While I never thought as highly of Dennis Felton as I did (and do) of Tubby Smith, I also never called for the Bulldogs’ most recent previous head basketball coach to be fired with anything approaching the vehemence with which I have called for the heads of more than one defensive coordinator. The fact that the guy was more of a clothes horse than a team player rubbed me the wrong way, but that’s not the sort of thing over which you want to see a guy lose his job.
Paul Westerdawg’s coverage of this has been thorough and ongoing, so much so that anything I could add would be redundant to a great extent. However, a reaction was expected, so a reaction I shall give:
1. This was the right move at the right time. The Jim Harrick fiasco has long since ceased to be an excuse and whatever progress has been made since then stopped a while back. There was no point in prolonging the inevitable, and, given Georgia’s limited hoops heritage, there was nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost in waiting to enter the market along with all the other teams that will be looking for new basketball coaches in short order.
2. As exciting as it was, last year’s S.E.C. title run was a total fluke. As much as Coach Felton complained about having to play so many games in so few days while dangerous weather systems forced his team onto an archrival’s home court---seriously, you can’t make this stuff up---the fact is that, when the team had time to settle down, collect its thoughts, and realize what it was doing, the magical run ended after a single half in the N.C.A.A. tournament. Coach Felton’s most noteworthy achievement on the hardwood also was his least representative. It was nice and it was fun, but it was a chimera.
3. It’s time to find a bold new coach who has proven some but needs a larger stage on which to prove more. Now is not the time to promote from within or find someone with a lengthy track record; we have done both of those things in recent years, and neither worked. We need to re-learn the lesson from the best Georgia basketball coaching hire most of us can remember (Tubby Smith) and recall what our rivals to the south did to boost their own weak roundball tradition by going out and getting Billy Donovan. It’s time to bring in someone young and hungry who has done all he can do at a lower level and is ready to perform at the highest level.
I didn’t care about basketball in the slightest back when the only S.E.C. teams that cared about hoops also happened to be the ones that were no good at football. There was a coach at my high school who wore a T-shirt that read: "It is better to have wrestled and lost than to have played basketball." Change wrestling to football and you had my basic attitude . . . but, now that our rivals are serious about basketball, we have to be serious about it, too. Heck, we at least have to get our men’s basketball program to the level of our women’s basketball program. I suspect there is a ceiling on Georgia basketball, but I’m ready to be convinced that there’s at least a floor; I want the Bulldogs to be good on the court, but I need them not to be an embarrassment.