UGA’s McGarity quickly shoots down Yahoo report

Georgia AD Greg McGarity came out aggressively this morning in defending men’s basketball coach Mark Fox.

Published on Tuesday, 3/7/17, at 8:54 a.m. Eastern.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports released a report late Monday night about the looming Coaching Carousel.

Forde reported that Washington’s Lorenzo Romar and Ohio St.’s Thad Matta are going to be retained. Also, citing anonymous sources, Forde said that Georgia was exploring its options to replace Mark Fox, who has taken the Bulldogs to two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Forde indicated that UGA’s exploration was focused on mid-major coaches. Fox is in his eighth season at Georgia. This year’s team is 18-13 overall, 9-9 in SEC play, but UGA is 1-8 against RPI Top-50 teams.

It has been a tough-luck campaign for Fox’s squad, which lost by two at South Carolina and in overtime at Florida and at Kentucky. Georgia also lost by one at Texas A&M on an extremely controversial call by the referees.

Then two weeks ago, star power forward Yante Maten was lost to a ‘Grade 2’ MCL sprain early in the first half of a home game against Kentucky. UGA would blow a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining and lose another heartbreaker to the Wildcats.

Georgia AD Greg McGarity acted swiftly this morning in defending Fox, releasing the following statement:

“In response to the report by Yahoo Sports, we are NOT in the process of exploring our options to replace Mark Fox. We look forward to Mark leading our program next year and all of our efforts are centered on postseason play. It’s unfortunate we need to respond at this time, but it was necessary to quiet these unfounded rumors.”

As I’ve said a number of times, I believe UGA would be making a mistake in cutting ties with Fox, who has led the Bulldogs to three straight 20-win seasons and could extend that streak to four with a pair of wins in Nashville this weekend.

UGA opens with Tennessee on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. With a win, the Bulldogs would face the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in what would essentially be a road game, as all games are for every SEC school against UK at the SEC Tournament. We should note, however, that Georgia has led for most of the game against UK in three straight head-to-head meetings, including last year’s SEC Tournament semifinals.

Fox’s record at UGA is 144-116 overall, 70-68 in SEC play. Let’s assume it’s a given that Georgia will make the NIT even with a loss to Tennessee (as it should). If that comes to fruition, Fox will have led the 13 teams he’s coached (five at Nevada) to 10 postseason appearances.

Now, a Georgia fan who’s ready to move on from Fox would counter that he’s had eight seasons and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game. To this I would counter with: Since 1996 when Tubby Smith led UGA to the Sweet 16 before losing in overtime to Syracuse in one of the most epic region-semifinal games in NCAA Tournament history, the Bulldogs have won ONE (one!!!) NCAA Tournament game.

Stegeman Coliseum is a dump. Who are you going to get that’s better than Fox, who, by the way, runs a clean program and has universal respect from his peers in the coaching community? Some might say Chattanooga’s Matt McCall, who has done an excellent job in two seasons at the school after serving as an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida. Well, there’s a strong chance that McCall will be there for the taking at this time next year if Fox doesn’t deliver an NCAA Tournament bid, and won’t McCall be more attractive after a third year of seasoning as a head coach?

If Fox is dismissed, the chances of Maten returning to school are probably lost. If Maten returns, UGA has a chance to be really good next year. To go in a different direction would be to start over, and that’s a move that can be made at this time next year without missing out on a hot young coach on the rise.

Finally, Kim Anderson resigned at Missouri on Sunday night. Forde indicates that Cal’s Cuonzo Martin could be in play for the Tigers, who also might be an option for Indiana’s Tom Crean if he decides to leave or is issued a pink slip by Indiana. But Illinois might be a better move for Martin if that job comes open.

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