My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/bulldogs-blog/
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mark Fox Notes and Quotes

Some quotes and notes following today's news conference...

Damon Evans on the future with Mark Fox...
"We're about transforming and building Georgia basketball into a national power, and Mark Fox is the right man for this incredible opportunity."

Evans on how the hire came about...
"We made a commitment that we were going to go through this and not rush to judgment on any particular candidate until we went through the entire process. Once we finished that process, Mark just stuck in my mind, and sometimes you just go with that gut feeling."

(NOTE: Is anyone else a little concerned that after hiring a search firm and spending two months finding the right guy that the term "gut feeling" is involved so prominently here?)

Evans on reaction to the length of the search process...
"All these jobs started opening up, and I was reading in the paper that Georgia's in trouble now. We just stayed on course, and that got us to where we wanted to be."

Evans on Fox not being a "big name" guy...
"This wasn't about winning a press conference. This was about finding the right person for the University of Georgia. My job is to find the right person, and I'm sitting here extremely excited that we got to where we wanted to be."

Evans on how the search played out...
"The process played out like I wanted it to. We were able to maintain a certain level of confidentiality, but I also understood that when jobs were opening, I understood there might be some competition out there, but I couldn't let that make me deviate from the course that we set. By sticking to our plan, we got Mark Fox."

Evans on his approach to doing five interviews on Thursday...
"You always go in and say, we knew we were getting near the end of the process, and I was thinking, maybe today could be that day. But I said to myself if I don't think we've got the right guy, then I've got to keep going. This was not something you'd just concede and hand over, but this guy, I felt was the right guy."

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

Fox on what style of basketball he wants Georgia to play...
"Ultimately you have to find success in every style. You can't control what kind of game you get into, and if you want have success at the highest level, you have to succeed at every style of game. But it's going to start with the premise of defending and rebounding. We want to play as fast as we can play, but it's hard to play fast if the other team is putting the ball in the basket. We're a man-to-man defensive team, we've had a lot of success with that, and offensively we want to play as fast as we can."

Fox on when he expects to be competitive at a national level...
"Once you can compete in the SEC, you can compete just about anywhere. We're very excited about the future in front of us, but we do have to make an accurate evaluation of what we have. I can look at the stat sheet right now and just see certain things. We have to get kids and watch some tape and see what they're capable of. We may not be able to play exactly like we want to play until we get the roster we need. Certainly I think we do have some issues we're going to need to address."

A few thoughts following the press conference...

-- I must say that Fox seemed pretty engaging. He's got some personality, and that will definitely help.

-- Evans dodged a few of the tougher questions about the search process, but he never wavered in saying that he was happy with Fox. I don't think Fox was the first choice, but I also don't think Evans has any regrets about hiring him.

-- Here's the details of how the process played out yesterday: Fox left Reno on Wednesday afternoon, got in early Thursday morning in Atlanta, met with Damon Evans, Michael Adams, Arthur Johnson and Frank Crumley on Thursday for about three hours at the offices of the Parker Search Firm. During the meeting, Evans asked him if he would accept the job should it be offered, and Fox said yes. He then went back to airport where he had a return flight scheduled for 3 p.m. Evans called him at 1:30 to offer the job. When Fox returned, Evans said he had changed out of his suit into jeans and sneakers. "I said, 'I knew you were my guy,'" Evans said of the attire. Fox then signed a memorandum of understanding for a six-year, $1.3-million deal. He flew back to Reno last night, arriving around 9:30 p.m. Pacific time, met with his players at Nevada, then boarded a flight back to Atlanta 90 minutes later. He met with his new team here at 6:30 this morning and was on hand for the press conference to announce his hire at 10:45 a.m.

-- I must say, it's a bit concerning that the process of hiring Fox came together so quickly. Yes, the search firm handled a lot of the background stuff, so there wasn't much for Damon to do other than to make a decision. But (and I'm not saying this is a fair comparison at all) when Fox said the first time he had ever met Damon was Thursday morning, I couldn't help but be reminded of Sarah Palin saying she'd met John McCain just once before he added her to his ticket. Not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing, just what first came to mind.

-- I liked the energy Fox clearly had for the opportunity in front of him, but I'll also say that he didn't answer many questions with a lot of specifics. He sort of gave some generalities on questions about a time table to compete and an approach to recruiting, and you'd like to have a guy who sounds like he has a plan. I'm not saying Fox doesn't have a plan -- and the truth is, given the timetable of how things happened, he was probably flying blind a bit -- but it would have been nice if he could have added a bit more detail to his overall pitch. One thing I did like though was that Fox spoke completely off the cuff. He had no prepared statements and didn't seem like he was trying to whitewash anyone. He spoke pretty extemporaneously and still managed to be pretty charming.

-- Damon said that he had serious conversations about the job with seven candidates. He said that every candidate he talked to told him they viewed Georgia as a good job and that he was surprised by the enthusiasm people had for the opportunity.

-- Another slight criticism: When asked about recruiting, Fox talked about how he had sent five players to the NBA, none of whom had been recruited by a Big Six conference. I like that he is able to coach up talent, but I think fans would have preferred to hear a guy say he planned to bring in the best talent and then make them better, not discuss bringing in marginal talent and coaching them up. Given the state of the Georgia program, however, the latter is more likely to be what Fox has to work with for the foreseeable future.

-- Overall, I stand by what I wrote last night. I think this is a good hire and a good fit, but Fox still has a lot to prove. Only time will tell, and Season 1, won't be an easy one for him. Just looking at the roster, there are eight scholarship players right now, one of whom had to be dismissed from the team for the final three weeks of the season to concentrate on academics and two others who have publicly admitted they are considering a transfer. There is not going to be a lot for Fox to work with in 2009-10.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unless you hire people strictly on quantifiable merits, anytime you hire somebody it ends up being a "gut" call.

Dhu

David Hale said...

I think you mean "duh."

And that's all well and good, but I'd like to know why you pay a search firm to make a "gut" call.

Listen, I'm glad people want to jump on the bandwagon here. As fans, that what you should do. As a journalist, I'm supposed to look at it objectively though, and I thought that was worth pointing out.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit disappointed there weren't some tougher questions asked of both Damon and Fox. As you said, both talked in generalities. My impression of Fox is that he really doesn't know much specifically about Georgia. But I am glad he is willing to accept the challege.

Mike In Valdosta said...

"Palin", ouch, but if the dunce cap fits....

On the coaching up talent vs recruiting talent, that would be a great debate. Personally, I would take an experienced upper classmen team over a bunch of one and doners every year.

I really do not think Georgia will ever be a program recruits come to to major in "Pre-NBA".

rbubp said...

Mike would you have said that Kansas State would be the sort of place and program a "pre-NBA" recruit would go?

...and then they had two last year in Michael Beasley and Bill Walker.

Mike In Valdosta said...

rbubp, I am not overly famliar with KSU, but my answer would have been a definite "yes" while Bob Huggins was coaching. Again, not too knowledgeable on KSU, but I am pretty sure they have some of the lowest entrance requirements when compared to major conferences (the Bill SNyder effect).

rbubp said...

Very good, Mike in Valdosta..!

Yes, I keep trying to point out to the local writers that K-State is viewed as an academic dumping ground-kind of program everywhere else in the country, but they just don't/won't see it. So they hired Bill Snyder back this year to continue to do his Tarkanian-but-a-kindly-grandfather act with their sell-out football program.

My point with this was just that even a place like K-State in Farmtown, Kansas, or like UNC or Duke for that matter, can get the NBA-one-year-ers. Corey Maggette played one year at Duke, Brandan Wright one year at UNC, among others. The right coach and program can "lure" them no matter what the current academic and programmatic status.

David Hale said...

That's my point, i guess. For the near future, yes, Fox is going to have to coach up some average players to make UGA competitive. But if, as Damon says, they want the program to become a consistent national program, then eventually you need to rely more on talent than just coaching. And it remains to be seen what Fox can do beyond a program like Nevada.

rbubp said...

Yup.

Re: Duke and Maggette, I have a theory that Duke lost its true-national-contender status after Elton Brand left, because I think Maggette and Brand leaving early upset Coach K so much that he stopped recruiting players that might jump ship too early.

Duke hasn't had a true NBA-calibre player in a long time.