Georgia has opened discussions with men’s basketball coach Mark Fox about a new or amended contract that would increase his pay and demonstrate the school’s desire to keep him long-term.
Both athletic director Greg McGarity and Fox confirmed the contract talks in interviews Wednesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Yes, I have had a preliminary discussion with Mark,” McGarity said. “Over the next week, two weeks, we’ll sit down and try to formalize some of the things we have discussed.”
Said Fox: “Greg and I had a great initial discussion. We’ll continue that later. But this is the job I wanted and where I want to be, and I’m excited Greg and I had such a great meeting.”
With several high-profile programs –- including N.C. State, Missouri and Oklahoma -– seeking coaches, there has been speculation that Fox might be pursued for another job.
Although Fox’s agent has fielded a couple of feelers from other schools, McGarity described the contract talks as a “proactive” move on Georgia’s part, and Fox insisted he will not consider another job.
“I won’t get a call, and [if I do] I’ll say, ‘Not interested. I’m the coach at Georgia,’” Fox said. “I don’t have time to deal with that, and I don’t want to. I went through that before [at Nevada], and I waited for a place I wanted to be at a long time. And that’s where I am.”
McGarity was asked if he is concerned about someone attempting to hire away Fox, who got the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament in his second season in Athens.
“That’s always a concern, but I’ve always felt you need to be proactive,” McGarity said. “I know we’re being proactive with Mark and his staff, and we’ve discussed some parameters. . . . I feel like we’re in a good place right now.”
Fox’s current contract runs through the 2014-15 season and pays him $1.3 million per year. That is $300,000 more than newly hired Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory will be paid, but it is $500,000 less than Alabama is paying Anthony Grant, who was hired at about the same time as Fox. Two SEC programs have hired new coaches this month: Tennessee is paying Cuonzo Martin $1.3 million per year, and Arkansas is paying Mike Anderson $2.2 million.
Fox’s contract contains an unusually large buyout clause that would require him to pay Georgia $2 million if he leaves before the end of the deal.
Neither McGarity nor Fox offered specifics about potential terms of a reworked contract.
“I just want for this program to reach the level I think it can,” Fox said. “We have to do it the right way, and that process certainly is one that takes some time. It takes the right people. There are a lot of things that are critical to the process, and I think [McGarity] and I agree on a lot of those things.”
Fox said he doesn’t believe the program needs any major upgrades in facilities after last year’s renovation of Stegeman Coliseum. Asked if budgets for assistant coaches and recruiting are issues, he said: “I think those are all things we will discuss when we sit down and dig into the teeth of things.”
Although hired by former athletic director Damon Evans, Fox said he enjoys working with McGarity. “I really appreciate the vision he has,” Fox said.
After going 14-17 (5-11 SEC) in Fox’s first season in 2009-10, the Bulldogs went 21-12 (9-7 SEC) this past season. They finished in a tie for third place in the SEC East, Georgia’s highest finish in the division in eight years. In the program’s first NCAA tournament game since 2008 and second since 2002, the Bulldogs lost 68-65 to Washington.
– Tim Tucker, AJC