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January 28, 2009

Georgia Basketball Myths, Vol. 2: Tradition

In our ongoing series about the perceived woes of Georgia basketball, today's installment is on tradition. Several people argue that Georgia will never have a consistently good basketball team because there is no precedent for a clean, sustained period of basketball excellence. It's another argument that does a disservice to our university and its goals of competing at the highest levels in all realms.

The first problem with this argument is that it presumes results based on past performances. In college athletics over the long term, such analysis breaks down fairly quickly. While it may be easier for Oklahoma, Alabama, USC, and Michigan to consistently win on the gridiron, that in no way prevents relative upstarts like Miami (Fla.), Florida, or Florida State, all of whom have won multiple national championships only in the past thirty years, from now beating the old guard consistently and winning championships.

Basketball is even more fluid than football. It requires fewer resources, so more schools can compete effectively. This has been proven by the sustained success of Gonzaga or Butler over recent years. Such results aren't limited to those two. Seven of the top 15 teams in this week's basketball poll have never won a national championship. If tradition mattered so much, UCLA and Kentucky should play for the national championship every year. Neither of those teams, by the way, are in the top 15.

There are two interrelated things that trump tradition: money and coaching. Here's a brief comparison. Before the 1990-91 season, Georgia basketball had two conference championships, cracked the AP top 25 in four seasons, and made four NCAA tournament appearances (although one was later vacated because of NCAA violations). Until that same season, Florida had won one conference championship, appeared in the AP top 25 four years, and had three NCAA tournament appearances. The two programs were virtually identical.*

So what happened in 1990? UF hired Lon Kruger to bring them from irrelevance to mediocrity. Kruger did just that. He also guided the Gators to a Final Four appearance. Kruger's results were spotty, but his hiring put UF basketball on a distinct upward trend. Then, when Kruger left, Billy Donovan came in and made the Gators a national power. All it took was good coaching hires and the commitment to the program that great coaches demand.

UF, a school with no appreciable basketball tradition, went on to win back-to-back national titles after their program's long history of losing. UGA, meanwhile, has remained stuck in its past, watching lots of upstarts with far fewer resources, a much smaller native talent base, and much less potential for national appeal pass the Dawgs by.

It doesn't have to be that way. We have already built a state of the art practice facility and there are talks of further renovations to Stegeman. It appears that the athletic department realizes our program has the same potential Florida has realized. No one is rationally demanding national titles in the short run. What I will demand, however, is a team that is competitive in the SEC. All it takes is money and coaching.


*All my numbers came from the UGA and UF basketball media guides.


BCSAV said...

Awesome write up Quinton. I am tired of the excuses and blame that goes around for why we are not a "basketball school." We have a talent-rich basketball state and its about time Georgia takes advantage of it.

Anonymous said...

Its not like Lon Kruger did it over night. The Gators didn't get to the NCAA tourny untill Kruger's 4th year. The key here is They went after a proven coach.

No coach is going to turn UGA basketball around overnight.

Speaking of Lon Kruger, you know he coaches at UNLV right now. Maybe we should forward Damon Evans his Email address*

Unknown said...

Add Tennessee to that list. No significant basketball tradition or fan base, hired a great coach, built a perennially contending program.

That's the blueprint. And, we even have a slew of great players in state.

Anonymous said...

Georgia and Florida were on pretty much equal footing as late as 2003, really.

Anonymous said...

Money, campus, and recruiting base put UGA in a position above 95% of programs out there when it comes to hiring a coach in any program. The AD position at UGA should be one of the easier positions to succeed in countrywide. If you can't sell UGA, you ain't much of a salesman.

Anonymous said...

Texas is another program that was lost in Nowheresville until they got serious about that roundball stuff and hired Barnes away from Clemson. Tom Penders had some marginal success there prior to that, but nothing like Barnes. The striking similarity between our two programs, I think, is that it took a bitter rival reaching the pinnacle of the game- Oklahoma in their case- to shake them out of their funk.

And by the way, Anon 7:27- I'm a few steps ahead of you. I forwarded Kruger's vitals on to Damon about three weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

UT's Mens team boasts at least 12 SEC Titles. Saying they have no history of winning is just wrong.

They had much more history of success than Florida ever thought of having before FU hired Kruger.

Anonymous said...


You should email those figures to Damon Evans, just in case he doesn't already know about them

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