Posted: 10:06 am Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
By Chip Towers
THE TEN AT 10:
1. Got a chance to catch up with David Perno on Monday. The former Georgia baseball coach was being inducted into the Athens Athletic Hall of Fame Monday night at the Classic Center in downtown Athens. The distinction came exactly year to the day after he was fired as the Bulldogs’ skipper.
“What a difference a year makes,” Perno said with a sarcastic laugh.
Perno grew up in Athens and starred in football and baseball at Clarke Central High School before moving on to Georgia to play baseball. He eventually became the Bulldogs’ 24th coach in 2002 and led the Bulldogs’ to their most successful stretch in history with three College World Series berths from 2004-08. He was fired on May 19 of 2013 after Georgia finished 21-32 and missed the SEC tournament.
Perno took most of the past year off before returning to work six weeks ago as a college baseball analyst for ESPN. He has been the color commentator on “three or four games” so far and serves as a studio analyst every Thursday night on College Baseball Live during the SEC games of the week. He’ll next be assigned to cover some NCAA regional games.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Perno said. “I think I’ve done OK. It’s just like anything else, you’ve got to do it over and over to really get the hang of it.”
2. Until recently, Perno has been concentrating on matters closer to home. He helped coach his son Hayes’ recreational league basketball team in the winter and attended daughter Saidee’s soccer games.
“It’s been a good year,” Perno said. “I have no complaints. I’ve been able to reevaluate what’s important and I believe I’ll be a better coach because of it. Just sitting back and seeing everything unfold and having the quality family time that I had given up for many, many years because of loyalty to your job. So that’s been good.”
But don’t translate that to mean that Perno is no longer interested in coaching. He’s actually eager to get back into the dugout.
“I think so,” he said. “Some good jobs have already opened. Hopefully I’ll get in the mix. I feel like I’m ready to move forward now. I’m looking forward to another chapter of coaching somewhere.”
Perno expressed interest in the head coaching position at Cincinnati briefly after being dismissed by UGA. That job eventually went to Indiana pitching coach Ty Neal. The Bearcats went 22-31 in his first season.
3. Perno has been in an interesting and somewhat awkward position living in Athens and following college baseball for a living. He’s constantly being asked about the current Georgia team, coached by his successor Scott Stricklin and stocked with players he recruited and coached the last couple of years. But has been hesitant to talk about it.
I could coax only a little out of him when asking him to assess the Bulldogs’ first season without him.
“It’s just a tough league,” he said. “I feel for them. I know what you go through in that league when things don’t fall right. It’s very unforgiving and it’s hard to remain relevant. Obviously I have an interest in all those kids, so I feel for them.”
4. Meanwhile, the 2014 Bulldogs (26-28-1, 11-18-1 SEC) did manage to qualify for the SEC tournament this year, but just barely. They secured the 12th and final seed by a game in a half over Auburn, which was swept at home by LSU this past weekend. Georgia, which lost two of three to Kentucky, will open tournament play with a single-elimination game against No. 22 Mississippi State tonight.
It’s been a long, tough year, but the Bulldogs see their appearance in the league tourney as a step in the right direction.
“There’s no question we wanted to take a step forward this season,” Stricklin said. “Transitions are never easy. We knew there would be bumps in the road. When you have a change in coaches there are different philosophies, different personalities, and that can be hard on everybody. So by no means did I think we were going to come in here and sprinkle magic dust and win a national championship. There’s a lot of work to do. But we felt it was important that we improved and became better as a team and better as baseball players and that we show some progress in a positive direction.”
5. Former Bulldog Josh Murray made his television debut Monday night on the premier of the ABC series The Bachelorette. Murray, 29, is probably best known as the older brother of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Despite their age difference, the two are nearly twins in terms of his physical appearance. But Josh actually played professional baseball before walking on at UGA in 2009 and completing his college eligibility on the scout team. He played in two games with the Bulldogs, according to his bio on georgiadogs.com.
Spoiler alert: Josh made it through the first elimination round on Monday night’s show. Bachelorette Andi Dorfman, an assistant district attorney from Atlanta, seemed to like him. Several blogs have reported that Dorfman’s father is a Bulldogs fan, so that might help him. The AJC’s Rodney Ho wrote about Dorfman and the new season of The Bachelorette last week.
6. Georgia coach Mark Richt was in rare form Monday night when he addressed Bulldogs fans at the latest UGA Day gathering at the Augusta Marriott and Convention Center. He created a bit of a Twitter buzz when he said of star tailback Todd Gurley, “I’m a Gurley man. … We’re gonna ride that big hoss.”
Gurley (6-1, 232 pounds) will be a junior next season and is said to be in good health after missing nearly four full games worth of playing time last year due to injuries. Nevertheless, he managed to gain 989 yards and score 10 touchdowns. As a freshman in 2012, rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns and has averaged more than six yards per carry during his two-year career in Athens.
Of course, Gurley isn’t the only tailback the Bulldogs have. Junior Keith Marshall is set to return from a knee injury and Georgia signed a pair of 5-star prospects in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who are set to enroll in school in June.
There are two more UGA Day get-togethers this week — Wednesday in Columbus and Thursday in Macon — before the big finale July 15 in Gwinnett County.
7. Looking forward to heading over to the Boyd Golf Center at the UGA Golf Course later today to talk to members of Georgia’s men’s golf team. The sixth-ranked Bulldogs are headed to Hutchinson, Kan., later this week to compete in the NCAA Championships.
Georgia qualified with an impressive showing in the San Antonio Regional, which they won by 13 shots. The Bulldogs are seeking their third national championship under head coach Chris Haack and associate head coach Jim Douglas and will be among the favorites again this year. So will fourth-seeded Georgia Tech, which won its regional by 17 shots. Georgia State is also in the field of 30.
Of course, Georgia’s success as a golf program has extended beyond the college ranks. Letterman Brendon Todd (2004-07) won the Byron Nelson Classic this past weekend to record his first career PGA Tour victory. That made him the fifth Bulldog to win on the tour in the past year. He joins Bubba Watson, Chris Kirk, Harris English and Russell Henley.
8. Another Georgia program in the hunt for a national championship this year is the women’s fast-pitch softball team. The Bulldogs (49-13), who are seeded fourth in the NCAA Tournament, had to work harder than expected but dispatched N.C. State in powerful fashion on Sunday.
After falling to the Wolfpack 5-4 on Saturday, Georgia had to come through the loser’s bracket. That proved little more than a nuisance as the Bulldogs won three straight, including belting seven home runs in 9-1 and 8-0 victories over N.C. State to win the regional title.
Now Georgia will need to win two games against Baylor (45-14) in a Super Regional Friday and Saturday at the Jack Turner Softball Complex to advance to the College World Series. Should the Bulldogs advance, it will be their fifth WCWS appearance under coach Lu Harris-Champer. They made the Final Four in their last two trips to Oklahoma City.
9. Neither of Georgia’s teams will be participating in today’s NCAA tennis championship finals at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, but there will be some Bulldogs involved. Oklahoma, which will face off against No. 1 Southern Cal in the men’s final, is coached by former UGA players John Roddick and Bo Hodge.
Roddick, who was a four-time All-American at Georgia (1995-98), has transformed the Sooners’ tennis program in his five seasons as head coach. Hodge was also a four-time All-American at UGA (2001-04) and joined Roddick three years ago.
Today’s 1 p.m. women’s final is between UCLA and North Carolina. The men’s final is set to start at 5 p.m. The singles and doubles competition commences on Wednesday.
The Lady Bulldogs were the top seed but were knocked out by Florida 4-1 in the quarterfinals. Seventh-seeded North Carolina ousted the 10th-seeded Georgia men in the round of 16.
10. This & that: Receiver Uriah LeMay, who recently decided to leave Georgia due to a lack of playing time, will transfer to Charlotte, according to postings on his Twitter feed. The upstart 49ers are coached by former Bulldogs secondary coach Brad Lambert. … Meanwhile, LeMay is still facing theft by deception charges in Athens-Clarke County. He’s and the three other players charged with the same offenses are expected to receive pretrial diversion sentences as first offenders. They’re expected to be arraigned the first week of June.