Da' Dream Makin' Cold Blooded Sausage

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Monday, December 17, 2012

How serious are we about basketball?

It's no secret that I love some Dawg round ball. It's also no secret that this season is coming out like a fat frozen turd. So with that in mind, we'll take a quick look at the situation before curling back up in to the fetal position and crying in a corner.

First, we have to deal with Mark Fox.  He's shown some good as a coach, and a lot of bad lately.  One problem I've worried about since the beginning is his offense.  The triangle isn't exactly a good fit for a lot of the great athletes with underdeveloped skills and awareness you'll get in Georgia.  Combine that with it's read and react sets that rely on veterans working together in unison, and it's just not an easy offense to go with in a southern college thanks to limited NCAA practice times and an ever-evolving roster as your players graduate just when they get things down pat.  But the offense did work well in his second season, with Trey Thompkins as a do-it-all big man focal point, Jeremy Price working his wide butt on the low block, Travis Leslie attacking off the wing with Gerald Robinson, and savvy, smart PG Dustin Ware running the show.  Getting that combination again isn't going to be easy.

So there's the offense we have to contend with, and on top of that, our piss poor recruiting.  I'm not going to throw names under the bus, but our backcourt play has been horrendous, in part because Fox simply didn't recruit any until this past season.  Our bigs have all been projects, and some just not SEC caliber at that.  It's a disaster mix, and if Fox stays, he MUST figure out a way to start recruiting better.  Adding JJ Frazier and Juwan Parker to Mann, Gaines, and KCP should help some, but we could use another SF that can shoot, and we have to start signing the best in Georgia.  Well, not the best, but putting up a giant goose egg on top 150 in-state players when you have a dozen or so to choose from is absolutely unacceptable.  Korey McCray should be available once Ben Howland gets done destroying UCLA, will Fox correct his biggest, earliest mistake?  There's a dozen or more others coaching high school at a high level, or the game in some other way around Atlanta who'd also fit that bill of helping crack the long unopenable nut that is Atlanta hoops recruiting for Athens.  If he stays, getting the ability to recruit Atlanta MUST be corrected, because the staff as currently constituted has shown time and again that it will fail at this necessary task.

OK, so what if the losses to Youngston St, Southern Miss, Iona, and others is just too much, and McGarity pulls the trigger.  Then what?  We need to spend some of our beloved profits, that's what.

The lack of willingness to fund a full fledged fix up of Foley Field is disturbing, but baseball isn't the proven money maker men's basketball can be (although with 30+ home games to sell tickets to and limited scholarships thanks to Title IX, it can be a good revenue producer instead of a revenue drain).  And as shown the last time we were in the market for a head coach, we are willing to pay for proven quality (see the chase of Mike Anderson from Missouri before he got a raise and then got to go back to Arkansas).  But it will cost.

The two most obvious names are Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens.  Smart, who McGarity may have some familiarity with thanks to the year they were both at Florida, has a lot of positives.  He's been an assistant at Florida, and at Clemson, so he's recruited Atlanta, and they know him.  He's done well continuing, if not improving, on what Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel did at VCU before him.  He can recruit, and he can coach.  He also refused Illinois when they came offering a huge pay day.  If we want Shaka Smart, we have to sell the hell out of the positives of the program (recruiting base, quality facilities, TV exposure, major market access, and the ability to build your way and be the legend instead of carrying on a legends' past), while showing our past problems (lack of support in all ways) is behind us.  We also have to pay a salary close to Mark Richt.  As said, he turned down slightly less than Richt makes from the Illini.  Assuming Richt gets a pay bump over $3m per year, it can be assumed a near $3m annual salary (say $20 over 6 years or $25m over 8) has to be the starting point.  But he could recruit, and coach, and with the right staff could easily flourish.  There is no guarantee, but he seems like as strong a bet as any, if we can make him believe, and show a willingness to pay him (and his staff + other necessary expenses to strengthen the program).

Stevens, who took Butler to back-to-back national title games, has the coaching pedigree, but not the history down south to make instant credibility, somewhat similar to Fox in that regard.  But where Fox made the mistake on staff, Stevens could address that just like a previously unknown Brian Gregory did at Georgia Tech, and his recruiting has shown the fruits of those staff decisions.  Again, McCray should be available this summer as an assistant hire.  Jonas Hayes could be kept to further solidify the relationship.  Stevens has shown beyond the shadow of a doubt he can coach 'em up.  Give him a staff to add the talent, and it could be a great match.  Of course, why would he want to come south instead of look for the best job in the midwest?  Again, we have to pay.  He, like Smart, passed on Illinois.  So the above mentioned $3m+ per year numbers are a starting point, and even then may not get him to jump.  But he's going to be a name everyone discusses until he leaves Butler for a bigger conference gig.

After that, you are left with where we've been the last two years, looking at a mid major lottery ticket.  Maybe they pan out like Billy Donovan did at Florida, or like Fox and Felton have here.  It's a risk, but a cheaper risk.  Josh Pastner has the recruiting chops, but hasn't shown the coaching acumen at Memphis.  Plus they pay, so he's not likely much of a savings on the Stevens/Smart options.  And you'd want to compliment his recruiting hustle with an expert Xs and Os assistant for in-game work.

Mick Cronin has done some good work at Cincinatti, and could be a viable option, and perhaps we can poach from another Big East school like one of the departing catholics (Buzz Williams at Marquette, Kevin Willard at Seton Hall?).  Or maybe we pull in an old stop gap, like Lon Kruger from UNLV, Dave Fisher from San Diego St, among others, to hopefully just get us on a firmer footing for five years before we go back to the well for a long term fix at hoops head coach.  Or maybe we can pull something no one sees coming out of left field, and rob a big name coach from a major conference school (ala LSU snagging Trent Johnson from Stanford, or South Carolina's hire of Frank Martin).

But we are about to find just how serious Georgia is about being a competitive men's basketball program.  The pieces are there to be a yearly NCAA Tournament participant, if we ever quit shooting our own feet off.  But will we?  And are we willing to pay what it takes to get there?  We'll see just how committed Fox is to turning this thing around.  Or if he doesn't have the opportunity (don't be surprised if a retiring Adams and hands off McGarity give him one more year to fix the issues), then when we go looking, we'll know.  Either we pay to finally step up and play with the big boys, or we keep cycling through the same messes that have put us in the punk position we've been stuck with for the majority of the past decade, and the majority of my life.  I'm not optimistic, or as I said on dawgsports.com the other day, I'm "hopefully pessimistic".  These next 3 months are going to be hard.

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