ATHENS, Ga. – The first contract offer that he received to be the head coach at Georgia, Mark Fox says he turned it down.
(Photo by John Kelley/UGA Sports Communications)
“It wasn’t long enough,” Fox said.
Clearly Fox wasn’t blind to the historical struggles in building a consistent winner out of Georgia basketball or the state of the program he first inherited.
So he wound up agreeing to a six-year deal through the end of the 2014-15 season (it was extended one year after an NCAA tournament run two seasons ago). After this season Fox will have three years remaining on a contract that wasn’t viewed as being long enough when Georgia made the NCAA tournament in his second year with the program.
“Here’s what you have to understand: We took over a situation and we put together a better team the second year, and then we had two guys leave early (for the NBA), and it’s almost like we have to rebuild it again,” Fox said Tuesday. “You guys may know, but I think (Georgia) has only had four or five guys go out early in the history of the program. Two of those guys were a year-and-a-half ago. … That’s made it a little bit more challenging, but it is what it is. We’ve got to put together a team that can win some games.”
The Bulldogs’ record since losing Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie after that NCAA at-large bid and first-round loss to Washington is 22-27, including a 7-10 mark to open this season.
Losses to the likes of Youngstown State, Southern Miss and Iona haven't been crowd-pleasers. And despite a weekend conference home win over LSU, Wednesday night’s visit from Florida – 77-44 winners in Gainesville two weeks ago – looms as a very tall task.
Criticism and job speculation in fan circles has accompanied results this season, though Fox says he’s not paying attention to anything but his team.
“I don’t worry about the outside,” Fox said. “I’ve got to do what’s best for this team and this program in the long haul. And that’s all I’ll ever do. … I don’t pay attention to anyone on the outside. Everyone has all the answers and no solutions, and you can’t please everybody. We’re going to do what’s right. We got it squared away once. We’re going to do it again.”
Recovering from LSU
Leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said he received a Tetanus shot for teeth puncturing his knee and Nemanja Djurisic nearly had a broken nose after a rough-and-tumble second half in Saturday’s win over LSU.
Djurisic did not break his nose, according to Fox, though he is wearing a protective mask in practice right now.
“It doesn’t look very good,” Fox said of Djurisic. “He’s got two black eyes, but they say it’s not broken. He certainly had all the signs and the amount of the blood that he lost.”
While the option is there, Djurisic doesn’t have to wear the mask Wednesday against Florida and said he might not because he had trouble seeing with it because of sweating on the court in practice.
The mighty Gators
Florida (14-2, 4-0 SEC) jumped to No. 8 nationally after whipping then-No. 17 Missouri 83-52 this past weekend in Gainesville. The Gators carry a six-game win streak into Wednesday night’s 8 p.m. game at Stegeman Coliseum.
“The Florida team we saw and the one I’ve watched on tape is way better than every team we’ve played,” Fox said, “and we’ve played some good teams. They have a terrific club. They really do.”
What might UGA do to make this game different from the 33-point road defeat?
“We just have to play hard for 40 minutes,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Down in Gainesville we kind of just gave up after a couple of minutes of the second half and let them just beat on us. Now since we’ve got them at home, we’ve got to come out and compete, play hard and limit our mistakes.”
Forward Marcus Thornton (knee surgery) remains completely out of practice drills and “I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Fox said.
Thornton, who underwent two knee surgeries in the year leading up to it, had one of those knees scoped and cleaned up again in late December. It’s uncertain if he will be able to play again for Georgia this season.
“I can’t redshirt him,” Fox said. “If the doctors deem that he had a season-ending injury then he could apply for a medical redshirt, but he could not even apply for that until the season is complete. You’ve got to try and get back, because there’s no guarantee you’re going to get it. … It’s just a real tough situation for him.
“I feel awful for him. Awful.”