ATHENS — Since Tom Crean was hired as the Georgia basketball coach, he has been doing everything he can to get to know the school — some of that out of necessity. His family isn’t with him yet, and he hasn’t bought a house, so he’s living out of the Georgia conference center, about a hundred steps from his office at the Georgia basketball facility.
So he has been recruiting, leading offseason workouts with his new team — 12 as of Tuesday — and making media appearances. His wife and two of his children are still in Florida, and a daughter is in Los Angeles.
“I’m starting to learn how to FaceTime,” Crean said. “I never liked that before.”
It has been a whirlwind, and with some available time before a workout Tuesday, Crean met with Georgia beat writers and offered updates on a number of subjects:
Jordan Harris’ status
Harris, the sophomore guard who was suspended the latter part of the season, is participating in workouts and appears on track to return next season.
“He’s on the team, and it’s like everything else like I told the team at the very beginning: No assumptions,” Crean said. “There’s going to be no judgments. At the end of the day, things that have been done in the past, it’s not like you can wipe them out. It’s not like you can take things and say, That didn’t happen. But the bottom line is I’m not trying to judge that. I’m trying to evaluate. And I’m evaluating on a consistent, daily basis.”
Harris was suspended twice last season, missing the team’s exhibition games and first two games for an undisclosed reason. He then returned and averaged 15.8 minutes per game off the bench, before being suspended again on Feb. 3. He never returned to practice or games the rest of the season.
It’s not clear whether it was a school issue or if it’s all up to Crean.
“That’s a good question. I guess I don’t know. I know it was no issue for me to bring him back, to put him back on the team. That’s a good question, because I don’t know if there was anything with competition or anything like that. I just knew that he hadn’t been a part of the team. But we’re definitely checking on things on a consistent basis. The most important thing is I’m getting to know him, and him [getting to know] me, just like everybody else.”
As a freshman, Harris started 12 games, averaging 4.7 points and 1.4 rebounds. He averaged 3.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in his abbreviated sophomore season. A 6-foot-4 native of south Georgia (Iron City), Harris offered the team a solid defensive presence, as well as someone with slashing ability. He could occasionally hit a 3-pointer as well.
Jonas Hayes’ departure
Crean reiterated that assistant coach Jonas Hayes had an offer to remain on staff. But a day after Hayes was announced as the new assistant coach at Xavier, Crean continued to heap praise on the former Georgia player and assistant.
“From that Monday on we were together an awful lot, including this morning in there,” Crean said, pointing to the basketball offices. “And he has helped me immensely get acclimated in this area. And for that I’ll always be grateful. Because we hit the ground running in the basketball, we hit the ground running in recruiting. And obviously when you’re the Georgia head coach doors are going to open, but Jonas certainly helped open those, and helped bridge some of those gaps and relationships.
“We’d have loved to have him stay, there’s no question about it. But I totally get where he is at in this and wanting to have something for his growth. I think he’s a head coach — going to be a head coach. Would I have liked to have him grow into it from here, absolutely. But he’s going to be able to grow into that. That’s what his capabilities are.”
2 new assistants
Crean has hired only one staff member, assistant coach Chad Dollar. That leaves two spots open, but Crean doesn’t want to rush into any decisions. Obviously Hayes had a spot if he wanted it, which would have filled two-thirds of the assistant spots. Instead, he still has only made one hire.
But it’s not that Crean is working with a skeleton staff. Many members of Mark Fox’s staff are still working through the end of their contracts this summer, including strength and conditioning coach Sean Hayes, who Crean said is doing “a fantastic job.” And Matt Bucklin, an operations staffer, has a good chance to be retained.
“I’m just going through the process of it, and we’ll get there,” Crean said. “I’m well-aware of the timeframes of recruiting. It was so important to hit the ground running. And obviously Jonas’ situation changed some things. But it hasn’t changed the fact that we’re going to get the best possible situation we can get for our staff.”
Recruiting for 2018
Georgia has one scholarship available right now: There are 10 current players, including Harris, and has signed two players. The NCAA limit is 13 scholarships.
Crean is open to using that spot for either a graduate transfer or a high school player, or perhaps not using it at all. He said he’s still evaluating possibilities.
“We need to get better shooting the ball. Well these guys [the current players] are going to get better shooting the ball, so we’ve got to keep looking at what adds to us,” Crean said. “OK, maybe for a one-year situation, maybe for a longer haul, just what becomes the best fit. So I’m not married to any certain thing there.”