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February 20, 2014

Reasonable Expectations for UGA Hoops?


By Paul Westerdawg

Over the past ten seasons, the basketball program has struggled. There's simply no other way to look at it.  During that time some of the very old talk tracks have resurfaced about the program such as "We're a football school, and we'll never be good at hoops."

I reject the notion that we're in any way limited in basketball because of football.  I'll get to that in a follow-up post, but I just want to start by asking you the question...

What is a reasonable expectation for UGA basketball?

Over the past 10 years, the wheels have fallen off.  During that time:
  • 48.4% winning percentage overall
  • 36.8% winning percentage in SEC play
  • 20% of seasons with an NCAA birth
  • 30% of seasons with any Postseason (40% if UGA makes NIT in '14*)
*One NIT bracketologist had UGA as a 6 seed; however, he says we're one of the hardest teams to project given our weak RPI. That was also his projection before the sleep walking performance in Knoxville which dropped our RPI from 85 to 92.  Giving Fox the benefit of the doubt he so richly deserves**, let's just say he makes the NIT for UGA's fourth post-season trip in the past 10 years.

So, how does this past decade stack up to another period?  Let's look at 1985-2004.  During that 20 year period, UGA had a wildly different experience despite having 5 different coaches (Durham 11 years, Tubby 2 years, Jirsa 2 years, Harrick 4 years and Felton 1 year).

From 1985-2004, Georgia's record (excluding NCAA sanctions) was:
  • 58.1% winning percentage overall
  • 50.8% winning percentage in SEC play
  • 45% of seasons with an NCAA bid***
  • 80% of seasons with an NIT bid
***The record does not exclude vacated wins because Tony Cole didn't decide any of those outcomes, and we didn't win those games because we gave that bum $300.  The record also assumes that we would have attended the NCAA Tournament in Harrick's final season given that we had a Top 10 RPI when we withdrew from post-season play due to administrative stupidity.

So what is the point?  From 1985-2004, no one would have considered UGA a basketball powerhouse.  The administrative support was dramatically worse. The facilities were dramatically worse both as an absolute architectural statement and relative to our peers.  The in state recruiting base was dramatically smaller as the AAU hoops scene didn't start exploding until the back half of that period.

In other words, we had fewer assets at our disposal yet we won more games and were eligible for the post season twice as often.

Everything that happened over the past 10 years is not all Mark Fox's fault.  It isn't. The blame for that total period should be spread around to a variety of folks including Mike Adams, Vince Dooley, Jim Harrick, Jim Harrick, Jr., Damon Evans, Dennis Felton, and Mark Fox.

Regardless...things shouldn't be this mediocre.

As it specifically relates to Mark Fox, we shouldn't be sitting here in Year 5 of this coaching regime praying for our second winning season in five years. Mark Fox has had as many losing seasons in the past five years as we had during the entire 20 year period from '85-04.  We only had three losing years during that period.

We would be setting a low bar just to strive to be as mediocre as we were during those 20 years and it would still be TWICE as productive as we've been lately.

If we make the NIT, we're going to extend the guy.  I get it.  That's why I wrote the article last week about controlling our destiny. I don't agree with it, but I get it.

But I'm over having the bar re-calibrated to have expectations be so staggeringly low.  That's not all Fox's fault, but I'm ready for the program to do much more than it currently is doing.

So, what are your expectations for UGA hoops?   Thoughts?

PWD

**sarcasm

20 comments:

Ginny said...

I feel like with our resources, the amount of talent in this state and the lack of winning teams in the SEC that we should be one of those 64 NCAA tourney teams on an annual basis. I know that's very far away from where we are as a program now but I don't think it's unreasonable. The situation sucks because I really like Mark Fox and I really really want him to succeed. But I would also really like for Georgia to consistently be competitive in basketball on a yearly basis. It would make the offseason so much more fun. This season has been a bit of a pleasant surprise but I still cannot figure out if this team is actually playing better or if the SEC just sucks that bad.

paulwesterdawg said...

We are playing better now primarily b/c Marcus Thornton is healthy and FINALLY playing a post position instead of the asinine 3 year experiment at wing....and b/c the SEC is rancid and we only play UF, UK and UT once. If we played them twice ... would we finish with a winning SEC record?

Doubtful.

RaleighDawg31 said...

I agree with your premise - we should not accept mediocrity. How could you not agree in the face of the facts you laid out? I was at UGA as an undergrad/grad student during the Tubby/Jirsa/Harrick years, and based on that time, I saw that it was possible to get an exciting, competitive team that fans could enjoy on an annual basis. Hell, if the Gators can do so well with the hoops program, there's no reason we can't.

I'm not so sure I agree on Fox, however. He certainly hasn't had the success I anticipated he would have when he got here, and I also think it doesn't help our patience that he's coming after that Felton era that maybe went on a year or two too long. But I still think he might be a good fit for the program. Assuming we extend him, he'll have everyone but Donte returning next year and I would expect a fairly big leap. If he could actually land a couple of good recruits (and that's a big if at this point), then he might still turn out to be that coach we thought we were getting.

Chris Myers said...

So is it coaching, is it talent, is it apathy from admin? Which do you fix first?
If coaching, who is a realistic possibility? Grant and Fox were both up and coming coaches 5 years ago...many wanted Grant over Fox. neither has had success.
If talent, is it recruiting prowess?
I'm not sure admin apathy is it....sure Steg is ancient, but McGarity has shown he'll go out and make a change with Baseball, Gymnastics, Volleyball.....I think admin will do what is necessary to put a better product on the floor.
I was okay with Fox for the first 3 years. the cupboard was completely bare when he got here save KCP...but I thought recruiting would have heated up a bit by now. Course, to do that, you've got to put a better brand of basketball out there....hard to do without the horses.

paulwesterdawg said...

The cupboard was not bare when he got here. He had 2 NBA draft picks + Gerald + Jeremy and Ware. All of whom would obviously start on this roster. The problem was that he didn't replace those guys fast enough.

The Original Blawger said...

I was at Georgia from 1998 through 2002, so I think my expectations are higher than most. Here's what I saw while I was in school.


'98-'99 - Jirsa year 2. An odd year that we made the NIT but got waxed so bad by Clemson that Jirsa was fired.


'99-'00 - Harrick year 1. A decent team with surprising newcomers in Coleman and Evans.


'00-'01 - Harrick year 2. This was a solid team that barely lost in round 1 of the NCAA tournament to Mizzou in the 8/9 game. Starting 5: Wright, Layne, Williams, Evans, Coleman. Key reserves: Thomas, Daniels, Jones, Dryden, Patrick


'01-'02 - Harrick year 3. OMG this team was awesome. Evans and Coleman were replaced by their understudies Daniels and Thomas. Layne was replaced by Jarvis. Wright solidified himself as the PG, and we had Jonas coming off the bench. This team underachieved in the NCAA tournament losing to Ludacris and the Salukis of Southern Illinois in the 2nd round.


'02-'03 - Harrick's 4th and final year. This is probably the best team Georgia has ever had outside of the team that made the Final 4. Every significant player from the previous year was back, and we added Damien Wilkins. It still hurts to think about what this team could have done in the NCAA tournament.


So, I saw post season caliber teams in 4 of my 5 years (what ... I redshirted ... and I actually graduated in December of '02 so in the middle of Harrick's last season). Is that really so asinine? I don't expect us to make the Final Four or even Sweet 16 consistently (Harrick never even made the Sweet 16). But, I don't think that making the post season (NIT included) 4 of 5 years is unreasonable.

Joe Dash said...

I couldn't agree more. They need to hire a big personality to change the perception of the program - and sorry, but Mark Fox ain't it. I wish he was - what he does with social media and at football games made me want him to succeed, and he seems like a good guy. He also seems (at least this year) pretty good at coaching up inferior talent. But he is never going to attract the big fish, (Or even the medium fish) so why delay the inevitable?

It has become pretty clear that the AAU influences in Atlanta are advising against kids heading to Athens. I thought the Caldwell-Pope draft would help, but it has not. I went to nearly every home game when I was in school, but it has gotten to the point that I don't even want to watch our games on TV. Boring basketball, boring schemes, boring talent. The way UT's big man pushed us around in the post was laughable.

I'd say break out the wallet and hire someone away, but I doubt that happens. The Athletic department won't break the bank for a possible minimal ROI when the department is already operating at a profit.

Justin said...

Over the medium term, there is no reason UGA shouldn't be competing for a postseason birth year in and year out. The resources are there. Between now and then there needs to be a plan in place for a serious talent infusion. And I think the record shows that Fox is not the man to accomplish this. While I agree that the pieces are in-place for a slightly better season next year, the overall talent and recruiting results over Fox's tenure show that this will be the exception rather than the rule. In other words, everything is coming together for Georgia and it will only result in a low-seed NCAA birth, at best. That's just not good enough. Cut the cord now.

Sanford222view said...

Two words, two simple words...Bruce Pearl!

paulwesterdawg said...

Joe - Mark Fox makes Top 30 money NOW as a coach. He makes $1.7 million a year. Pitt's Jamie Dixon only makes $1.8 million and he's the #25 highest paid coach in America. Money for the coach isn't the problem. We've also spend more money on bball facilities than anyone other than Auburn over the past 10 years. We've spent more than anyone except Auburn and SC on bball facilities over the past 15 years.


It isn't money.

paulwesterdawg said...

He can't be hired by anyone until August. I don't want to wait that long and UGA isn't going to hire him. Harrick killed our chance to make a character rehab hire. Personally, I would hire Pearl in a heart beat if I could. But I can't. And he's still under the Show Cause penalty.

Sam J. said...

Recruiting is the problem. Fox has gotten Thornton and KCP, but no other highly rated guys. He came so close with Tony Parker - how good would we be right now with him? I don't care if we are boring or mundane as long has we win. There are a few decent guys left for the April signing. I would make success there the measure of whether Fox stays, not at NIT appearance. If we make the NIT, and he stays, then making the NCAA must be the bar for next season. If Fox cannot make the big dance after 5 years with players he recruited, a second NIT appearance should not be enough to keep him. Somehow, we have to find a guy who can recruit better for UGA. I got to see Dominique and then Vern Fleming - man, that was a long time ago.

Joe Dash said...

Yet somehow still ranks 7th in the SEC behind the likes of Grant and Frank Martin.


Anyway, my point was not that the athletic department is unwilling to spend money. I think they do a fine job of staying competitive in the SEC. I that they are not willing to break the bank to hire an established, successful "name" coach away from a good basketball program. Mark Fox is a fine man, but honestly, I had maybe heard his name once before the coaching search turned to him. We have whiffed on the small school guys the last few hires, maybe it is time to go a more established route.


Unfortunately, our prestige is at a low point, so I feel like its going to take an even bigger contribution on the salary side to lure a "name" coach to Athens.


Bruce Pearl is the logical compromise of course... Big name coach at a discount - but let's be honest, UGA ain't going that route after Harrick's troubles.

paulwesterdawg said...

we offered Mike Anderson $2.3 million which was $300k more than Roy Williams made at the time and $600k more than Calhoun made at the time at UConn. Money isn't the issue.


Would we offer $4 million to get Marshall. No.

If that's what you mean...then no. We will offer enough to get a good coach if we can find one who isnt' scared of the current roster.

paulwesterdawg said...

came close on Parker my ass. He finished 3rd at best behind UCLA and Memphis. That's not close. The stupid thing was not pursuing Charles Mitchell who is performing at a higher level at Maryland and was available without beating out UNC, Duke, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA.

Sam J. said...

From Carvell's 4/23/12 story on Parker's signing:

"Parker waited nearly two weeks after the opening day of the early signing period because he wrestled between signing with UCLA, Georgia or Ohio State. At one point or another during the recruiting process, Parker revealed on Monday that he had each of the three schools as his leader.

His mother went public with her support for Georgia earlier this month.

“Yes, I was in favor of Tony picking Georgia initially because Coach [Mark] Fox is one of my favorite coaches … I love that program,” said Hazel Parker"

Mr. Sanchez said...

That's it though Paul. Just add Adams and Parker from UCLA, and this current squad is NCAA caliber. We are close and Fox is good enough that if he'd fix recruiting we are there. Hire Korey on day 1 instead of any one of the 3 assistants Fox hired, and recruiting would have us with what, 10 maybe 20 if not more wins under Fox. We are closer and spending as you say above. It just takes getting the coaching mix right.

paulwesterdawg said...

You think he stays?

Mr. Sanchez said...

I'm not sure. I think if we make the NIT, then he likely stays. And while it requires a road win, the SEC is bad enough that we can finish top 4 in conference. And I assume the NIT won't leave out the 4th place team in the SEC.
Either way, I'd like to see a staff next year that actually has guys who can recruit talent, develop talent, and put them in good positions on the floor. The question is can we have that with Fox at the top?

Ed Thomas said...

My expectation is to make March matter. We need some meaningful sports in Georgia leading up to the Masters, and if the Dawgs were consistently in the picture for a post-season bid, that would be great. Recruiting will improve when players see that their season isn't going to end on the 1st night of the SEC tournament every year.

 
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