Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Georgia could find itself in Hewitt/Longoria spot with Mark Fox

Despite a couple of questionable late-game strategies, or lack thereof, Mark Fox's first two years have gone according to script. He's taken a team that was generally a bottom dweller in the SEC East under Dennis Felton, and promptly turned it into a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, it's been a team that has proven it can take virtually any team in the country right down to the wire (you'll recall a heart-breaking double OT loss to 2-seed Notre Dame earlier in the year).

As is the case with all successful coaches at schools not rich in tradition (at a particular sport) "big-time" schools and schools that consider themselves bigger-time than UGA are bound to come a-callin'. It's already rumored that NC State could be looking into making a play for Fox, though I don't know too many folks that consider NC State to be some giant leap up from Georgia basketball.

Whatever the case, UGA basketball doesn't have the same cache as UGA football (yet). So, Greg McGarrity and the Georgia athletic department could have some decisions to make.

Although for more monetary reasons than anything else, Georgia Tech was more or less forced to give Paul Hewitt a ridiculous contract based upon his early successes at the school. After all, he was recruiting well, and took the school to its first Final Four appearance in 15 years. As it turned out, he and his teams gradually slipped into mediocrity, even in a less powerful ACC. Basically, they felt they needed to do everything they could to ensure Hewitt would stay, rather than lose him to a school like Texas, Kentucky, etc. It bit them in the ass.

Conversely, much was made of the long-term, big-money contract given to Tampa Bay 3rd Baseman Evan Longoria when he'd accomplished little more than being named the organization's top prospect. Being a smaller market team, though, they knew they'd lose him to free agency as soon as he was eligible if they didn't. In their case, it worked out splendidly, as they're now paying him well below market value.

Sure, two different situations, and different to Georgia's, but the underlying concept is the same. Georgia will have a tough time convincing its head basketball coach to stay if he's courted by a traditional power. We saw it happen when Kentucky came for Tubby Smith, and don't forget that the Duke job will likely be opening in a few years.

So, Georgia may be forced to give Fox a big, long-term contract based upon a relatively small, albeit impressive body of work.

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