Posted: 10:38 am Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

UGA’s Fox: Two winning seasons, two extensions 

By Mark Bradley

We can assume this was not Mark Fox's reaction to his new deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

We can assume this was not Mark Fox’s reaction to his new deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mark Fox has had two winning seasons in the five years he has coached Georgia basketball. After each winning season, he has received a contract extension. The second came yesterday, adding two years to a contract that runs through 2018.

The extension itself wasn’t surprising. It’s the way colleges work. Brian Gregory has had one winning season at Georgia Tech and got a year’s extension afterward; his record over three years at Tech is 43-52. But two more years for Fox, whose record at Georgia is 85-77 and who has reached the NCAA tournament only in 2011, only fuels the disconnect with which I view this coach.

On the one hand, he’s demonstrably a deft tactician. Not many coaches could have lost the SEC’s player of the year and tied for second in the conference the next season. Then again, why was Georgia a sub-.500 team when it had the 2013 SEC player of the year? If Fox was smart enough to maximize the talents of Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton, why did Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leave for the NBA lottery without playing on a winning team?

Also: Why does the flagship university in a state that produces so many basketball players always need to “overachieve”? Jordan McRae of Liberty County was Tennessee’s leading scorer. Langston Hall of Chamblee was Mercer’s leading scorer and the Atlantic Sun player of the year. Tekele Cotton, who was Gaines’ teammate at Whitefield Academy, started for the 34-1 Wichita State Shockers.

Virginia won the ACC and was a No. 1 NCAA seed while receiving key contributions from Malcolm Brogdon of Norcross and Greater Atlanta Christian and Evan Nolte of Milton. (FYI, Nolte’s brother Connor played at Georgia.) UCLA, which like Virginia reached the Sweet Sixteen, got key contributions from Jordan Adams of Central Gwinnett by way of Oak Hill and Tony Parker of Miller Grove. The Bulldogs tried their hardest to sign Parker, who required a year and a coaching change in Westwood to work into the Bruins’ rotation. But he chose UCLA even though Georgia needed him more.

It’s sometimes said that Fox doesn’t like to recruit from the AAU pool, but we note that Caldwell-Pope played AAU ball. So did Gaines, Mann and Thornton. Almost every player who signs with a team based in a major conference has AAU experience. (Many who sign with mid-majors do, too. Remember the supposedly starless Butler team that played for consecutive NCAA titles? Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack were AAU alums.)

The problem with Fox’s recruiting isn’t the AAU. It has to do with Fox himself. His efforts, for whatever reason, haven’t panned out. Put Nolte and Parker on the 2013-2014 Georgia Bulldogs and they’d have finished ahead of Kentucky in the SEC standings and made the NCAA field with room to spare, and here we note that neither Nolte nor Parker even started for their respective NCAA teams.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity conceded that recruiting was a factor in the extension. Said McGarity: “It kind of puts to rest any questions when of when you’re talking to a high school prospect of, ‘Well, how long are you going to be around?’ So I think this kind of takes that off the table.”

Also this: “We need to recruit at a very high level, because you have to continually kind of restock every year. That’s a very important point, and we did talk about it as well as other things. But needless to say sometimes that is the elephant in the room.”

There’s a reason Georgia went 0-4 and was beaten by an aggregate 78 points in games against the three SEC teams that made the NCAA tournament. (All three reached the Sweet Sixteen, and two are still going.) Those teams had superior manpower. John Wooden on his shrewdest day couldn’t have overridden the talent gap between Georgia and Tennessee, to say nothing of Georgia and Kentucky.

McGarity again: “We competed at a high level this year. Not as high as we wanted to, but still, the record shows the performance of the team this year. Now we just need to start stacking success upon success. I’m sure we’ll be picked high.”

And also this: “If you look at our goals as a department, that’s one of our goals – that every team competes in their national championship. Basketball should be treated just as other sports and as far as expectations.”

Sometimes, though, you wonder if the expectations for basketball aren’t more along the lines of, “Just don’t embarrass us.” Would Mark Richt have made it to Year 5 if he’d had three losing seasons in his first four? Fox just banked a second contract extension, which would suggest that Georgia is happy with him. And in some ways it should be: This season, at least the post-New Year’s part, was most heartening, and next season, for which four starters should return, figures to be even better.

But we ask again: One NCAA appearance, one NIT bid and two winning seasons in five years — is that success? And if it is, what will Georgia do if Fox’s Bulldogs actually win an NCAA game? Declare him coach for life?

73 comments
Esquire
Esquire

I may have to cancel my home delivery.  My delivery team is throwing my paper in the grass as far as possible from the driveway.  For years that paper was right there in the middle of the driveway but now the wetter it is outside the farther from the driveway they throw it.  Guess I will have to take the WSJ.

JaySly
JaySly

When the dogs gonna dump mgariity & fox and hire big timers?

memsmovement
memsmovement

UGA has 2 main problems in basketball.


1. UGA lacks a basketball tradition. Kentucky has one, some of the ACC schools have them, Florida built one with two strong hires (remember former Hawks coach Lon Kruger had winning teams and took Florida to a Final Four before their current coach) back to back that have been at that school since the late 80s. The issues that UGA (and most SEC schools have for that matter) in basketball are similar to the ACC in football: very hard to maintain. 


2. Basketball is a liberal sport (seriously, it was invented by a Canadian pacifist who wanted a lesser violent game than football and boxing) and Georgia is a right wing conservative area. Naturally, basketball players are going to go where they feel valued, not a place where the message boards and talk radio derides the NBA (where these players aspire to be one day) as thugs. Put it this way: it is no coincidence that some of the most successful eras at UGA and Georgia Tech was in the 80s and 90s, which was when A) things were somewhat less polarized in the state and B) Georgia sports fans actually followed and supported the Atlanta Hawks. No, it isn't because the Hawks were any better back then. The Hawks have actually made the playoffs the last several seasons in a row, not that anyone has noticed. It is that back then, high school basketball kids growing up weren't inundated with the often not even concealed seething animus and resentment on message boards and talk radio directed at basketball players and fans. These kids aren't dumb. They know that you hate them now, will only pretend to suspend your hatred for them for the 3-4 years that they help UGA win games, and then you will go back to hating them, even if they play in the NBA, and even if they play for the Hawks. Yes, several Georgia products have played for the Hawks since Dominique Wilkins left - UGA and Georgia Tech products as well as guys who went to other schools and guys who skipped school entirely. Josh Smith was a Georgia product and got nothing but grief despite being one of the few Hawks draft picks to actually pan out. Lou Williams is from Gwinnett, is the Hawks' 6th man, and most Georgia sports fans don't even know or care who he is. Just like they don't follow the many other Georgia products in the NBA the way that they do guys from Georgia in the NFL and MLB. 


It would be one thing if Georgia basketball had a winning culture to help overcome it. But don't expect top high school athletes to go to a place where all the sports fans hate them only to be mediocre at best. They are going to go where they will win, be liked and valued, or failing that at least one or the other. These top basketball players know how you folks really think of them, so do you blame them for going somewhere else?



AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

Prediction:  Kentucky will badger Wisconsin and win tonight.

Natureboy809
Natureboy809

Perspective.  Get some.

I love our basketball team and support them, but In understand that we're not on the level of Duke or Kentucky.  I wish we were, but we're not.  But there are no excuses in football.  We are UGA.

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

Howdy Doody is not a very good Athletics ' Director, but neither was the Mike Adam$ hire as AD before that, either.


He should build us a new gym, and an indoor practice facility.  He needs to hire lots of coaches, really.  He's a wimp.  There isn't anything about him I like.


Well, he doesn't get arrested; but, other than that...


He played tennis here, but wasn't any good at that, and coached women's tennis one year.


He's worthless and without experience.

slydawg
slydawg

The worst thing that happened to Georgia was Damon Evans getting caught with those red panties

BoiseDawg
BoiseDawg

I for one was upset when Fox wasn't fired at the end of last season.  I had little confidence in him as both a recruiter or coach.  I thought this season was going to be a complete disaster and that he would end up fired anyway, so why delay the enevitable.

I have changed course however and think McGarity did the right thing here.  He clearly saved his job by salvaging a disaster of a start.  I thought a 1-year extension would have been more appropriate, but if 2-years helps with recruiting, then so be it.  Fox needs all the help and support he can get.  The AD can afford the buyout if next season is a big dissapointment again.

Both Tubby and Harrick proved you can win at UGA... and when you have a consistent winner, the steg will sell out.  There is no reason Georgia can't be successful at basketball... see Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Stanford, Texas (plenty of programs from all over the country that are consistently successful at both sports and have good fan bases for both sports).

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

Badley, how long have you been writing for the AJC? How many Pulitizers and Peabodys do you have?  Didn't think so. Get your own house in order before you criticize someone else. The AJC isn't exactly the New York Times, is it? Just  a rag Cox holds on to for the political power in Atlanta. Ah, the truth at last.

Birdhair
Birdhair

But we ask again: One NCAA appearance, one NIT bid and two winning seasons in five years — is that success? And if it is, what will Georgia do if Fox’s Bulldogs actually win an NCAA game? Declare him coach for life?

-Bradley

Interesting article from the AJC. For once, we set some standards. 5 years of results to analyze and these results are mediocre.

Why the ajc refuses to call Wren to the table is beyond me. Is the AJC afraid of him? I guess AJC isn't as vested in UGA as they are in the Braves and they dont want to hurt any feelings?

6 years going on 7 and no playoff series wins under Wren. Is that success? No. Garbage

rickfire
rickfire

McGarity is the problem at Georgia as he always takes the easy path and accepts mediocrity. McGarity is a horrible Athletic Director and is the primary reason UGA is not a championship caliber program in Football or Basketball.

Mediocrity is acceptable at UGA as indicated by zero championships in Football, Men's or Women's Basketball. Andy Landers, who is the most "under achieving" Head Coach in America but continues to draw a huge salary, is another topic for conversation- has the best gig in College Athletics.

McGarity should be ashamed of what is happening with UGA Athletics as he references "a total body of work"! What a joke!

JaySly
JaySly

mcgarity in over his head in this job---he can't bring in big name coaches---im getting tired of this

Boss_Dawg
Boss_Dawg

As a Dawg who wants to see everything UGA be successful, I get really frustrated with the men's BB program. We have asked a great X’s and O’s coach who is trying to slay a grizzly bear with a BB gun!

To all the football only donors and more importantly, the NON-donors who take pride in the football team - share some of that love! Your contribution and DEMANDS to support a new coliseum will go a long way to fixing the problem here... FACILITIES! Yes the BB practice facility is very nice, but come show time we are playing on an archaic stage, and that matters to the kids. I love the Steg but the recent renovations were a waste of $, it has to go! I love it so much that I'll buy some seats or bricks out of it - I'll even buy some of the faulty glass facade that is crumbling after a few years of being installed, just bulldoze it to the ground, play a year or two in Gwinnett and let's do this right going forward!

PLEASE!!!!

patriotdog
patriotdog

Mark, we've seen success a year after a star leaves before. Remember, Coach Durham made the Final Four at Ga ( a surreal thought, yes?) the year AFTER Dominique left. Chemistry, teamwork, etc..play a part along with just great athletes.

I agree with every other part, however. I've met CMF several times here in Athens, extremely nice and personable guy. Just can't seem to close the deal on big time recruits for some reason.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Good for Coach Fox, i like him.

mrsilver
mrsilver

First, Virginia's Sweet 16 opponent was Michigan State, not UCLA (but you did get to make your point about the Georgia connection with UCLA)


Second, Virginia also has picked up a top notch Georgia recruit out of this year's class: Isiah Wilkins from GAC

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

Agree 100% with Mr.Bradley when it comes to basketball. Any other sport, uh uh. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Give Fox 7 million for next 4 years for this crap...UGA Basketball has been a joke for years. The Lady Dawgs are not winning like they use too. The place is a dump, who wants to play there. The school has money out the A@@ but its all football. AD McGarity is a yes man joke.  Happy to just be standard or BS.

Gregory at GT also needs to win next year are be gone.

There is no excuse for UGA not putting a WINNER on the floor in a damn nice new building. Don't believe  AD's spin.  Fire the Fox and get a hunter....

Agree Mark, keep up the good work.

Rick_James
Rick_James

@GTBob

"CPJ has won a conference title, made a BCS game, made the postseason every year, and has had a winning conference record 5 of the 6 years he has been at Tech. What has Fox done"

What they have in common Bob is both are great X's and O's guys but both come up short in recruiting.I didnt mean what I posted to be taken as a compliment to either coach..

stdno2man
stdno2man

Mark I disagree with you and think it's not fair to compare UGA to this year's TN. First TN started a redshirt senior (maymon) two true seniors (mcrae and the kid from memphis) and two juniors. Remember it was just weeks ago that their Coach was on the hot seat for making the NIT. The AD did the right thing in that he didn't look so much at the past as he did the future and asked "is this program/team headed up and can it win big". Based on what TN did I think you could reasonable answer yes.


You talk about recruiting but you fail to mention Fox has put together, while not spectacular, two very solid classes. The class with Morris, Gaines and Mann is now a proven class. This year's class with Frazier, Parker, Forte and Geno as compared to when last year's class were freshmen showed they could contribute positively. Parker as up and down, Frazier came on late and trust me if Geno stays in this program he might be the recruit that gets us over the top. I say that because everyone swears he's last year's Kenny Gaines in that he is superhuman athletic.


I agree with your assessment on only two winning years. However the reality of this profession is like that of stocks. The only person who doesn't make money in the stock market is the person who waits until after it peaks. To win big you have to catch it trending upward which is what McGarity is attempting to do.

petel
petel

I do believe Fox will have to go to the tournament next year and win at least one maybe two games or he's gone.  I like Fox and think he can coach. But he can't recruit, so that must improve.

HowlinDawg
HowlinDawg

I've never understand the lack of competitive basketball at UGA. The state has top talent, plays against some of the country's top programs within the SEC and is in proximity of the ACC and could, if it wanted to, create some great rivalries in playing those schools and use the schedule as a recruiting tool. 


The facility isn't up to par with other schools. But it's worse than those of many other D-1 schools.


Since the Jan Kemp era, entrance requirements are more difficult … though ACC schools are able to get past that hurdle with little trouble. 


The women's program has done well, so there's proof attracting top talent is possible. So, too, has men's and women's tennis and other sports. 


Overall, men's hoops is an enigma. One I doubt will be solved for a long time. 

SinceVince
SinceVince

Its like Hugh Durham says... The SEC is Florida , Kentucky and maybe Tenn, The rest of the SEC stinks and UGA was a distant 3rd. Mark Fox can be thankful where UGA finished up because of that. I guess Howdy Doody McGarity thinks the basketball program is "In the Hunt".

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Imma Tech fan and Ill take Fox over our Hobbit any day of the week. We have spanked u the last 3 years under CBG, but outside of that we have done NOTHING. I fear Fox wont make the end of his deal, as the bball landscape is gonna be tougher next year wit Pearl back in the mix @ AU.  Shame that the two schools with national recognition both stink it up @ Hoops atm.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Imma Tech fan and Ill take Fox over our Hobbit any day of the week. We have spanked u the last 3 years under CBG, but outside of that we have done NOTHING. I fear Fox wont make the end of his deal, as the bball landscape is gonna be tougher next year wit Pearl back in the mix @ AU.  Shame that the two schools in Ga with national recognition both stink it up @ Hoops atm.

slydawg
slydawg

Fox can coach a little bit, but he can't recruit with the competition.

Gregory can recruit a little bit but he can't coach a champion. 

Fox was "good" when he was out West, but that was at a WAC conference school. So far, he has proven he can't coach and recruit with the big boys. Ditto for Gregory, who never won a regular season title or conference tournament at Dayton. Dayton has a better coach and a better program. Maybe Tech should have hired Archie Miller, brother of another successful coach (Duh?) instead. 


This move only means that UGA and McGarity are not quite ready to move on from Fox and commit extra resources towards basketball. I'm assuming. So the extension is essentially a 4-year shadow move for 2014-15 recruits.


Fox should be let go, at least no later than next season. Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky ain't going anywhere. Bruce Pearl is going to bribe somebody from the Atlanta area. Even if he wasn't a cheater, he has 1000x the charisma and recruiting chops of this region over Fox.


Ron Hunter to Tech

Archie Miller to UGA (NOW!!!)

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

That is depressing. Truly a bizarre move.

VanguardETFs
VanguardETFs

Sighhhhhh.  I know we are a football school, but when the basketball team does well, it is fun to watch.  I hope that day comes soon.  

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

Because college basketball sucks. Why go out of your way to matter in a sport that is year after year won by teams that have fly by night players that make a cameo on their campuses.

Match369
Match369

Tired UGA BB fan ned a new coach and some better talent

JFKDawg
JFKDawg

I am a graduate and football season ticket holder of UGA.  Unfortunately, I couldn't agree more with this article.  I think McGarity is too lazy to go find a new coach and likes his profit/loss statement as it is.  Fox has no deep connections in the high schools of this state.  He should have added a top flight recruiter to his assistants and didn't do it.  While the team sometimes gets "competitive", the second round of the NIT showed a very poorly coached team that had almost 20 turnovers by halftime.  I agree the Coliseum is a dump as it hasn't changed much since I was a student there but wouldn't believe places like Mercer and some of the mid-major colleges have much better.  


DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@memsmovement Some thought-provoking observations from you.  You could have a point on the overall lack of support for basketball in the state.  I would like to know more about why you say "hate", though.  People in Atlanta (metro included) loved the Hawks back in the 80's because they were a very good team, had super-star power and were entertaining.  I don't hate the current Hawks, I just have very little interest in them because I know they aren't going to win anything important and because they have no superstars.  I followed Lou Williams because he was local and almost went to UGA.

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

If there are no excuses for us in football, what is the problem, Natureboy809 ?


2013-1

2012-2

2011-3

2010-4

2009-5

2008-6

2007-7

2006-8

2005-9


9 seasons' ago, we Won The SEC Championship in Football, however, in every single poll for the 2005 season we were the # 3 ranked SEC team because both Alabama and LSU finished better than us.


2004-10

2003-11

2002-12


12 seasons' ago, we Won The SEC Championship in Football, however, in the Final Coaches' Poll for 2002, there only was 1 other team ranked in The Top 25 from The SEC, a 4-loss # 14 Auburn.  The SEC was WAY DOWN in 2002, wasn't it ?


If there are no excuses for us in football, what is the problem, Natureboy809 ?


After 2007, the current 6-year period, we've lost 22 of 29 games vs teams who were ranked for these latest seasons, and have a 54-26 record - more than 4 and a third losses per season.


If there are no excuses for us in football, what is the problem, Natureboy809 ?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ThomasBrown

Co-sign (GASP!) on Howdy Doody, who lost me and others pretty quickly when he immediately began softening the Dawgs' OOC football schedule. At least Evans made the effort to play decent OOC teams in home-and-away arrangements, which, as he correctly pointed out, helps the school immensely in terms of "spreading the brand."

JaySly
JaySly

Can't blame Damon--that chick was hot!!

ThomasBrown
ThomasBrown

He isn't criticizing Mark Fox, but Howdy Doody

jeffreyd
jeffreyd

You know the swim team just won a national championship like, a week ago.

Radar123
Radar123

@gtcaryd

A bad sign, me thinks, when a Tech fan likes your coach.

Baghead
Baghead

@stdno2man  Where is this trending upwards? What are you talking about?  Oh, are you referencing the strong finish this year, when we beat inferior teams in one of the overall weakest conferences?  When we played Big Blue in the SEC, there was no game.  We were never in it.  Fox exposed himself.  Stop accepting mediocrity.  I'm so tired of these UGA fans who don't want hurt someone's feelings.  Great article Mr. Bradley.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@stdno2man  

I wouldn't think TN's immediate future is all that bright, considering they started 3 srs and 2 jrs. Down the road, time will tell.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@JFKDawg Also, I don't think Mercer would be considered "mid-major" although I could be wrong about that.  Also, they HAVE put alot into their athletic facilities recently.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@JFKDawg Unless you graduated in the last 3 years or so, you are mistaken about Stegeman.  It is much improved:  individual seats (vs. bench seats that is used to have), better lighting, nice scoreboard, improved lobby/concessions area and nicer look with the glass outside.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@FoSho

Your taste in women is as poor as it is in blog handles--based on the published mugshot of the referenced chick.

Radar123
Radar123

@jeffreyd

That's like having great azaleas in a poorly landscaped yard.

Ask my neighbors.

They complement me this time of the year but grumble the rest of the time.