox, who had never worked east of Manhattan, Kan., would be able to recruit the Deep South. Fox’s landing of Marcus Thornton earlier this year was nice, but that had an asterisk attached: Georgia’s Mr. Basketball had signed with Clemson and was released from his letter-of-intent when Oliver Purnell left for DePaul, and had Thornton gone to another ACC school — Georgia Tech, say — he might have had to sit out a year.

But now comes a commitment that bears no asterisk. Kentavious Caldwell, a shooting guard from Greenville, Ga., committed to the Bulldogs on Sunday. (The story was reported by esteemed colleague Michael Carvell.) Caldwell is rated the 11th-best player in the class of 2011 by ESPNU and the 15th-best by Rivals.com.

Should Caldwell indeed sign with Georgia — he can’t put pen to paper until November — he would mark the Bulldogs’ biggest recruiting coup since Louis Williams in 2004-2005, and we must remember that Williams never actually enrolled. He chose the NBA instead.

Historical context: Should Caldwell be named a McDonald’s All-American — and if you’re ranked in the top 15 in preseason, you stand a good chance — he would be the first such honoree to sign with Georgia since Williams, and the last McDonald’s man to sign with and then enroll at Georgia was Carlos Strong in 1992. (Damien Wilkins was a McDonald’s All-American, but he arrived by way of transfer from North Carolina State.)

If Mark Fox is capable of landing guys of Caldwell’s caliber, Mark Fox will win big. He showed last season he could coach Dennis Felton’s leftovers, and now he’s proving he can find players on his own. And I’m prepared to concede that, on the issue of finding a basketball coach, Damon Evans got it right. And I, not for the first time, got it wrong.

147 comments Add your comment

william cranman

July 19th, 2010
9:38 am

Great column Mark. First?

F-105 Thunderchief

July 19th, 2010
9:39 am

You got it right. But, did I?

F-105 Thunderchief

July 19th, 2010
9:39 am

Not this time.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
9:42 am

William Cranman takes the kudos ahead of F-105 Thunderbird, which is a tough task.

Herschel Talker

July 19th, 2010
9:44 am

MB:

Indeed. Fox is clearly the better of the two Marks currently coaching at UGA. Fox is an incredible all-around coach and recruiter, and UGA is all the better for it.

HT

Bruce Mac

July 19th, 2010
9:44 am

Love me some Coach Fox. Chooo Chooo baby. Get you season tix while you still can.

Worm

July 19th, 2010
9:44 am

we want Nolte!

Ted M

July 19th, 2010
9:45 am

The Bulldogs have a good shot at winning the SEC.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
9:46 am

They’ve got a shot at making a run in the East next year, Ted M.

jp

July 19th, 2010
9:49 am

wait what? Richt is recruiting equally as well as any other football program in the country.

Why do fans of other schools want to put Richt on the hot seat but not one Bulldawg fan seems to want to do so? Why are there so many haters of Richt from other programs?

Great get by Fox, he’s a winner, sign him to a long term contract now.

Ted M

July 19th, 2010
9:50 am

Starting 5 – Ware, Leslie, Thornton, Thompkins and who?

Ted M

July 19th, 2010
9:51 am

Who is the fav in the west?

I'm still waiting...

July 19th, 2010
9:52 am

…since Coach Fox only proved he could coach the “leftovers” to about the same record as the previous coach. Not exactly a resounding “redo” re: coaching, so I will reserve judgment until after the 2011 – 12 season, when he has his own recruits, to see if he can really coach.

This year will still include the “leftovers”, so it, too, is an unfair litmus test of his coaching abilities. If the team overachieves and reaches the NCAA tournament (afterall, the prior coach’s last team made the “dance” his next to last year) next March then I will reconsider my reservations…

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
9:53 am

Jeremy Price or Chris Barnes would be the fifth man, I’d guess.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
9:54 am

And the SEC West is a mess. Favorites are Ole Miss or Mississippi State, with Arkansas having a chance.

oops...

July 19th, 2010
9:54 am

…that should have read “the prior coach’s next to last team made the dance”…

Hankie Aron

July 19th, 2010
9:54 am

jp- I think it’s because he’s a Christian and there are a lot of UGA haters. Some of the critisism is merited but a lot of it isn’t.

Joey

July 19th, 2010
9:54 am

Takes a real man to admit when he’s wrong, Mark. Kudos to you.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Eric Johnson and Jeff Haws, Alex Ramati. Alex Ramati said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: One thing Damon Evans got right at #UGA: He hired Mark Fox to coach basketball. http://bit.ly/boSI3i [...]

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
9:57 am

I’m pretty good at admitting I’m wrong, Joey. When you’re wrong this often, you have to be.

lanier

July 19th, 2010
10:05 am

agree then in 3 years Fox will be gone

Bob Didier Caught (and slept) here

July 19th, 2010
10:05 am

Mark,

Count me among those that thought this was absolutely one of the WORST hires! But man did Coach Fox win me over with what he did with Felton’s left overs. AND he was able to score a HUGE upset over a highly talented Volunteer squad that made it pretty deep in the NCAA’s. I would say that the bar has been raised by Coach Fox! And I for one say it is about damned time! Roll on B-Ballers!!

Meriwether County

July 19th, 2010
10:06 am

Enter your comments here

dawgfan

July 19th, 2010
10:14 am

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((30-24))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((73-66))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

WE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATEWE RUN THIS STATE

JJ

July 19th, 2010
10:16 am

Gerald robinson will start. Not thornton. Robinson transferred in so he sat out last year.
Fox has said Robinson is the real deal and would have been the difference in 4-5 more W’s last year.

nola dawg fan

July 19th, 2010
10:16 am

on the starting 5, expect that transfer to start over Ware. Akin to when the Hayes twins were the best players during their year of sitting out, the word in Athens is that kid could “score” better than any player not named Thompkins. Not that he is a better athlete that Leslie, but a better scorer. Which Mark will tell you those guys are a MUST (productive guards) to win big….

nola dawg fan

July 19th, 2010
10:17 am

what is that guy’s name? Someone remind me…

Chris

July 19th, 2010
10:17 am

It appears Damon Evans misses out on his top two choices and then he meets with a coach from NEVADA that nobody east of the Mississippi has heard of for ONE interview and says ‘we got our man’, the one we wanted all along…something like that?

I seriously doubt anyone was impressed with the hire from the start (even the four letter network guys). The man can coach and now it looks like he can recruit. The only hope here is that if it turns out he really produces, he doesn’t use the program as a stepping stone.

And can everyone get off Richt’s back please? It was one bad year people. It happens to the very best. He made changes and I agree that we have a shot at the east if Murray can stay upright.

Scott W.

July 19th, 2010
10:17 am

I may not like everything you print MB, but I do like that you admit when you’re wrong. You could just not say anything, thank you.

Fire Richt

July 19th, 2010
10:18 am

:-(
:-(
:-(

:-( :-( :-(

. .

Please fire Richt. Get that right at least

Paul in RDU

July 19th, 2010
10:18 am

Mark – Getting a verbal from Caldwell is a coup for Fox and, unlike Louis Williams, Caldwell will play in college. With at least one of UGA’s talented underclassmen likely to be in the NBA before Caldwell steps foot on campus Fox needs to get more good recruits if he is going to win a championship but he seems to have UGA on an upslope.
Winning big in college b’ball requires great coaching and great players – 2 of my local college teams have both. The 3rd (NCSU) finally has the players for 2010-11 but with suspect coaching will remind the folks up here why it is between CPH and CSL for worst coach in the ACC.

nola dawg fan

July 19th, 2010
10:18 am

Ha… JJ beat me to it. Robinson… Jair J had the scoop before me.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
10:19 am

Thanks, Scott W.

All I'm Saying Is...

July 19th, 2010
10:20 am

Bradley,

First, since when is it column-worthy that you are incorrect about something?

Second, glad to see that you are reading content from your AJ/C brethren given your embarrassing comment a couple of weeks ago that Al Horford has never said he was a natural center despite him having said it to your AJ/C colleague and your AJ/C colleague having posted it a least a day or two before your post.

Third, here’s a blog posting suggestion—recount the times when UGA hoops has been relevant over the past twenty years. Imagine it hasn’t been more than a handful.

Halberstram

July 19th, 2010
10:21 am

Mark, I know that Damon signed the papers to hire Fox, but how much credit do you think goes to the search firms that do the behind the scenes work. I know they are often used so that the school or prospective coach can deny contact and use back channels for communication. What I’d like to know is do you know if Fox was found by the search firm and then presented to Evans or did he give a list to the firm to find out more info on several candidates.

Thanks

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
10:23 am

The search firm was heavily involved in the Fox hiring, Halberstram. No doubt about that. But Damon Evans made the hire.

JJ

July 19th, 2010
10:23 am

Nola-

I would think Ware would still run the point with Leslie and Robinson on the wings.
Go Dawgs!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Youth Basketball, Stephen Lambert, fastfoodjunky, Real Business Women, Atlanta Camps and others. Atlanta Camps said: Mark Fox proving to be a good hire to Georgia basketball program http://bit.ly/cOT2qT #Atlanta #Georgia [...]

Biff pocoroba

July 19th, 2010
10:27 am

Now if tech can raise $12 million, DRad can get a real coach too instead of a guy who wants one and dones to help his ego

F-105 Thunderchief

July 19th, 2010
10:29 am

Leslie and Thompkins are some pretty darn good leftovers. But, I think they accomplished more under Fox than they would’ve under Felton.

lazydawg

July 19th, 2010
10:30 am

Sublimely sagacious, Mark Fox was a great hire at the time and hopefully UGA can hang on to him.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
10:31 am

No question about that, F-105.

nola dawg fan

July 19th, 2010
10:31 am

Is Robinson more of a 2? D Ware just doesn’t seem to be a SEC caliber guard IMO.

Mark Bradley

July 19th, 2010
10:33 am

Gerald Robinson is a combo guard — small for a shooting guard but he still scores. He can play either spot.

OSCAR

July 19th, 2010
10:34 am

Let’s get in behind Fox!! That’s where the future lies. CMR has had his chance and blew it!!!

Ted M

July 19th, 2010
10:36 am

JJ – Just googled Gerald Robinson – I think we might start instead of Ware not Thornton. Fox really likes him.

lazydawg

July 19th, 2010
10:37 am

Oscar what does CMR have to do with basketball you idot? CMR has one of the best winning %’s in the nation,go crall in the garbage can.

Ted M

July 19th, 2010
10:39 am

Mark – When are you going to blog on the Tourney expansion and new format?

HugoStiglitz

July 19th, 2010
10:40 am

I think this season will be interesting for UGA. Will they turn into a legitimate basketball program? Will their fans even care? I think they will have a better team this season with Thompkins and Leslie still there then they will probably have with Caldwell. Plus Kentucky might be down a little this season, although they have a ridiculously good class of freshman coming in. This is the season to make something happen if they are going to do it. I predict 4th in the SEC east but with a winning record and an NCAA berth.

Brent

July 19th, 2010
10:40 am

Mark Fox was indeed a great hire, I wish GT had gotten him. But Mark, please tell whomever is in charge that we are sick to death of reading about Damon Evans downfall. How must his wife feel every time she sees a headline about text messages.