ATHENS — The Georgia basketball family is rallying around Coach Tom Crean, whose mother Marjorie passed away Thursday in Michigan.
Bulldogs’ assistant coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said he wanted to respect Crean’s privacy at this sensitive time.
But Abdur-Rahim confirmed what many of the Georgia players have already come to know and respect: Tom Crean is a man of faith and a man of great strength and resiliency.
There’s no doubt Crean will be coaching with a heavy heart when Georgia (9-7, 1-3 SEC) plays host to Florida (9-7, 1-3) at noon on Saturday in a nationally-televised CBS tilt.
But throughout these final times of his mother’s life in Michigan, Crean has shown exemplary leadership in Athens amidst a challenging schedule dealt him and UGA the SEC conference office.
A sellout crowd will be at Stegeman Coliseum to show their support for Crean and the Bulldogs. UGA has already played the three highest-ranked teams in the SEC in Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn — easily the most difficult early slate in the league.
Georgia fans have responded, having already sold out seven games this season.
It’s the most sellouts for the Bulldogs since they had eight during the 2002-03 season.
Crean has been appreciative of the support, but obviously, he has also been dealing with a much more painful, personal family issue for some time.
“It’s a pretty private matter, (but) the one thing that I will say is you know Tom Crean is a really strong person,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Obviously you know that his faith is very important to him, but just watching him here over the last you know week or so, you just realize how strong of a person he is. He’s still been able to come to practice dealing with what he was dealing with and still give guys and give our guys and our staff 100-percent effort, 100-percent focus on what we’re doing and preparing us.
“I think he’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around. I’m sure it’s been difficult for him, but how he’s done it I couldn’t answer that for you.”
Crean has kept the focus completely on basketball, declining to elaborate on his mother’s health after a road loss at then-No. 12 Auburn last Saturday.
The Georgia head coach hinted that he may have to make some lineup changes to spark his team’s defensive effort and slow starts in the second half.
“We know that’s been our Achilles heel this season,” Abdur-Rahim said, “so we have to make sure we do a great job of just mentally coming out with great energy you know physically being prepared to playing knowing that it’s a 40-minute game.”
Georgia sophomore star Nicolas Claxton said the Bulldogs are ready to change their mental approach.
“I think it is more of a mental thing, I wouldn’t really say it is a physical thing,” Claxton said. “We have to make sure to come out with the right mentality and make sure that we starting the second half with the right mindset and ready to go.”
Georgia is 7-2 at home this season, with the only losses coming to ranked opponents Arizona State (No. 20) and Kentucky (No. 12).
Georgia basketball assistant Amir Abdur-Rahim