When Mark Fox saw athletics director Greg McGarity fire Mark Richt, he should have known that no coach is truly safe at the University of Georgia, regardless of loyalty or body of work.
In the Southeastern Conference, the rise of Nick Saban at Alabama has proven to be a career killer for the league’s other coaches who don’t happen to win national titles on a regular basis. It used to be that SEC basketball didn’t have that pressure, but John Calipari changed that, and expectations have risen sharply.
Georgia basketball, under head coach Mark Fox, hasn’t won an SEC title, or gone deep into the NCAA Tournament, but not even the great Hugh Durham has has a run as consistently successful in the regular season as Fox has over the last four years.
With an NIT bid, and at least one win there, Fox has a chance to lead the Bulldogs to their fourth-straight season with 20 or more wins. That has never happened in the history of Georgia basketball.
In a time when college basketball is as competitive from top to bottom as it has been in a long, long time (or maybe ever), Fox has brought solid recruits to Athens, and won a good number of games on a consistent basis. It appears, however, that consistent success without banners and trophies these days can still land a coach in the unemployment line. Mark Richt found that out last season.
Fox is 145-117 (.553) at Georgia. Hugh Durham went 298-216 (.579) in his legendary career at Georgia, and never won 20 plus games even twice in a row. Durham is deservingly revered in Athens, having led the Bulldogs to their only final four appearance, and he didn’t even win 20 games with Dominique Wilkins on the roster for three years.
So fox has his faults, and can’t seem to get over the hump. It’s understandable to be frustrated with a lack of post-season success, but consistency should count for something, and Mark Fox has earned another year in Athens to give it another go.
It’s tough to see the career of a great player like J.J. Frazier come and go without any team hardware to show for it, but remember that after Dominique left for the NBA Draft in 1982, the next season saw an SEC title and final four appearance for the Bulldogs.
Patience isn’t a valued virtue in the world of college athletics anymore, and it’d be hard to defend a coach like Mark Fox if the 2017-18 season doesn’t produce much fruit, but the chatter about firing a guy so historically consistent is detrimental to a program on the verge.
Georgia may fall on its face next season under Mark Fox, and firing him would be the right move without a doubt, but something about being mad at him this season for losing to a team like Kentucky a couple of times just seems silly.
Fox coached down the stretch without Yante Maten, and talks of replacing him heated up. It seemed a lot like the heat that Mark Richt came under as folks didn’t factor in that he’d lost Nick Chubb to a season-ending injury. How about someone comes down to where you work and smashes up your computer keyboard, then scoffs at your productivity?
Fox’s seat should certainly be deservedly warm, but talks of firing him on the verge of an unprecedented fourth consecutive 20 plus win season is just silly. Greg McGarity made the right move coming out publicly to defend Fox after apparently false reports surfaced about his possible firing.
Nobody is saying that Mark Fox is going to win the SEC next season, or make a deep tournament run to save his job, but firing him in 2017 isn’t the right move for Georgia Basketball, and it appears McGarity knew that. I was critical of his firing of Richt, but his defense of Fox was a good decision.
If this time next year Mark Fox hasn’t produced something of substance besides wins after nine seasons, send him packing, but for now, he’s the best fit for the Georgia Bulldogs.