They essentially ranged from, “what are you, crazy or stupid?,” to, “why in the world would [insert coach's name] want to leave [insert school's name] to come to Georgia?” The sad part, some such messages were even from some Georgia fans. Columnists and “college hoops experts” remain intensely cynical about the Bulldogs’ prospects.
It is just these types of reactions that gets Damon Evans out of bed early in the morning. It makes him mad. It motivates him.
I’ve explained this before but let me run over it again. Evans is a basketball guy. He was MVP of his team his senior year at Gainesville High. He played intramural and pickup ball all the way through college into his current tenure as athletics director. He’s the reason there’s a $30 million practice facility attached to Stegeman Coliseum. Building a winning basketball program at Georgia is his passion and, the success or failure therein, will ultimately be his legacy as AD.
You can gather as much from his words but you can see it even more in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he talks about it.
“The commitment here is strong,” he told me the other day. “It’s hard for me to describe how strong that is other than to say we’re serious about building a winning basketball program at Georgia. We’ve got to do this and we’re going to do this right. We’re willing to do what it takes.”
Nevertheless, people still scoff when names like Jeff Capel and Mike Anderson and Dino Gaudio and Jamie Dixon are bandied about. “Why would they leave there for here?,” they say with a roll of the eyes.
Here’s why: Evans oversees a $190 million enterprise at Georgia. It’s one of the most successful athletic departments in the country, both competitively and business-wise. The Bulldogs are cutting edge and young in terms of sports administration. Georgia is about to unveil a blockbuster marketing and media deal with ISP sports and it is Evans who is brokering it. Evans, 39, was named one of Sports Illustrated’s “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports” and one of the “40 Under 40″ best sports executives by Sports Business Journal. He’s a businessman recognized by UGA’s Terry College of Business as “Outstanding Young Alumnus.”
So, to be clear, after Parker Executive Search handles the preliminary ground work on the coaching search, it is Evans that is going to be front and center before these candidates. He’s going to tell them why he wants them to come work for him at Georgia. He is prepared to reach into the Bulldogs’ $60 million budget surplus to pay what it takes for a major coach but that’s not the clincher. He’s going to pledge every bit of support at his disposal to change the basketball culture at Georgia.
So go ahead and scoff. Evans needs some more motivation.