‘When [Fox] first got here, we were a team full of problems’

Greetings from Charlotte, where the Georgia Bulldogs and Washington Huskies will continue preparations for Friday night’s NCAA tournament game. The Huskies flew in from Seattle on Tuesday, and the Bulldogs bused up from Athens on Wednesday. Both teams will have late-afternoon/early-evening press conferences and practices on Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Before leaving Athens, the Georgia players and coach Mark Fox met with a much-larger-than-usual media contingent at their Stegeman Coliseum practice facility Wednesday afternoon. Some of the topics that I thought were interesting:

  • Washington was not only the first school to hire Fox as a coach, but the first to fire him. After working there as a graduate assistant for one season and as an assistant coach for another, Fox lost his job when the school fired head coach Lynn Nance and the entire staff after the 1992-93 season. I asked Fox how he handled that setback so early in his career. “As a young coach, it’s so hard to get your first job at this level,” he said. “When we got let go, I thought, ‘Hey, I finally got my foot in the door, and now it’s closed. Am I going to get it in there again?’ Fortunately for me, I did get another chance.”  He spent the following year as a graduate student at Kansas, where coach Roy Williams allowed him to regularly observe practice, and then landed an assistant’s job at Kansas State, where he remained for six years until that staff also was fired. Then on to Nevada … and Georgia.
  • In his second season at Washington, Fox was the No. 3 assistant, a position known at the time as “restricted earnings coach” — a position that was limited by the NCAA to a salary of $12,000. “Before taxes,” Fox noted.  (The NCAA later lost a class-action lawsuit over the restricted-earnings issue. Coaches who had been in the position, including Fox, received a settlement.) Fox said he still has a copy of his first paycheck at Washington.  “I think I made $8 a month after I paid my rent.”

    Trey Thompkins says Dogs "ran off" their problems. (AJC photo/Jason Getz)

    Trey Thompkins says Dogs "ran off" their problems. (AJC photo/Jason Getz)

  • Georgia players are proud of the absence of off-court issues in the past two seasons. Travis Leslie:   “In the past, players got arrested and kicked off the team. We have had no issues, really, with the team [in two seasons], and hopefully it can stay that way.” Trey Thompkins: “When [Fox] first got here, we were a team full of problems. We had little things as far as academics and taking care of stuff off the court. Coach Fox came in and helped us fix it.” Thompkins cited the famous, familiar story of Fox making the team run every step in Sanford Stadium in 2009. “That was enough for all of us to wake up,” Thompkins said. “Everybody at that point had had a little mishap, and it just led to  so much stuff between 13 guys. He took us to the stadium, and we ran all our problems off.”
  • Fox: “They did buy into how we wanted them to function, and I think that’s one of the big reasons they’ve earned their way into the tournament. . . . You can’t be successful consistently on the basketball court if you’re not successful off it. I think there’s a real correlation between guys who can function as students and as good citizens also play[ing] well. I think if you have issues off the floor, all it does is take your time and energy and focus away from playing the right way on the floor. So we did talk a great deal about trying to become issue-free, socially and academically.”
  • Fox had a strong reaction when asked how 5-foot-9 Washington guard Isaiah Thomas compares to Nate Robinson, a 5-foot-9 former Huskies guard who is now a six-year NBA veteran:  “He’s better than Nate. He’s a better player than Nate. And Nate  obviously is good enough to be a pro. But Isaiah Thomas is terrific.”
  • Fox on Friday’s late tipoff (9:45 p.m. or so): “Most young people don’t go to bed at the same time that I do, so I’m more worried about me than I am [the players].”

And for five things you should know about the Huskies, please click here.

– Tim Tucker, AJC

82 comments Add your comment

Vain Jangling

March 17th, 2011
5:21 am

Vain Jangling

March 17th, 2011
5:22 am

Thank you and you’re welcome!

dogforlife

March 17th, 2011
5:36 am

Extend him, give him a raise, elevate his buyout clause so no one will bother him. Let’s keep Fox in our Dawg house!!

jemel riggins

March 17th, 2011
6:10 am

Off the field issue happen in football to and I think the other problem and more

Dawg Consultant

March 17th, 2011
6:44 am

Its amazing how much difference a couple years make. I hat is off to coach Fox and to the Basketball dawgs. UGA now has a “real” basketball program; with no scandals and some very good players.

I can’t wait to see how UGA fares as we make try to make the move to national prominence over the next few years. All we have to do is win our share of recruiting battles in state. Georgia is a high school basketball feast for recruiting.

Good luck DAWGS.

TampaDAWG

March 17th, 2011
7:44 am

Recruiting the next 2 or 3 years will be huge. If Coach Fox can get good recruiting classes then more good players will want to play for him as long as they are winning. As stated above Georgia is a very good state to recruit and if the in state players play at UGA they could start competing on a national level. Toast to the future and Happy St. Patricks day! Go DAWGS!

Dawg Gone It

March 17th, 2011
7:44 am

I love this team. I am so pumped about tomorrow night.
I watched the local news last night and I was really impressed by how Marcus Thorton spoke. I think he is going to be a strong leader in the future. Nay, I’ll go further. He has a strong future, whether it be on or off the court.

Big Al

March 17th, 2011
7:48 am

I wish the football team could say the same.

Travis Leslie: “In the past, players got arrested and kicked off the team. We have had no issues, really, with the team [in two seasons], and hopefully it can stay that way.”

Trojan

March 17th, 2011
7:57 am

Stay one more year, Travis.

truth4yall

March 17th, 2011
8:02 am

GO DAWGS!!! I have bumped into a few of the players over at ECV and they are pretty nice fellas. Get after it tomorrow night and… where’s the green beer? Happy St. Pats Day to the Bulldawg Nation!

Buckeye

March 17th, 2011
8:19 am

Howard ( before I was Trey),

Play with a bur in your saddle! Let’s see some emotion and leadership out there!

david

March 17th, 2011
8:31 am

Football has 130 kids in the program. Basketball has 13. Chill.

GT is a 4th rate high school team

March 17th, 2011
8:33 am

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS. Sic’ em.

go get em

March 17th, 2011
8:34 am

Nice job fox and the entire basketball dawgs. Proud to be a uga fan. Now go out there and play hard and smart for 40 minutes!

Debbie Downer Dawg

March 17th, 2011
8:38 am

This is a nice story, but we will undoubtedly lose in the first two rounds and Fox will be gone in a couple of years for a more prestigous job. Then it will be back to square one.

Let’s be realistic.

Inlet Dawg

March 17th, 2011
8:42 am

Gooooo !!! Dawgs make it a St. Patricks day to remember

Jag Dawg

March 17th, 2011
8:46 am

Good Luck Dawgs! Continue to represent UGA well. Do not ever let Fox leave for another school. National Championship would be great, being at least relevant and a consistent, competetive tournament team is priceless. GOOO DAWGS!

Palm City Dawg

March 17th, 2011
8:46 am

Proud of these guys and Coach Fox. Sick em Dawgs.

Dawggone

March 17th, 2011
8:47 am

We don’t need to let NCS are anyone else steal Fox..do what U must to keep him a dawg. Damn good Coach and human. It didn’t just happen, thanks Fox.

GTFan

March 17th, 2011
8:50 am

Congrad to Coach Fox and his team. Job well done. Now kick Washington’s a@@.

lucky21

March 17th, 2011
8:51 am

Hey dawgforlife don’t be so quick to start talking about extensions and buyouts increasing I mean look how that turned out for Georgia Tech.

Truth

March 17th, 2011
8:59 am

to heap praise on a coach with the resources of a BCS school who took 4 years to make it to the NCAA is a bit too much. Other non BCS teams whose coach left to take a job at KY and took the top recruiting class in the nation with him made it back after 1 year. With Freshman playing 75% of the minutes…

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman !

March 17th, 2011
9:01 am

If Fox continues to blow big leads the UGA job could become his third firing.

D Dog

March 17th, 2011
9:01 am

Sounds like the team already feels like they’ve accomplished all their goals.

I expect them to lose by 12.

Bawbie

March 17th, 2011
9:07 am

Fire Dave Perno . He blew it against frickin Kennesaw State. Pathetic…..

nerds! nerds! nerds!

March 17th, 2011
9:08 am

Dawgs in the Elite 8. Write that down!

JDawg1785

March 17th, 2011
9:09 am

Congrats, Coach Fox! Keep it going.

One and Done

March 17th, 2011
9:13 am

Dawgs lose by 10 or more.

SouthSide Dawg

March 17th, 2011
9:14 am

Congratulations to Fox and the Team. My wife and I were able to make the trip to Athens this year for a game. Not knowing what to expect, we were very impressed with Georgia’s round ball Dawgs. We’re very excited that this team has made it into the Tournament and wish them all the best of luck. I encourage the DawgNation to support this team and hope more fans make it to Stegeman Coliseum next year. The Momentum has shifted and the wave is starting to swell….be a part of it.

frannie mae

March 17th, 2011
9:18 am

UGA is in BIG BIG trouble.

mcdawg

March 17th, 2011
9:19 am

based on the two articles in the AJC on Washington today-sounds like they are going to kill us

stegosaurus

March 17th, 2011
9:22 am

The coliseum is nothing more than lipstick on a pig. The stench of past rodeos still permeates through the AC system.

Obamas bracket

March 17th, 2011
9:24 am

Dawgs not in the next round.

Charles

March 17th, 2011
9:25 am

Truth – Fox has been at UGA two years.

To those consistently worried about losing Fox. He’s going nowhere unless it’s to one of the blue bloods. He has a $2 million dollar buyout and is in the top-20 salaries in the country, with a raise coming in the very near future. He knows what UGA is capable of in hoops. He sought out this job when it opened, and he’ll be here for a while unless a program like Kansas comes calling.

UGA has not lost a coach in its history that we truly tried to keep – Vince let Tubby go to Kentucky without a fight, though it wouldn’t have mattered much. It would take a similar situation to lose Fox.

NCST – that’s a laughable notion. That job is mediocre – Fox won’t take a second look towards Raleigh.

mcdawg

March 17th, 2011
9:27 am

Georgia is loaded w/ top talent-it should be a dream job for any coach

Rishi

March 17th, 2011
9:33 am

stegosaurus its not the ac system, you probably should just stop bringing your mother to the games…go dawgs woof

SimpleDawg

March 17th, 2011
9:40 am

This doesn’t look like a good first round match up for the Foxhounds……

The Huskies like to run and gun. The Dawgs like to play half court sets and pound the ball inside.

The team that controls the tempo and makes the other team play at their desired pace will win the game.

Good luck Dawgs….looks like you may need some.

UGA Insider

March 17th, 2011
9:41 am

Coaches were telling me that the Bruce Pearl era at UT is over. Also, both football and basketball are about to be hit with major recruiting infractions and Hamilton will be gone soon as well. Not good times in Knoxville or Auburn.

mcdawg

March 17th, 2011
9:46 am

rebounds, rebounds, rebounds

gdawginkalamazoo

March 17th, 2011
9:48 am

See running does discipline the kids. Great job Coach Fox. This game will come down to the coaching. Finding a way to slow down Washington will be tough. I got to see then end of the Arizona game and this Thomas kid was on fire. Scoring at will. When you play against guys like that it is tought to win.

Go Dawgs!

Luke

March 17th, 2011
9:52 am

SimpleDawg-

Honestly, I don’t think whoever controls the temple will win the game. It’ll be the guard play from Georgia. We all know that Georgia’s guard play, between Ware and Robinson have been mediocre at best, and Washington have a couple guards that will be future NBA superstars.

If Georgia can take care of the ball and not turn it over, it’ll be close. However, if they don’t Washington runs away with this one.

A review of the first two years

March 17th, 2011
10:02 am

2009-2010 was the wash out year. It was going to happen. Fine. It is behind the team.

We desired a 20+ win season going into this year. UGA grads know how pathetic UGA basketball has been forever. A 20+ season was goal # 1. Goal # 2 was to win at least one SEC Tourney game. These two goals have been met.

Goal # 3 was to get an invitation to The Dance. THAT goal has been met. 2010-11 has been ultra successful for UGA, given our history in basketball. Sad but true.

Obviously, goal # 4 is to win 1 game in the NCAAs. One win would be simply wonderful. If we lose, Goal # 3 has been met. Either way …………… for UGA this has been a very good season # 2. Great job Coach Fox!!

Let us have some fun with this game tonight. We are already winners for the 2010-11 season. All or our goals have been met.

UGA class of 71 & 73

schmeckdawg

March 17th, 2011
10:06 am

After reading what the AJC had to say about Washington, why did we even get on the bus to go to Charlotte? It’s obvious that The DAWGS have no shot to win this game especially with Isiah Thomas a.k.a Michael Jordan II playing. For the love of Pete!!! DAWGS by 8!!!!!!

Diamond Dogs

March 17th, 2011
10:07 am

Perno has lost it. State of Ga is rich with college level HS talent and he is not winning.

McGarity …………… make it happen.

Also the lady Dogs basketball coach should have been fired twenty years ago.
Go Dogs.

GT Grad

March 17th, 2011
10:10 am

I wish he was our coach. He has done a great job! Wish them luck in the tournament.

Paul N Destin

March 17th, 2011
10:10 am

One of Coach Paul Bryant’s favorite descriptions of his players was “a solid citizen”. You can’t build anything without those type guys. I understand it is much more difficult these days to keep everyone toeing the line but you must have discipline in any organization to be successful.

Good luck to the Dogs vs the other Dogs.

GTBob

March 17th, 2011
10:28 am

NCST – that’s a laughable notion. That job is mediocre – Fox won’t take a second look towards Raleigh.

Hmm. I’m not so sure about that. NC State would pay him more then UGA ever would, he would be coaching a team with good history on tobacco road in front of 14000 fans, in the ACC. It’s a pretty enticing job. I’m not sure if NC State is really going after him but he would be a fool to not consider it.

Dirty Dawg

March 17th, 2011
10:30 am

Everything I read and hear about this Washington team and the Thomas kid makes me think that we’re gonna get blown out. But the way I figure it – and how I filled out my NCAA Bracket – is if these kids, Georgia, worked hard enough, and were fortunate enough to get into the tournament, then the least I can do is sacrifice one game, or so, for the cause…so I picked us. Now if the Huskies go all the way to the Final Four, I will have really ‘done it to the pooch’ – so to speak.

ormewood

March 17th, 2011
10:31 am

Sorry Luke, no guards on the UW team will be NBA superstars. Thomas is good, but he’s not that.

Alabama | MrSEC.com

March 17th, 2011
10:32 am

[...] If the Dawgs get by Washington in their first game, North Carolina will likely be waiting.  And Fox spent a year studying Roy Williams’ program at Kansas.7.  UGA linebacker signee Sterling Bailey underwent shoulder surgery last week.8.  Kentucky [...]