ATHENS — On Tuesday night, it appeared Georgia might be honing in on a new basketball coach. Thad Matta had come back to Athens, this time with his wife, and he had a firm and lucrative offer.
But when word seeped out that Matta had returned home to Indianapolis on Tuesday night, rather than stay in town for, say, a press conference the next day, it became apparent no deal was done. Then on Wednesday Matta announced he was not going to Georgia, and the Bulldogs still needed a coach.
Matta appears to be the only candidate that Georgia has interviewed to replace Mark Fox, fired on Saturday after nine years. Athletics director Greg McGarity could have spoken on the phone with other candidates, and the search firm that UGA is using, Collegiate Sports Associates, probably has been in contact with candidates as well.
So where do the Bulldogs turn now? Some possibilities:
Tom Crean, former Indiana coach: Crean was contacted by representatives for UGA over the weekend, and he appears interested in the job. But Crean has also interviewed at Pittsburgh, ESPN reported on Wednesday, so if Georgia has interest it may need to act quickly.
Earl Grant, College of Charleston coach: If Georgia wants to interview the 41-year-old Grant it will have to wait a few days. His team plays Auburn on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Shaka Smart, Texas coach: This also would require some waiting, as Texas is in the NCAA Tournament and will meet Nevada Friday afternoon. Why would Smart leave Texas after just three years? It’s not clear, but he’s been connected to the Louisville job, and Smart has a small connection to McGarity. They crossed paths at Florida for about eight months about a decade ago.
Jerod Haase, Stanford coach: Haase is in second first year at Stanford after building UAB into a team that made the NCAA tournament and made the second round in his third year. Prior to that Haase, who played at Kansas in the 1990s, was a longtime assistant at North Carolina. Haase does not have Stanford in the NCAA tournament, so he could be available to talk, but his team is in the NIT.
Tubby Smith, former Memphis coach: Just a few minutes after the Matta news came out on Wednesday, word also emerged that Smith was out after two years at Memphis. It has been 21 years since Smith left Georgia for Kentucky, and Smith has been at four different schools — Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis — since then. Would he be interested in coming back to the school he led to a surprising Sweet 16 run in 1997? It’s hard to think he wouldn’t. Would Georgia want a reunion? That’s the bigger question.
Ron Hunter, Georgia State coach: Hunter has done a great job at a mid-major and it’s in-state. That would make him a seemingly obvious candidate, but there has been no word of contact between Georgia and Hunter.
Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro: He’s another candidate that Georgia would have to wait a few days to talk to; Miller’s team plays Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
Jonas Hayes, Georgia assistant coach: There are no indications yet that Georgia is considering promoting Hayes, the former Georgia player who has been a strong recruiter on Fox’s staff. There are also no indications that Georgia would rule him out, either.