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Friday, April 3, 2009

Fox Hire Just the Beginning

Mark Fox had one regret Friday. He didn't get much time to say goodbye to the place he called home for most of the past 10 years. He spent about 90 minutes at Nevada, mostly talking to his players, and then he was off on yet another flight, back to Athens where he would be introduced as the new head coach of Georgia's men's basketball team.

"When you leave a place that you love, it's very hard," Fox said. "But when you find a place that looks so terrific, it's easier to go, and we found that with Georgia."

It's a long way from Reno, Nev. to Athens. His wife and kids will stay behind and finish out the semester, and Fox will have his work cut out for him at Georgia from Day 1. Several players have announced they plan to transfer. Other said they were considering it. The roster was already low on talent and chock full of players who have spent the better part of the past two years wondering how long their current coach would remain with the team or when the new coach would be hired.

"You look at the last month-and-a-half, and they were uncertain of their future," Fox said. "That can lead to some frustrating moments, I'm sure."

No doubt there will be some frustrating moments ahead for Fox, too. But he came to Georgia for one reason: Potential. Fittingly, that's the same reason Damon Evans hired him for the job.

During the search process, Evans said he wanted a coach to engage the fans, something Fox's predecessor, Dennis Felton, failed to do on a regular basis. In the hours after news of Fox's hiring broke, however, most fans weren't even sure who he was.

But building up the excitement surrounding Georgia basketball and cultivating the history of the program is an essential initial step in turning the Bulldogs' potential into success, Fox said, and he made that clear during his interview with Evans on Thursday.

"You can't have success without the support of the Bulldog Nation, and he understood that, expressed interest in wanting to get out and meet people," Evans said. "He also wants engage former basketball student-athletes, the alums."

Fox brings an impressive record to Athens -- 123-43 in five years at Nevada -- but it's that interaction with the fans and alumni that make him more than simply a head coach, Evans said.

"A leader of the program has to truly be the face of the program, and that doesn't mean just sitting in an office and doing Xs and Os," Evans said.

The job of turning around the program doesn't begin and end with Fox.

During the past several weeks, Evans and the search committee he hired spoke with numerous candidates around the country, and the overwhelming response they received was that Georgia was a sleeping giant, a job that could be great with the proper dedication from the athletics department.

So when Evans offered Fox the job, the offer came with a promise as well. Evans said building the basketball program into a national contender is the ultimate goal, and Fox won't be without the resources to make that happen. Although no plans have been officially approved yet, Evans said he hopes to renovate Stegeman Coliseum, expanding the concourses, knocking out walls and replacing them with glass, creating a more modern look similar to the new practice facility that sits adjacent to the old arena.

It's all part of what Friday's announcement was all about. The hiring of Fox starts the process of turning Georgia's potential into results.

"The commitment to basketball is not going to stop," Evans said. "We can't ask people to support us if we don't support ourselves."

1 comment:

Mike In Valdosta said...

I can handle another 3 conf win season (or less) is we are playing the game right and making improvements. He surely will not have the albatross of unrealistic expectations Capel, Grant or Anderson would have had to deal with.