I don’t want to make this a full on "Fire Fox" post. For several reasons. To start, I like Mark Fox a lot as a person. I also respect the efforts he has made as a Bulldog and as a Coach at UGA. Coach Fox inherited a mess, and he also inherited a program that has apathy across the board with the staff, the players, the coaches and the fans. He had no small task to face. He came in and hit the pavement with his feet, banging on doors on Frat row and asking people to attend games. He stayed engaged at almost all UGA sporting events, making appearances at football games, and at multiple women’s sports. He broke out the silver uniforms in recognition of the "dream team" signing class. Coach Fox understood that basketball wasn’t the biggest apple in the basket, and accepted it, nay, embraced it. And for that, he did a lot more than higher paid and higher profile coaches to be a Bulldog. I sure appreciate him for that. He truly embraced the G, and we owe him a big thank you for that.
His challenges have been on many fronts as well. It took Greg McGarity a year too long to start addressing ticketing issues, and the word I get from campus is at times you would barely know there is a basketball team with very little advertisement and promotion pushes. Bottom line is our Athletic Department isn’t doing everything they can do to generate basketball interest and support. We talked here two years ago about addressing ticketing and the no shows, and it took a year after that (and 5 years too late) to make a minor adjustment by raising season ticket prices. The AD, however, still gives the appearance of not willing to fire all the guns on making basketball into a premier sport. This is important to take serious note of, because regardless of coach, without full athletic department support we may just be putting a more expensive and better band aid on a greater wound. Just as football requires all guns a blazing from the AD, so does basketball. The University of Georgia has not demonstrated it will do everything it can do, particularly with money, to support its own athletic programs.
The concept of firing Mark Fox literally breaks my heart. I want him to have success, because he has become a Bulldog, because he disciplines his players, because he is a good man, because the last thing we need is more upheaval in the basketball program. And, although I may catch some hell for it, I feel our fans have reached an all new level of apathy for basketball and even when we win or have some moderate success, as we did two years ago, the Steg still has empty seats and generally I get the impression folks are just waiting for G day. I really would like to see more basketball support because if the fans can at least show motivation, the players and future recruits won’t feel demoralized, which is where we are at now. At this point, however, we need wins most of all to change the perception of this program, and after 4 years, it is fully Coach Fox’s program and players, and it’s wins we are most short on. We have often said that although Coach Fox faced athletic department problems, and was not a good recruiter in Atlanta, he could at the least coach good X and Os and coach up moderate talent. That no longer seems to be the case. We have basic, basketball 101 problems that are simply to horrid to claim our players are getting good coaching or that we are recruiting smartly. We have problems with free throws, inbounding, responding to a full court press, leaving players stranded, not moving to the paint to rebound, and basically standing around flat footed watching rather than playing. That lack of energy and basic basketball IQ will now have to fully fall on Coach Fox.
Yes, I believe we have several levels of problems. We have problems as apathetic fans, we have an AD that isn’t miserly but is just stingy, and we have scholarship players that simply don’t seem to care at times. All of that said, it doesn’t look like things are going to get better this year, and the biggest cure-all is a winning basketball team. This UGA team will not go to the NCAA tournament yet again (and again and again), this team will not win the SEC, this team will likely not go to the NIT and this team likely won’t have a winning record. After 4 years, that is simply too much fail to carry on with things the way they are, and as much as I like Coach Mark Fox as a person and a bulldog, it is now time for Greg McGarity to make a hard decision to remove Mark Fox. We have too many resources and too much money and too much instate talent not to do better. But that alone is not enough. We must be willing to spend 75-90% of Coach Richt’s pay (yes, a truck load of money) on a real, serious, hard, tough coach that can recruit and can coach. We need to pay for a coach that also hires on assistants to fill in for his weaknesses, and does it immediately, not years later. I fully support a system of a short contract, but one with a lot of nice bonuses for success. Bonuses for NCAA tourney bids, and bonuses for winning each round in the tourney. We should pay solid bonuses for winning an SEC and winning an NIT. A system of bonuses protects our sacred profit driven budget while encouraging a coach to want to come to UGA and win.
I respect, admire and have nothing but good things to say and think of about Coach Mark Fox. I wish him all the best in all his endeavors in life and wish his family well. At this point, however, he is simply not the coach for UGA, and 4 years is ample time to see how it will work out. We as fans need to rededicate ourselves to caring about basketball, and we need to expect our AD to spend the money and give this sport the recognition it needs. A smart hire this spring, with the willingness to spend the money, can yield results in less than two years. I simply don’t think even I can bare to watch a 2013-14 team of lackluster, un-energetic play combined with such low basketball IQ. We can do better in basketball, and we should. And at this point, it starts with the removal of Coach Fox and the hiring of someone who can pump energy and talent into the program, and get some wins and generate some momentum. On a personal note, it saddens me that I have had to pen this article today. Best of luck to all and