Posted: 5:44 pm Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Mark Fox draws praise of peers during Bulldogs’ historic SEC run 

By Chip Towers

ATHENS – Coach of the year kind of stuff.

That’s what we saw from Georgia’s Mark Fox this season. Yes, Florida went 18-0 in SEC play and the Gators’ are the nation’s No. 1-ranked team. There is no arguing that Billy Donovan will be deserving of that award and any others that will likely come his way.

But for good, old fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves, quality hard work amid difficult circumstances, there are very few coaches anywhere who can claim to have done a better job that than Fox.

Only longtime observers of Georgia basketball can probably fully appreciate what his team managed to accomplish this season. Only one Bulldogs’ team in the 81-year history of the school’s association with the Southeastern Conference has won more conference games. The one that did, the 1990 Bulldogs, won the regular-season championship (with a 13-5 record). Just to provide perspective, only five previous teams in the history of the program managed to win 11 or more conference game and one of those had to vacate them due to improprieties.

This bunch tied Kentucky for second place. With its 69-61 win over LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday, Georgia finished 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the SEC. It was the Bulldogs’ fourth conference road victory of the season and their eighth in last 10 games of the season.

As a result, Georgia captured the No. 3 seed in this week’s SEC Tournament, which will happened to played in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Because of the double-bye that goes to league’s top four finishes, the Bulldogs won’t play until Friday, likely against Vanderbilt or Ole Miss.

As for postseason speculation, it still doesn’t look great for Georgia, not unless it at least reaches the tournament finals and maybe not even then. And people will continue to bash the overall strength of the SEC this year. But to be focused on that would be missing the point.

The Bulldogs — and Fox — did what they did in the season immediately after losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA draft as a sophomore. Not only was he the previous team’s best player, he was deemed the best player in the entire SEC.

That contributed in no small way to Georgia’s slow start this season. To be sure, that 1-4 beginning, which included losses to Georgia Tech, Davidson, Temple and Nebraska, has dogged the Bulldogs all year. With additional losses to Colorado and George Washington, Georgia entered SEC play with a 6-6 record.

But the Bulldogs have little to be ashamed of from then on. A 59-54 home loss to Vanderbilt on Jan. 29 is about the only hiccup in SEC play. Then to win like they won at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, that was the kind of galvanizing victories that can set up a team for bigger things down the line.

“They’ve been very committed to the process and so I think they’re just excited that they’ve had some success,” Fox said of his players.

That all this took place in Fox’s fifth season, when there was hot-seat talk and criticism of the staff’s recruiting skills, makes it all the more impressive. Keep in mind, this is all happening while Georgia is graduating all its players and generally experiencing zero off-court issues.

It certainly has gotten the attention of other coaches around league. Last week Kentucky’s John Calipari said “nobody wants to play Georgia right now.” South Carolina’s Frank Martin, who’s been in the news for the wrong reasons lately, raved about the job Fox has done.

“Last year, all those guys, (Charles) Mann, (Kenny) Gaines, they were all little puppies,” said Martin, whose team got thumped twice by the Bulldogs. “They had a lottery pick that kind of saved them. But as this year went on, I thought their team just got better and better. And now they’re a very good basketball team.”

The SEC tournament returns to Atlanta’s back yard again this year. Expect to hear similar praise about Fox and other coaches pointing to the Bulldogs as a team to watch out for.

But regardless of what happens in this do-or-die affair this week, the season has already been an unqualified success for Georgia. And for Fox, especially.

49 comments
DawgNole
DawgNole

DawginNY: "The first local article about this team in the main paper in the state comes almost 24 hours after the final game . . . ."

__________________________

Yeah, I was looking, too--finally found an AP story. Disappointing but perhaps not surprising since football is king in Georgia. You'd think a major metropolitan newspaper would do better though.

NCDawg
NCDawg

An appearance and quality game against Florida might get the Dawgs into the NCAA's I don't think anything else will do it.

NCDawg
NCDawg

There is no question that Mark Fox is a very good player development guy and a very good on court coach as well but for some reason he can't recruit the guys needed to lift the program up.  He needs more talent to work with to be recognized for the quality coaching he does.  But he can't land the big fish.  He needs to hire an ace recruiter to save his job.  He can coach with the best of them but this is about as good as it gets with the physical talent he is pulling in.  Who know when McGarity will pull the trigger.  Getting a killer closer to get his foot in the door with the talent pool around here would save his job.

Get an ace recruiter on your staff Mark before your job goes away.

DirtyDawg
DirtyDawg

Hopefully Florida's success will have an effect on the underclassman at UGA. A team full of seniors has a better shot at finishing at the top than one full of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Regardless, as the word gets around about just how good Mark Fox-coached teams can do, the more folks will show up to games, the more kids will enjoy and benefit from their choice to attend Georgia and the better and better the kids that will choose to 'stay home' and hone their skills under a quality coach that runs a quality program.

davidv14
davidv14

I believe if Georgia goes to the SEC Conference finals this week only needing to win two games to get there; Fox should get SEC coach of the year.  I know Florida was undefeated in the SEC and that was more for their players than a coach because they have the best players in the country which all Billy D has to do is tell them to play as a team and the players know what they have to do before the game starts.   Again, Florida has so much talent that maybe I can coach them to the final 4 this year with their 4 seniors.   Georgia has to be coach because like the other 11 SEC teams not included Florida and maybe Kentucky; they need to be coach to perform at their best with the average to above average players on the team.   If not, it one and done; that March Madness it a new season throw the records off the board everyone is even before the game starts. 

andrech3
andrech3

I totally agree! Great Job to all the round ball DAWGS! They are fun to watch....GO DAWGS!

dgroy
dgroy

Eighteen and twelve? and that's a good coaching job?  UGA certainly has LOW standards when it comes to BB. 

SvenOttke
SvenOttke

Way to go, Coach!  We're behind you 100% too!

-The rest of the college basketball world, glad that Fox did just enough to stay on as coach.

Dogleg
Dogleg

The season turned when coach Fox's father passed away. The team responded to a tough week for their coach, dug down deep and played as a team for Coach Fox. They inspired everyone including themselves and found a new chemistry for the season. Kudos to Coach Fox and his team!

DTDUGA1975
DTDUGA1975

Gotta hand it to Coach Fox - a remarkable season!  I agree with FLASUX - pains me to say this but CBD is not only the SEC coach of the year he's the national coach of the year.  Outstanding season for the lizards.  Stegman was a joke way back in the day (I'm talking arena registration days when the cow dung smell was heavy as we filed into the Georgia Memorial Coliseum (trying to sneak past Dean Tate - never got past him).  That said, kids around GA will really start to notice the success Mark Fox is having and will give UGA a serious look, 

DHJohnson
DHJohnson

Mabye Fox will never get a 4 or 5 star player...but if he can get 8 or 9 solid 3's, he can coach em up a bit.

DIT
DIT

Very good coach, very bad recruiter.

FLASUX
FLASUX

I hear Jim Harrick and his son are looking for work..  Look guys, Fox has done a great job in a situation that just sucked. The Harrick's blew our program up. The AD brought them in to get us winning and look what happened. Be careful what you wish for. 


Fox should stay. Maybe CMR can give him some recruiting tips.. 


(Although my handle says FLASUX I do give them props for the BBall team.. really good this year. Billy has done a great job)

petel
petel

If he could just recruit our team would be a force to be reckoned with because Fox is an outstanding coach.

TampGator1
TampGator1

Fox is a good coach and deserves credit for turning the Georgia team around this year to finish tied with Kentucky in the conference.  But the SEC coach of the year, by a landslide, is Billy Donavan.  Florida was not ranked in the top 10 to begin the year and was not considered a top tier team when play began.  They played through numerous injuries early in the season, was the first team ever to go 18-0 in SEC conference play, and is the number one ranked team in the country at season's end.  Billy D's team does not have a single superstar on the team.  But he has everyone on the team playing as superstar team.  Kentucky has far superior individual talent than Florida. But Billy D's coaching and coach instilled player effort has allowed Florida to walk all over Kentucky twice and beat every single SEC team Florida played this year.  And by the way, Florida beat Georgia 72-50 the game right after Georgia began to play well with a big win over Missouri.  So, much credit to Mark Fox on coaching up his team this year.  But the best coach in the SEC this year lives and coaches in Gainesville, Florida....by a wide margin.  And watching Florida play basketball is the true sense of....TEAM and a LACK of SELFISHNESS.....is just plain out refreshing and a lot of fun.    

Match369
Match369

We need some winning seasons to ill the stands bettr players to.

Match369
Match369

we still need new coaches for B Ball though tired of average seasons

Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

"But for good, old fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves, quality hard work amid difficult circumstances, there are very few coaches anywhere who can claim to have done a better job that than Fox."


Congratulations, 


Trophies all around! 

LADawg
LADawg

UGA is flush with cash. Just look at the beautiful campus and all the new buildings with the wonderful architecture which was M. Adams legacy. It's amazing that an eyesore like the Steg continues to stand. If my memory serves me UGA is a one of the top grossing athletic programs in the country.

There are too many top recruits in the state to not spend the money to make the BB facilities second to none.

DrOwenScottIII
DrOwenScottIII

Living in Baton Rouge these many years, I was excited to catch the season finale at the PMAC. I was hoping for a respectable showing- instead, I got an incredible defensive effort that shut down the likely SEC player of the year and left LSU fans shaking their heads. Great shooting from Kenny Gaines and numerous trips to the line by Charles Mann sealed the deal.  Thanks Coach and team for a game I won't soon forget. Next year should be even better.

displayname101
displayname101

I think a lot of recruits are looking for a program that will get them to the NBA.  I think a good many recruits actually care about how the school fits what they want for their non-basketball lives.  If a recruit is terribly concerned about the "facilities," maybe that recruit should put on some lipstick and become a ballerina instead of a basketball player.

DawginNY
DawginNY

The first local article about this team in the main paper in the state comes almost 24 hours after the final game.


Everyone is right.  Fox is a very good coach, but bad recruiter.  He should hire Korey McCray as an assistant--former AAU coach from Atlanta who went to UCLA and now LSU.  And the facilities suck.  The renovation to Stegeman was putting lipstick on a pig.  

POV1948
POV1948

The double bye is a credit to the team but I honestly hate to seem them go a full week without playing and lose the MO of that great 2nd half in Red Stick.

displayname101
displayname101

Georgia haters will post their negative stuff no matter what happens.  The fact is Mark Fox has recruited some excellent young players to Georgia.  Just keep improving as they have this season, and more and more good recruits will want to play for Fox.

SinceVince
SinceVince

Sure hope our Dawgs make the NCAA tourney but deep down I know we will hiccup  just like in everything else.

P_The_Ricker
P_The_Ricker

NCAA tournament is definitely on the table.  simple math.

RPI is 70.  Getting to the conf champ will likely secure their RPI to under 60, but certainly no worse than 62...mo matter what happens in conf champ game.  gettin to 20 wins, more than 2x conf wins than losses, tied for 2nd reg season conf standing and an RPI no worse than 62 would be too hot to leave out.

UGA and fox couldn't have asked for a better draw.  UGA fared well agaist miss st, vandy and ole miss this year.  a victory there would likely set-up a game against UK, though both LSU and bama could beat UK.  UK is obviuisly more talented than what UGA, LSU or bama would line-up against with....but UK is reeling and any of those teams could certainly beat them right now.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

Let's get real here. The new facade on Stegman is no more than lipstick on a pig. Sorry I had to be the one to call it out. Build it and they will come (Georgia Talent)!

HotDawg
HotDawg

Another former Bulldog wins at Doral.

Now 4 or 5 former Dawgs with wins on tour this season. And season has practically just begun.

Dawg350
Dawg350

UGA is going to win the sec tournament baby! Book it!

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

UGA NEEDS AN INDOOR FACILITY FOR FOOTBALL  , ALL THE BEGGING FOR MONEY AT UGA , WHY DONT YOU WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP  IN BASEBALL, FOOTBALL, OR BASKETBALL AND PEOPLE MIGHT HELP YALL MORE .

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

TO ALL YOU IDIOTS HERE THAT BASH FOX, BETTER FACILITIES , AND FOX IS A GREAT COACH HE HA SA HARD TIME RECRUITING , BRING IN SOMEONE TO HELP HIM GET IN STATE TALENT AND THIS TEAM CAN COMPETE WITH ANYBODY YOU THINK ANOTHER TORNADO AND ANOTHER MIRACLE THAT TEAM THAT PALYED 2 GAMES IN ONE DAY WILL GO DOWN AS ONE OF THE GREATEST THINGS AT UGA BRING IN HERSHEL TO RECRUIT

HistoryofMatt
HistoryofMatt

OkieDawg... you are 100% WRONG.


Are you still living in 1998?


Because the basketball training facility is top-flight, and Stegeman has been beautifully renovated and IS a great facility.


It seems to me that you, much like other blind homers I've found on twitter, just refuse to see the obvious, which is Mark Fox may be an outstanding X's and O's coach, but he can't recruit if his life depended on it.


I've actually spoken with people who still think we're living in an age where things like kids care about state schools and the like.


The fact is, a great recruiter can recruit ANY kid to go ANYWHERE. When you look at UGA's facilities, which are very good, the fact that Fox still, five years in, can't recruit for crap outside of his only big get in KCP, tells us all we need to know about him.


If Fox can't use this season to bring in some big talent to the Dawgs, then he must go.


In college basketball it doesn't matter how good a coach you are. Dennis Felton was also a good coach, remember?


But no big-time or even kinda-big time talent in this state, which produces a lot of talent, wanted to play for Felton, just like they don't want to play for Fox.


Fox couldn't close a screen door. And that's the honest truth.

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

Its great to be a Georgia Bulldog. Go Dawgs!

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

Mark Fox is a good coach and an excellent person. UGA is fortunate to have Mark. Now let's build him a state of the art arena with great facilities like say, Kentucky and Florida, and watch him bring in great athletes and coach them up. He may very well leave UGA if he is required to function at such a disadvantage. You want a great BB team, then pay up. UGA is selling its program short and losing all the great Georgia talent to out of state teams.

DawgNight
DawgNight

@LADawg  Why build a expensive building to have no one show up?  I've been a long time fan, going to games for years...it's embarrassing how empty the seats are.

It seems like a good line "build nicer building"  but fact remains we go to watch the team..not see the building. Fans have to show some dedication first.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@P_The_Ricker

The problem with the math is that although there are 68 teams in the NCAA, they aren't the 68 teams with the lowest RPI - there are the champions of 1 bid conferences.  UGA would need to get to around #50 in RPI and there be few upsets in conference tournaments/  Ole Miss as a 12 seed last year and their RPI was 45.  California was likely the last one in with an RPI of 52.  Kentucky wa 57 RPI and was the defending NC - they played in the NIT

HotDawg
HotDawg

Win and they will come. Duke plays in a sweatbox. Courts are same size everywhere.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

That's stretching it...he attended UGA but won the NC at Augusta State. Not really a Kirk, English, Hensley or Watson. But let's claim him...WTH...

HotDawg
HotDawg

No need to yell...... a little courtesy, PLEASE!

WalterEgo
WalterEgo

@HistoryofMatt  Perhaps fox cannot YET close a screen door, but dammit, that screen door will play the best, smothering, lights out, heart and soul, high IQ basketball a screen door ever played!  Might be the best X and Os coach out there. 

Coach K was 38-47 his first 3 years.  The alumni HATED him.  But he could damn well coach.  Fox?  50-46.  


It's easier to make a good recruiter out of a bad one than a good coach out of a bad one.  It's certainly easier to make a good recruiter out of a great coach.  Fox is a great coach.  GREAT!  If you build it they will come.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

Like our state of the art arena that has the new glass facade falling out? It is roped off to keep patrons safe. Is that the great facility to which you refer? The arena is OLD and it feels OLD. I'm guessing you haven't been there in a while...based on your comment. Have a nice day.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

@PaulinNH @P_The_Ricker I agree Paul. Looking good for the NIT but little to no chance at the NCAA's. SEC is weak and UGA played terrible outside of the conference. Love my Dawgs but reality is we do not deserve it. Cant beat or even hang with Florida.

Classof98
Classof98

@PaulinNH Good comment.  Comments this well done are a rare thing on the internet.


Go dogs.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

Courts are...Arenas are not. But I give you this, win and they will come. I bet you are happy with for once in your life being 50% correct.