In retrospect, maybe Hugh Durham hasn’t been honored enough

Georgia made 12 postseason appearances -- including its only Final Four in 1983 -- in 17 seasons under coach Hugh Durham. He and the '83 team wil be recognized before Saturday's game against Mississippi State. (AJC photo)

Georgia made 12 postseason appearances -- including its only Final Four in 1983 -- in 17 seasons under coach Hugh Durham. He and the '83 team wil be recognized before Saturday's game against Mississippi State. (AJC photo)

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of its historic run, Georgia’s 1983 Final Four basketball team will be back in Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday. So will its coach.

Hugh Durham is 75 years old now and long since retired. In fact, he has been away from Georgia for as long now as he was its basketball coach. Seventeen years it has been, and the longer Durham has been gone the more the Bulldogs have come to appreciate him.

What has become increasingly evident since Durham was forced out in 1995 – the Dogs were 18-10 that year, if you can believe it – is winning basketball at Georgia is hard. Just ask the six coaches that have had the job since Durham was ousted because he wasn’t winning enough.

The latest among those to try is Mark Fox, who is finding the going particularly tough. So far Fox has recorded one winning season out of three and, at this point, it seems very unlikely that a second is in the offing this year.

The Bulldogs limp into Saturday’s game against Mississippi State with a 6-8 record and on the heels of a 33-point loss at Florida in the SEC opener. Forward Marcus Thornton is out indefinitely with a knee injury (again), two players are coming off suspensions for undisclosed violations of team rules and attendance at home games has been poor.

Optimism is hard to find.

Durham lives in San Marco, Fla., with his wife Malinda, works out daily and plays a lot of golf. He also watches a lot of Georgia basketball.

“Just watching them, I think Fox does a good coaching job,” Durham said. “I’m talking about the stuff that they run and the kids seem to get after it on the floor and he’s got them sold on what they’re doing. He calls timeout and they’re attentive and have a positive body language.”

Here Durham pauses and his voice rises to that excited octave only he can achieve.

“You gotta have players!” he said. “I’d like to think we were able to coach, too. But we were also blessed with having some good players.”

Durham’s sitting in his home office as he says this and relays that he’s looking at a picture on the wall of that ’83 team after it won the SEC Tournament.

“I’m thinking Terry Fair was a pretty good player,” he says. “So was Vern (Fleming) and James (Banks) and Gerald Crosby. Go back and look at some of the clips from that team. Some of the stuff those guys did, hey, they were pretty good.”

Of course, ’83 proved to be a flash in the pan. Georgia had never reached the Final Four before and it hasn’t since. But perhaps the more remarkable part about Durham’s tenure with the Bulldogs is how they were always competitive and never awful. His worst season in 17 was 14-16 in 1993-94, he had only one other non-winning year (15-16 in ’88-89) and he never won fewer than six SEC games.

UGA has had poorer seasons than that eight times since Durham’s departure, and that doesn’t include two seasons of vacated wins under Jim Harrick. Fox might get SEC coach of the year if the Bulldogs win six league games this year. And the conference is currently a shadow of what it was when Durham was doing his best work in the 1980s.

“I took a lot of pride in the fact that we were pretty consistent,” Durham says. “I mean, other guys have done a good job there. Tubby (Smith) came in and for two years did a good job. Jim Harrick came in and, for a couple of years, they turned out a couple of outstanding teams. But we were basically blessed with some pretty good players when you really get down to it.”

A lot of people know that Durham was the winningest coach in UGA history, logging 298 wins from 1979-95. But fewer know that he is actually the winningest coach in history at three different schools. He also achieved that feat at the two other places he coached, Florida State (230) and Jacksonville (106).

Today, Durham is in the FSU, Kentucky High School, Florida Sports and Georgia Sports halls of fame. A few years ago, they even named the mid-major college coach of the year honor after him — the Hugh Durham Award.

Looking back on what he did at Georgia, perhaps Hugh Durham hasn’t been honored enough.

84 comments Add your comment

Tim

January 11th, 2013
9:46 am

Amen… Chip! This is a great column! UGA needs to name its basketball training facility his honor or re-name Stegeman Coliseum the Hugh Durham Arena.

Tim

January 11th, 2013
9:50 am

Amen… Chip! This is a great column!! UGA needs to name its basketball training facility in his honor or re-name Stegeman Coliseum the Hugh Durham Arena.

DIT

January 11th, 2013
9:52 am

Use to believe Fox was going to be a very good coach. What is this year 4 or 5? Do not like the direction this program is going. Might need to look in another direction.
Hugh Durham is fun to poke fun at, but he was successfull at UGA.

Brewmaster

January 11th, 2013
9:59 am

DIT, you missed Durham’s point : They need better players. Coaching can only do so much, and KCP can’t do it by himself.

KBP

January 11th, 2013
10:07 am

Chip, great column! Tim, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was at UGA during the early 80’s and we students were just as excited about the “Roundball Dawgs” as we called them as we were the football team. Coach Durham is right, you gotta have players. In addition to the players Coach mentioned in this article, we also had Joe Ward, Willie and Shandon Anderson, Donald Hartry, Litterial Green, Jarvis Hayes. All of these guys and others were very good players and UGA bball was competitive.

I like Fox and I hope he turns it around recruiting wise. If it is true Tony Parker is not happy at UCLA then maybe he’ll transfer back home where he would have started as a true freshman and we would certainly be a better team this year with him. Go Dawgs!

KBP

January 11th, 2013
10:08 am

Chip, any truth to Parker being unhappy at UCLA?

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing Can Stop it

January 11th, 2013
10:11 am

Since you guys don’t have the discipline and overall character (50 arrests in 4 years, red painties, cheating schools), maybe you should just become a basketball school.

If you win a title, at least you could be “elite” in a sport besides arrests and women’s gymnastics.

Follow the Course

January 11th, 2013
10:17 am

The Tide is Rolling and Nothing Can Stop it … don’t forget Equestrian

JB

January 11th, 2013
10:17 am

These elite kids from Georgia, and there are many, will never, never and I mean never come to Athens with Roy Williams and Coach K on duty and come calling, Dawgs will get the ones below that.

hammerhead

January 11th, 2013
10:18 am

Ain’t that the truth!! And, I hate to say this because Tubby hears the same thing from the Kentucky people, but Tubby’s Sweet Sixteen team was the splendid class Durham recruited (Carlos Strong et al). Syracuse beat that team in OT with a half court shot! I was at UGA from ‘85-’89 – love Hugh and will always remember the miracle workers of 1987 and Willie Anderson.

jjdawg

January 11th, 2013
10:20 am

Good job Chip..Durham was the man. It would be nice if they named something after him..

Fox has been a big let down but I still support his efforts.

beanster

January 11th, 2013
10:23 am

An Alabama fan, whose school has been on probation ten (count ‘em, 10) tseasons since 1995, accuses UGA of cheating.

Even Alabama fans aren’t that dumb. You must be a Techie.

jjdawg's son

January 11th, 2013
10:24 am

UGA needs a big name Coach to come in and turn this dead program around.

[...] photo) On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of its historic run, Georgia’s 1983 Final Source: UGA Football – Chip Towers AJC Blog Share this: Cancel [...]

beanster

January 11th, 2013
10:35 am

FBS Programs that Have Been on Probation the MOST

1 SMU 17 seasons
2 Southern California 15 seasons
3 Auburn 11 seasons
4t Alabama 10 seasons
4t Michigan St. 10 seasons
4t Oklahoma 10 seasons

Just one more and you can tie the other sleazy cheaters in the state of Alabama.

Soft coach, soft schedule

January 11th, 2013
10:48 am

Had Durham only signed the greatest one-two punch in Georgia history – Adrian Lovingood & Ron Popiel from Fayette Co. – the elusive national title might have found it’s way to Athens!

Just a fan

January 11th, 2013
10:48 am

Recruiting is part of the job and that falls on CMF. We shouldn’t be losing to the Youngstown states and Iona’s of the world. Just my 2 cents I do not like to see huge turnover in coaches like they do in CFB coaches need 5 years to show what they can do and recruit their own players, but I don’t see improvement or good players other than 2-3.

Don'tsufferfools

January 11th, 2013
10:50 am

We used to rush to the car to hear Durham on postgame radio. He was funny as hell, often with good natured jabs at his center, Lavon Mercer. Best quote, “I’ve got enough shooters, I need some makers!”

robodawg

January 11th, 2013
10:56 am

Yep, gotta have players. I wish we could what Fox would do with the best players from Georgia high schools.

te29wr

January 11th, 2013
11:08 am

RIGHT I wish I had BOBBY CREMENS to recrute and Good Ole Hugh coach and win many titles

Great coach and a better person

Gary

January 11th, 2013
11:15 am

I was at Georgia when they hired Durham and the impact he made on the program was immediate. Your article failed to mention that the team he took to the final four would have included Dominique Wilkins if he hadnt left early. Think about what might have been! I work for FSU now and see his jersey hanging in the rafters at all the games. Not only was he an awesome coach for FSU (he took them to the NCAA championship beating both Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team and Dean Smith’s Tar Heels before falling to Wooden’s UCLA dynasty!) but the guy was one of the best guards ever to play for FSU (averaged almost 22 ppg in 58-59) Shame on whoever pulled the trigger on forcing him out at Georgia.

DawginLex

January 11th, 2013
11:15 am

Good lord tide troll, how big of a jerk do you want to be?

Smartalec

Class is more than just something you didn’t attend at Bama or at any other college

Go see if you can find some

Tech Alumni

January 11th, 2013
11:16 am

Robodawg – You’ll never find out with Brian Gregory in Atlanta…… Hugh Durham gave us fits. I have the highest respect for him.

Fair n Balanced

January 11th, 2013
11:18 am

The sad state of GA basketball is so sad that I fear that the ‘83 team along with Coach Durham won’t have anybody there to congratulate them. Gosh! We gotta do something about this basketball team. It’s pitiful!

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

January 11th, 2013
11:31 am

tide roll, wtf is a paintie?

Bleu_Bayou42

January 11th, 2013
11:35 am

Human nature not to appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Losing Tubby was tough, but naming Ron Jirsa as his replacement turned out to be nightmare and destroyed whatever momentum the program was building under Tubby. I love President Adams (and the value of my degree has only increased in his tenure) but I think he could have handle the Jim Harrick situation better. I think the Dennis Felton hire (as player disciplinarian) was an overeaction to that situation. Coach Felton was his own worst enemy in regards to suspending players. However, I believe Louis Williams electing to turn pro in lieu of coming to Athens for a year or two was the true death nail to Coach Feltons career in Athens. AND that leads me to Mark Fox, his inability to embrace the AAU basketball community (for good or bad, it is what it is) and not hiring Korey McCray (when giving the opportunity) to recruit the state of Georgia’s top talent will be the end of his tenure here too. On paper Mark Fox is a great coach and the hire made sense but reality he is missing a tangibible that no one could forsee. Recruiting Recruitng Recruiting. That brings me back to Durham, despite the lack of facilities and the University’s committment to basketball (at time of he was coach) Durham is the best combination of Coach/Recruiter that UGA has ever had.

Jim Mora, Sr

January 11th, 2013
11:46 am

With the sucess he had at Nevada, I thought Fox would at least make us respectable. The program is getting worse, not better however. Outside of KCP, we don’t have one player better than mediocre on the roster. It’s very hard to be a basketball fan of UGA.

prpldawg

January 11th, 2013
11:47 am

We could improve by re-hiring Coach Durham now. Only theTub and Coach Harrick have won since then. Firing him was a mistake, but he was followed- I think – by Tubby, who was outstanding and still is. There needs to be a commitment to basketball. Being 2nd fiddle to football is ok- it is reality. However, basketball needs to count – it needs to have a fiddle.

This current team lacks talent. They look lost. I am not sure they play hard enough all the time/ 15 points in a half. 6-15 ft in ot against a mediocre team, etc. As asn outsider we really do not know what all the poroblem is, but this team is horrible. Something needs to give real soon.

WinderDawg

January 11th, 2013
11:47 am

Great article Chip! Coach Durham is correct basketball is recruiting. I understand that after all the big name programs get their pick then it comes down to evaluation of what is left to choose from. Coach Fox needs to recruit 3-4 star athletes that can blossom into a 5 star. That is how Coach Durham won.

Durham's Dunkyard Dawgs

January 11th, 2013
11:47 am

I was fortunate to be a freshman at UGA the year we went to the Final Four. My daughter is a freshman this year, and she looks at me like I have two heads when I wax nostalgic about the Durham era in the early to mid-80’s. I guess you had to a fan or student at the time to understand, but that was when UGA hoops…and SEC hoops…were fun and exciting. Was anybody else there for the 2 OT “Judge Devoe” game against UT? The league was full of future NBA stars and the coaching was top-notch (and charismatic): Durham, Hall, Sloan, Sanderson, Brown, Newton, etc. And as alluded to earlier, Hugh was a one-man quote machine. The Sunday night call-in show was a must every week, and the mini-meltdown he had regarding the officiating the day after the Vandy Barry Goheen game is still the stuff of legends among my buddies. UGA basketball wasn’t the same after Durham left, and it becomes sadly more apparent every year it will never be the same. Durham built UGA basketball, and will always be UGA basketball. We love ya, Coach!

Blue Ridge Dawg

January 11th, 2013
11:59 am

Great article Chip!

Vance Duly

January 11th, 2013
12:02 pm

Had Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins stayed in school, last year’s team would have been VERY good. Now, Leslie is playing D-league ball in Santa Cruz. It was obvious that this year’s team would be over-matched, with 3 true freshmen replacing 2 senior guards on the roster. We need to give Gaines, Morris and Mann time to develop, and we need a strong recruiting class this year, with a decent big man. If not, we’ll continue to be mediocre…….

shamydog

January 11th, 2013
12:09 pm

The solution to UGA basketball woes begins with the head coach. Take some of that profit from the football program and hire a great high profile coach who can recruit, just pay what it takes. Secondly they need to discount ticket prices or provide other enticements to get local butts in the seats while the program develops. 15 bucks for the current product is excessive. Do some two for one’s, group or season discounts. Once the program improves they can start bringing ticket price back up.

Finally if the students want a good basketball program they need to attend games. I’m not sure how to increase student attendance since their tickets are virtually free. Appealing to school pride isn’t effective; these students barely show up for a football team that was 6 yards short from playing in and probably winning a National Championship. I’ve had season BBall tickets for many years and find that the students will attend when the program is competitive in the conference. Again we have chicken and egg conundrum.

Nick

January 11th, 2013
12:48 pm

@ shamdog

If it was that easy we would have done that last time. Just because you throw money at them doesn’t mean a big named Coach is going to come. We can offer the world to Drew or Brad Stevens and they would turn us down like they did last time. If CMF is let go (I am torn about whether or not he should be given more time) we need to look at a up and coming coach who knows how to recruit the metro Atlanta area.
The students will show up if the product is better. The thing with this team is that not only are they loosing, but they are doing it in an un-entertaining way. We can’t score. 15 points in half doesn’t put fans in the seats. When I was in school (the Harrick glory years) we won and students came out.

That70sdawg

January 11th, 2013
1:19 pm

I loved those Durham post game comments also, Fox is dry as wall paste and we are going the wrong way

Lonnie

January 11th, 2013
1:22 pm

Yes 82-83 was my freshmen and KDP’s freshmen year! That team was truly special with Fair, Vern, Banks, Crosby, Lamar Heard, and Corhen, and Haughtry + D Floyd! We had a great year! We need for guys to play above themselves! Free throws, boxing out is about concentration. KCP is a joy to watch and the team has potential but we need big time talent!!!

Gman 84

January 11th, 2013
1:24 pm

Loved Hugh. He was a great coach and a very funny, witty and quotable guy.

One of my favorites was in a post game pressed where UGA had one of it’s signature 7 minute scoring droughts and he answered a question with something like, “look, these are good tough players, but if they were great shooters, they’d be at Kentucky or N Carolina.”. Thought that summed up UGA hoops pretty well.

Chilidawg

January 11th, 2013
1:47 pm

I am concerned about recruiting or the lack of it. Fox seems like a good coach, but he has not recruited well enough.

bad brad

January 11th, 2013
1:50 pm

Went to my first men’s basketball game at UGA when they played USC. Walked up to the ticket window and asked for two tickets, the attendant took my money and slid two tickets through the slot. When i asked where the seats were, she said dont worry you will like them they are center court. They were and only about 6 or 8 people in the same section.

When the game started the Dawgs went into a passing and dribbling offense but nobody shot. Then once they went up tempo and ran they scored. Why not go up tempo all the time?? Think Mark Fox is a good guy, but need to find someone who can win.

Dawginlex

January 11th, 2013
1:51 pm

JayD

January 11th, 2013
1:51 pm

Mark Fox cant cut it – It’s time for change! He should have never been hired. You don’t need a search firm to hire a b-ball coach. Everything D. Evans seemed to touch at UGA has turned out bad! He brought too much drama, and Coach Fox is the last of that regime – Close the book. Get someone who can get these kids from Gwinnett and sourrounding areas to stay at home! Thats worth 15 wins alone.

JayD

January 11th, 2013
1:54 pm

By the way …… Tubby won without 4 and 5 stars. It can be done!

Dawg Tired

January 11th, 2013
1:57 pm

Chip – You say enthusiam about the BB program is hard to find. Have you forgotten the quote of this academic year by our own AD to the effect that he is pleased with the direction that CMF has the BB program headed?

Dawg Tired

January 11th, 2013
1:59 pm

Sorry for the typo on enthusiasm.

Dawglasville

January 11th, 2013
2:00 pm

If you could have crossed Cremmins’ recruiting and Hugh’s coaching and combined them, you would have had a pretty amazing coach. I am a big Hugh fan.

Greg

January 11th, 2013
2:02 pm

Yeah, let’s give Fox coach of the year if he wins 6 SEC games. Forget about the fact that it would be a miracle if this team won 6 games in a weak SEC because Fox has done an absolutely atrocious job of recruiting and constructing the existing roster. Current RPI is over 200. Statistically, UGA is #321 nationally in points per game, 260th in FG percentage, 257th in assists and 231st in rebounding. These mind-numbingly bad numbers come in year 4 of Fox’s tenure. And now we get to humiliate the Final 4 team by honoring them at halftime of a game played between the two worst teams in the conference in front of a crowd of maybe 1500-2000.

And those of you who think Fox had some great amount of success at Nevada need to look at that situation again. He was Trent Johnson’s assistant for 5 years and Johnson left the program in good standing. Fox did pretty well with Johnson’s players for the first 2-3 years, but there was slippage in the last two seasons of Fox’s tenure there. He lost a combined 25 games in those 2 seasons. Losing 12-13 games per year at Nevada probably equates to 18-20 losses at UGA, which is where we were at last season and will be again this season.

The only success he’s had since arriving in Athens was making the NCAA tourney in 2010-11 and he tried really hard to choke that way despite inheriting two NBA players and a handful of other experienced post and perimeter players from the previous coach. So UGA barely makes it as a 10 seed and then loses in the first round to a team that had to travel all the way across the country. And that’s the high point. Nothing but misery other than that, including two butt kickings by GT despite the fact that they have a new coach.

Fox has been paid right at $6,000,000 by UGA over the past 4 years. That is absolutely disgusting. He may be a nice guy, but he’s in way over his head. Time to move on and give someone else a chance.

hornblowermg

January 11th, 2013
2:20 pm

Who was the graduate assistant that played at Ky. who helped Fox in his first year at Georgia? He was very tall, of course, and blonde-headed. He was the main reason for Georgia’s early success under Fox, and then he left Athens. Georgia needs to find that boy(man) and offer him a job.

Fort Worth Dawg

January 11th, 2013
2:24 pm

I’m yet another person who started UGA in the Fall of ‘82. Final Four, Heisman Trophy Winner, football team went to the Sugar Bowl ranked #1 to play for the national championship. We all thought it was going to be four magic years for football and basketball, but it was not to be. Durham’s Dunk Hard Dawgs to go along with Dooley’s Junkyard Dawgs. Was Vince still AD when Hugh was fired? Do they stay in touch? The most-used Hugh Durham quote had to have been “statistics are for losers” and I remember one time he followed that with “well, we lost so let’s look at the statistics”. Read the Wikipedia article on Coach Durham and you will be amazed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Durham

Greg

January 11th, 2013
2:25 pm

And that Youngstown State team that beat UGA by 12 in Athens to open the season, they lost 101-60 to Detroit last night in Youngstown.

Normal town Dawg

January 11th, 2013
2:29 pm

To address the issue of our recruiting woes, why not consider hiring James Banks, one of the members of this Final Four team being honored? I believe he was MVP of the East Regional that year, played pro ball here and abroad, is a local, respected high school coach, and I have to believe would be well-received in the home of any recruit, as he is one of the nicest, most personable people you’ll ever meet. Surely there is a place for him at UGA. Beyond that, consider hiring someone from the AAU circuit. I like Fox, but he needs some help with recruiting. Hugh, maybe you could put in a word for James?