Posted: 11:08 am Thursday, March 13th, 2014

UGA’s feisty Fox ‘sick of ‘Catlanta’ and RPI projections 

By Chip Towers

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox has found himself preaching the Bulldogs' case often lately. (AP photo)

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox has found himself preaching the Bulldogs’ case often lately. (AP photo)

As coaches go, Georgia’s Mark Fox is a pretty mild-mannered guy. When it comes to commentary about his team and basketball issues, he usually takes a reserved and measured approach and leaves you thinking it probably feels a little stronger than he lets on.

But it was a considerably more feisty Fox that reporters encountered Wednesday afternoon as the Bulldogs had their first and only interview availability before their Friday night appearance in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.

Fox was relatively outspoken on a myriad of topics, not the least of which was his team’s NCAA tournament at-large chances. The general consensus among bracket forecasters is that the Bulldogs’ only shot of getting into the Big Dance is by winning the conference tournament due to their current RPI (75). Fox doesn’t agree and is more than a little annoyed with the reliance of prognosticators — and the selection committee — on mathematical formulas predicated on subjective ratings.

“It’s ridiculous,” Fox said. “You can skew statistics in any way you want. … I realize that in November Georgia was not an at-large team, but the Georgia team right now is pretty damn good! We’ve got more work to do before we can realistically argue that, but if you just rely on numbers you can make any case that you want.”

Fox let on that he believes the Bulldogs should qualify for an at-large selection if they reach Sunday’s finals.

“If we went to the finals of the tournament, for instance, and we get second place in the regular season and second place in the tournament, you’re telling me that the second-place team in this league doesn’t belong in the NCAA tournament? I think there would be a realistic argument for us,” he said. “But if we get to the championship game, you might as well win it. And we’re not ready to talk about that. We’ve got to work to do on Friday.”

The Bulldogs (18-12, 12-6 SEC) finished the regular season in a tie for second with Kentucky (22-9, 12-6). They received the No. 3 seed based on losing to the Wildcats in the regular season in their only game Jan. 25 in Lexington.

After Mississippi State thumped Vanderbilt 82-68 in the play-in round on Wednesday night, Georgia will face the winner of tonight’s 9 p.m. game between State and Ole Miss on Friday night at 9:30. The Bulldogs beat MSU twice and Ole Miss once in their only meetings this season.

If trends hold to form, then UGA will face Kentucky in the semifinals on Saturday. The Wildcats’ expansive fan base has a reputation for taking over SEC venues, especially when the tournament is played in Atlanta. Six of their 27 tournament titles have come in our fair city, hence Kentucky’s affection nickname for the town — “Catlanta.”

Fox took issue with that, too.

“I’m sick of hearing about ‘Catlanta,’” the Georgia coach snapped. “It IS the Georgia Dome, so I hope that we’ll have representation of that.”

Informed that Kentucky would be playing in the game before the Bulldogs Friday night and that his comments likely would not endear him to the crowd, Fox scoffed.

“I could care less,” he said. “They’ve got a great fan base, they really do. But I want our fans to root for us. That’s all we need.”

Evidently Fox and crew are feeling pretty loose this week. The university is on spring break this week, and the Bulldogs will have had six days between games since beating LSU 69-61 in Baton Rouge this past Saturday.

Georgia has taken advantage of the brief reprieve. The took off Sunday and had only a light shoot-around on Monday.Fox set the tone by putting music on in the practice gym. But he went “coach’s choice” rather than suggestions from the players.”We had a little Stevie Wonder in there, a little Michael Jackson,” Fox said. “We had a lot of stuff from yesteryear.”

Then the Bulldogs went back to intense, physical practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, “to gear back on going to work and playing the game the right way.” The plan was to throttle down again today and be fresh for Friday’s late-night affair.

I’ve already filed my story advancing the Bulldogs’ SEC tournament appearance and you can read it HERE.

In the meantime, here’s some more comments from “Feisty Fox” as I had over to the Georgia Dome and dive head first into four days of basketball …

MARK FOX

On Friday’s matchup ….

“This is going to be a hard game for us. Mississippi State, we should have a good understanding there because we just played them. Vandy beat us and Ole Miss came down to the last second, we had to make a free throw with 1-point-something left. So I think our guys understand it’s going to be a hard game. The challenge is preparing for two teams and re-familiarizing yourself with those people. But the main thing is cleaning up some things that we do and us playing well. We’ve been mostly focusing on ourselves.”

On the Dogs resting on their laurels …

“That’s the great thing about being on spring break. There’s less people to do that to them.”

On having to wait around until late Friday night to play …

“That’s probably harder for coaches than it is for players. It’s a long day, for sure, but it will be for both teams. We have to make sure we manage our minds that day.”

On the untimely departure of junior center John Cannon …

“John just wants to go some place and play more and we wish him well. He’s a good kid. … The timing’s never good. But hopefully our team will be playing for a while. It was his decision to go now.

On whether they’ll utilize Cannon’s scholarship in this recruiting class …

“I think there’s a great chance we’ll use it this year. We certainly would like to sign one post player. We’re going to have Nemi (Djurisic) back and Tim (Dixon) back and Houston Kessler, so we’ve got some front-line players. We return basically our entire team except for Donte’ (Williams).”

On where Cannon’s 4.8 minutes per game will go …

“I can’t find time to play Houston Kessler or Tim Dixon or Kenny Paul Geno enough. We’ve got minutes that we need to find for somebody.”

On second-team selection Charles Mann providing UGA’s only representation on All-SEC teams …

“I thought we’d have somebody on the all-defense team. … But Charles has been a good player for us. He’s really been a good leader and he’s done a lot of things. He’s scored it, he’s organized us, he rebounds, he defends. He’s made a lot of big plays and I think he could still get so much better. He’s got a very bright future.

On poor performance in only tournament appearance this season, the Charleston Classic at the beginning of the season …

“I fully anticipated we’d have some struggles out of the gate. Without Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope) and just making the adjustment there, I figured we might struggle early. But I didn’t waiver on my belief in this team. That’s something we needed to go through to become a good basketball team. I wasn’t very happy with it, but it didn’t change my belief in our team.”

On mediocre SEC tournament performances under his watch (3-4) …

“There’s 14 teams in the tournament this year, 14 last year, 12 the year before that, one wins. I don’t think there’s any common theme there. You’ve got to play well and beat good teams to get all the way through it.

On lack of Top 50 wins this season …

“We just haven’t played any of them at home. That’s the real challenge. Home-court advantage is such thing in college basketball. We got Missouri at home and I think that was the only top 50 team we had here in Athens. So that’s made it hard.”

On communicating to selection committee that they played games without Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris …

“I would hope that our league would do that. … When we’ve been whole we’ve been a pretty good team.

On having an all-Atlanta starting lineup in Atlanta …

“Certainly there’s a lot of good players from the city. We’ve got five of them and they’ve become a good starting lineup for us. I think that’s great. They’re all going to leave with a degree, and I think that’s great, too.”

On the SEC tournament leaving Atlanta for a while …

“I do think Nashville does a good job, but I would like to see the tournament in Atlanta from time-to-time. I think the city and the state deserves that, because it’s great revenue obviously. I’d rather be on a bus than a plane, put it that way.”

On quarterfinal game …

“I think what’s important for us is that we make it the one game it is and we focus on how to win it. If we can do that, then we’ll worry about the second one. But this group has to stay in the moment. Like, right now, it’s got to be the next two hours. If I worry about more than that we’ll have lots of issues.”

25 comments
gobige
gobige

To be the man you have to beat the man...

This is just more hot air from another coach who'll be gone in 3-4 more years.

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

there is a void in the sec my friends a void that we can fill. we are already football royalty and now is the time to bring the basketball program up to that level there is no reason we cant be better then kentucky floriduh duke etc. we are way better then them at football and now we are poised to bring that same level of exellance to the hardwood.

Borodawg
Borodawg

@ thebucket;  You're quite right.  Fan support is near-pathetic in the Steg.  Way too many empty seats.  Recruits see that too, especially on televised games.  Admittedly, the ones who do show up are vocal and seem to be great fans.  But for the local players' fans, I predict there won't be much of a fan base in the Dome tonight.


P_The_Ricker

I agree about this being one of the few articles about UGA BB on the AJC this season.  They've even inserted AP coverage more than once, instead of their own beat writers.


The ol' "Fox is a good coach but a bad recruiter" gets old.  See above:  lack of support from fans and media.  How about KCP?  Almost every player on the roster has come in with accolades:  all region, Parade, all state, player of the year, etc.  Sure, he could do better; but he could use some support.  You'd be hard pressed to find articles at the AJC about UGA BB recruiting.

DawginLex
DawginLex

Fox won't have to worry about Cat fans beyond tonight UK bigs are scared of O'Bryant


Shut down Henderson tonight and UGA plays tomorrow


Would love Mizzou/SC/UGA/LSU in the semis


A bid for someone who would not get1 otherwise

Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

I can't wait for the "Sly Fox" headline. 


You know it's coming.

Dawgster34
Dawgster34

Fox is an excellent game coach, but lacking as a recruiter. He has made no strides in tapping into the AAU market himself or hiring an assistant who is connected.

SinceVince
SinceVince

The team to watch is South Carolina ... They just knocked off Arkansas , a team that Fox and his floundering foxhounds blew it big time a couple of weeks ago.

KBP
KBP

@oldmaninatlanta:

I don't understand why you say Fox is an average coach. He is a very good coach and a below average recruiter. This year may have been his best coaching since he arrived. He just needs to recruit better.

P_The_Ricker
P_The_Ricker

best and most involved article i've read on the ajc all year concerning the b-ball team.

the UGA fan base obviously needs a push to get interested in this team and the b-ball team in general.  the coach is there, the players are there, the media coverage is now showing up........NOW ITS UP TO THE FANS AND ADMINISTRATION TO START SHOWING UP WITH SOME SUPPORT.

RingtheBell
RingtheBell

12 wins in the SEC is the most by a GA team since 1990,the league is alittle weak of course but you still have to win the games. this program is historically bad 200 games below 500 all time. There have been Pockets of success, Fox  took over a program in shambles, yes its taken him awhile to turn it around. The Arena is fine a little COZY but aren't Cameron Indoor and Phog Allen Field house. Drop ticket prices for a few years fill the place up to help with recruiting and in a few years you can raise them.

Armydawg
Armydawg

Go DAWGS, win this thing.  The St Louis paper already has KY and FLA in the final.  Let's make it happen!!

oldmaninatlanta
oldmaninatlanta

Fox is an AVERAGE COACH and as bad as SECis this yr,he really shouldnt be excited about finishing second.Something he forgets to mention is the sorry teams they lost to.Oh wait,he blamed that on not having Caldwell Pope.That is really weak.Maybe if u could recruit some big timers to UGA things would be different.As long as Fox is the coach and their home court is a refurbished barn,UGA will be average.

thebucket
thebucket

We can be critical of the administration @ UGA and the coaches and players all we want about the lack of success of the basketball program over the years, but we the fans of UGA also bear some of the responsibility because we have not supported UGA basketball. We can have the best basketball recruiter in the world @ UGA, but elite players are not signing up to play in front of 5,000 people when they could go play @ Chapel Hill, Duke, Rupp, etc.

SinceVince
SinceVince

Sounds like Fox is getting a little testy just like Mark Richt did when he stormed out of the SECCG presser when asked why Murray and his football team couldn't win the big games.

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

if we can get 1/2 of who shows up to sanford on a glorius saturday that would be 45,000 dawg fans at the dome and we would be unstoppable.  richt and the foorball team should go and we could even get some celebrites in the crowd in there red and black.

Savdon
Savdon

You NEVER know.  Play pissed off.  Good luck Dawgs.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@oldmaninatlanta That is not what all the SEC coaches are saying. That is not what basketball experts across the country are saying. They are saying it is him and Donovan for COY


I guess you are smarter than them, right?


WalterEgo
WalterEgo

@oldmaninatlanta  Fox as a recruiter = 5, Fox as a coach = 9.  That's still a 7/10!  


Side note, "In my day, men like grumpy Oldmaninatlanta lived to be 900 yrs old, fire hadn't been invented, and "FaceTime" was two, see-through tin cans and string held up to each person's eye!  The only fire we knew was hell, the only thing we'd "like" were girls, and when we turned 900 we'd piss on a car battery just to take the edge off.  We liked it, we loved it,..."

P_The_Ricker
P_The_Ricker

@oldmaninatlanta if fox is average, i'd like to know your opinion of calipari and what he's done the last 2 years with the premier talent he's brought in.

thebucket
thebucket

@oldmaninatlanta I guess you totally missed these few lines in the above story? "I realize that in November Georgia was not an at-large team, but the Georgia team right now is pretty damn good! We’ve got more work to do before we can realistically argue that, but if you just rely on numbers you can make any case that you want.”

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

@thebucket I agree and think that Fox is the right guy to lead the team. It is a cycle. The team improves, the fans get excited, recruits see the excitement and want to be a par of it, the recruiting improves, the team improves, ... Fox can coach and make players better. Under Coach Fox UGA has improved. The question will remain, can UGA get excited and support basketball? Don't break the cycle.

NCDawg
NCDawg

@Bubbatavious as usual the Blubbertavious troll misses the point.  Fruad... you are clueless.  What a joke you are.


Canned response ie: "you kool aid drinker need to demand better"  in 3,2,1...


Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

@MoistDawg  Moist, you are delusional. It's a 9:30 tip, right? dogs start drinking rely on game day. They wouldn't last til then. Then, due to all the DUI's on the connector we'd have SnowJam II. 

SinceVince
SinceVince

Keep pumping that sunshine NC puppy