Josh Brooks, Athletics Director for UGA, has a pretty easy gig right now. Football is king, and is also King. So fundraising should be relatively easy, and most everyone around the athletics department is happy. Football just won a title, and many other sports are also enjoying success, albeit maybe not national title success.
But things are good. Except for in men’s basketball. That sport is, as it seems to have always been in Athens, struggling. This gives Brooks’ a unique opportunity. No one really cares if things are bad, or somehow get worse, in the program, so long as football is winning. That, sadly, may be why things routinely are such a struggle with men’s basketball at UGA.
There is also opportunity though, as long has been said about the program. Atlanta and the state of Georgia produce excellent basketball players on a routine basis. It’s one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for the sport in the country. And we have a program that in spite of all it’s flaws, can still help kids realize their dreams in the game (see Edwards, Anthony and being the #1 overall pick and off to a pretty good start to his NBA career). This is a place where a coach, and player, can build their own legacy and be the start of greatness instead of just one in a long line. That is to say, there’s positives to sell for the right vision in spite of all the issues and struggles.
And as of today, Tom Crean’s sales pitch is falling flat. He landed Edwards, and yet still couldn’t make an NCAA Tournament. We’ve had solid players in Toumani Camara, Sahvir Wheeler, and others come and go. We’ve had elite legacy recruits not even give us a look not once, but twice in their college decision with Walker Kessler. We were slowly getting better in terms of SEC wins , starting with 2, then, 5, and last year reaching 7. But none of those seasons, not the 16-16 second season, nor 14-12 last year, were enough to get a post season bid. And this year, with the transfer portal dominating college basketball so thoroughly, we got a completely changed roster, and the results are bad. As in 5 wins total and 0 in SEC play bad. How we knocked off Memphis will remain a mystery, because this team is simply not performing.
There’s talent, and they can do well for a half. But there’s two halves in basketball, and one of the two tends to result in really, really bad results. So what is Josh Brooks to do? If he wants to pinch pennies, and give Crean one more chance, who’s gonna complain? A very, very small segment of the fanbase while the vast majority stay happy with football. But it seems there’s an inevitable change coming, the only question remains when. And then of course, who next?
That’s long been the issue with Georgia. Want a proven veteran of the coaching wars? Tom Crean and Jim Harrick have been that, and both ended in disaster. Want a hot young, up and comer? Tubby Smith, Mark Fox, and Dennis Felton have been that, and the results varied. There are some names out there, including a handful of former players. Big man and former SEC Tournament champion Dave Bliss has been working on NBA benches as an assistant for over a decade now, starting with the Oklahoma City Thunder before a move to New York and the Knicks and now back in Oklahoma City (where he was the head coach of their summer league team). Jonas Hayes has been working under Travis Steele on Xavier’s staff since leaving his assistant coach job in Athens several years back, while his brother Jarvis is an assistant under Rob Lanier at Georgia State as arguably the most prominent and popular former Dawgs in the basketball coaching world.
But would any of the three make for a good fit in Athens? Would they even want the job being as fully aware of the obstacles that go with it as former players who’d be venturing out as head coaches for the first time? And if not them, then who? Make a run for Brad Stevens or Billy Donovan to come back to college from their NBA jobs? Make a move for a disgraced, but highly regarded former head coach like Sean Miller, who supposedly was all but ready to come to Athens back when Dave Bliss and his teammates pulled off that miracle SEC Tournament title that convinced the powers at the time to not fire Dennis Felton despite the problems that only increased? Wait to see who becomes the hot name in NCAA Tournament time, and hope we can convince them when others will also be on their tail?
Plain and simple, there’s multiple directions Josh Brooks could take this program. But the question is where, and will it ever have enough support to make a difference?