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Should Georgia hire former Louisville coach Rick Pitino to replace Mark Fox?

Should Georgia hire Rick Pitino as its next basketball coach? A very short debate

Cy Brown

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Should Georgia hire Rick Pitino as its next basketball coach?


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With that out of the way …

Let’s look at a few potential replacements for Mark Fox who led programs that weren’t involved in a prostitution scandal and/or a federal investigation. And there are two names that stand out above the rest.

According to Seth Emerson and Chip Towers of DawgNation, Georgia is expected to begin conducting interviews Monday in Atlanta, and the first candidate set to make his case to the UGA bigwigs is former Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

Matta, 50, reportedly already has had discussions with Ole Miss about its coaching vacancy. He stepped down last June after 13 years as the Buckeyes’ head coach in a “mutually agreed” decision believed to be associated with a chronic back ailment. The assumption is that Matta is sufficiently healthy and re-energized to return to coaching.

Ohio State went 17-15 in Matta’s last season. Before that, the Illinois native had led the Buckeyes to nine Big Ten titles (five regular season and four tournament), two Final Fours and one championship game appearance. Including successful stints at Butler and Xavier, Matta’s all-time winning percentage of .740 (439-154) stands 29th, according to figures kept by sports-reference.com. That’s better than Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Lute Olson, Gregg Marshall and Tom Izzo.

Matta’s resume meshes with the metamorphosis we’ve witnessed in the SEC in recent years. The conference has encountered an infusion of experienced and successful coaches, including Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Mississippi State’s Ben Howland and Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin, among others.

The other standout option — if Georgia is attempting to make a splash on a national level — is former Marquette and Indiana coach Tom Crean, who is reportedly interested in the Bulldogs’ vacancy. Crean was fired by Indiana in 2017 after failing to advance past the Sweet 16 on two occasions and spent the last year as TV analyst. It’s safe to say his expectations would be significantly lower in Athens, which may be attractive. Marquette and Indiana are both basketball schools, making him the most important sports figure when he coached at each. At Georgia, that’s Kirby Smart’ burden. Being able to fly relatively under the radar and not be the center of attention (or criticism) for the first time as a head coach could be enticing to Crean.

Other potential candidates for the job include Earl Grant (College of Charleston), Steve Prohm (Iowa State), Wes Miller (UNC Greensboro), Nick McDevitt (UNC Asheville), Matt McCall (UMass), Steve Forbes (East Tennessee State), Kermit Davis (Middle Tennessee) and Jonas Hayes (UGA assistant). But if athletic director Greg McGarity wants to raise Georgia hoops’ national profile for this hire, Matta and Crean are choices 1A and 1B.

Parting shots or words of wisdom?

But the person who is hired may only be half the equation. The other half is the person doing the hiring, McGarity.

In his final news conference Sunday, Fox was able to truly speak his mind on the state of the program and his relationship with the athletic department. He’s never been a man to throw bombs or burn bridges, but he did say his successor “needs to have a partnership” with McGarity, something his comments imply he never had. From Towers:

“If it can’t happen with me, then hopefully it will happen with the next coach,” he said at his outgoing news conference Sunday at the Stegeman Training Facility.

The obvious inference there is that Fox didn’t feel like he had such a relationship with Greg McGarity. So reporters drilled down on the point Fox had raised.

“That’ll probably be a point where we agree to disagree,” Fox said when asked to elaborate about his relationship with McGarity. “He just asked me if there was something I could tell him that would help him moving forward, and I just said, ‘You need to have a partnership with somebody. You need to have who you can have a great partnership with.’ That’s really the only thing I left with him. I don’t have any ill-will toward anybody; I really don’t. I just think that’s important for this program to be able to take the next step.”

‘Hunker down, you Hairy Dawgs. You’re the national champs.’

You know it was busy weekend when we go 700 words without mentioning a freaking national championship.

The UGA women’s track and field team claimed the first national championship in team history when it took first place at NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, scoring a program-record 61 points. Two Bulldogs also won two individual national titles. Senior Keturah Orji won her third NCAA women’s triple jump title, the second person to ever accomplish that feat. Junior Kate Hall won the individual title in the long jump.

This was the 43rd team national championship claimed by the Georgia athletics, the 30th by a women’s team. This was the first national championship for Georgia in any sport since 2016, when the women’s swimming and diving team brought an NCAA title back to Athens.

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