University of Georgia alumni, fans and friends do care for basketball. With that thought in mind, Athletic Director Damon Evans dropped the axe on the tenure of men's basketball coach Dennis Felton last week. We do need a competitive basketball team to create excitement to tide us over at the end of football season. Yesterday's football signing day is not enough.
I did not say that all UGA supporters care about basketball, but I do think there are enough enthusiasts to fill 10,000 seat Stegeman Coliseum and create a better atmosphere than you will find at a funeral, if the product on the court is a good one. That was not the case during the 5½ year reign of Dennis Felton.
Felton was hired in 2003 after what was the off-the-court fiasco called the Jim Harrick and Jim Harrick, Jr., era. On the court, the Harricks fielded a pretty darned good basketball team and the frequenters to the old barn of an arena loved it. When the games were over is when the trouble started under the Harricks' watch. Felton had a four-year honeymoon to clean up behind them before the wolves came calling.
The most apparent issue with Felton, besides losing games, was the fact that he could not keep players. For years folks blamed this revolving door on Felton having inherited a mess, but in reality he lost more of his own recruits than he did Harrick's. The unanswered question will always be was that because of Felton being too strict or the recruits just being too lax with their responsibilities. I suggest the answer fell somewhere in between.
Felton built his coaching reputation on defense and the Bulldogs usually defended the half court game pretty well. The problem is that in today's basketball nobody beats you much with a purely half-court attack. They use their athletes to run you ragged and by pressing you into oblivion. Georgia never recruited the kind of athletes needed in order to keep up. I never had a clue what Felton's offensive thinking was but it looked, well, offensive.
Felton is mercifully gone now. It would have been immoral to let him finish the season because you could tell by the look on his face that he knew the end was near. The players were like zombies on the court, playing totally without confidence and seldom executing what might remotely look like sound basketball. The losses were piling up in games that were not even close. It was a total embarrassment to everything red and black.
So whom does Georgia turn too now? In paragraph one, I facetiously suggested that UGA fans care about nothing but football. Those who suggest that I'm not being sarcastic will say that Georgia will never get a proven basketball coach because they don't really want one. Why shell out millions of dollars for an established coach when an up-and-comer, like Dennis Felton was six years ago, will suit us just fine?
Hugh Durham, Tubby Smith and Jim Harrick were not up-and-comers. Forget the two years that Smith assistant Ron Jirsa was the coach after Tubby left for Kentucky. Jirsa was just not ready to be a head coach but the feel good aura left by Smith's two seasons suggested that it made good sense to promote Jirsa. As it turned out, that was a mistake and the UGA administration quickly realized it.
Many UGA fans are screaming for a big name like currently retired legend Bobby Knight. I can recall Knight slapping the president of Texas Tech while in line at the salad bar in the school cafeteria.
I just don't see UGA president Michael Adams wanting to stand in "his" veggie line with Bobby Knight fearing that he may get slapped. Some want to beg Tubby Smith back saying his teams were the most exciting in school history. I don't know if Smith is uncomfortable in Minnesota and I always wonder if one can truly come home again.
I do hope that the university will get off the money to hire a good coach. I enjoy basketball when the team is good and the games are exciting. Having a team in March Madness would be just enough to keep my attention until G-Day. Most of you already know this, but for those of you that don't, G-Day is the spring football game. Sarcasm? You tell me.