ATHENS — Nicolas Claxton grew up with a Dwyane Wade jersey in his bedroom. He also had a Dwyane Wade replica. So when he found out that the man who recruited and coached Wade in college — Tom Crean — would be his new coach at Georgia, Claxton knew exactly who he was. Although he didn’t know much else.
“I didn’t really know what to think, because of course I didn’t know who he was at all. But his résumé speaks for itself,” Claxton said. “So we’ll see if we can continue that legacy.”
Tyree Crump knew even less about Crean. He was back home in Bainbridge last month, on UGA’s spring break, when his uncle sent him a text and breaking the news to him about Crean being hired.
“So I started looking up information about Tom Crean. Who is the coach?” Crump said, mimicking pushing buttons on his phone. “And turns out he coached Dwyane Wade. And he coached Victor Oladipo, Yogi Farrell. So that’s always good.”
It’s been almost four weeks now since Crean, the former Indiana and Marquette coach, was hired. The Bulldogs have begun offseason workouts with Crean, who has been getting to know the 10 scholarship players he inherited.
One of Crean’s calling cards is that he wants his teams to shoot the 3. That would seem to play beautifully for both Crump and Claxton, who didn’t get to shoot it beyond the arc as often as many would have liked. Especially Crump, a high-volume scorer who usually didn’t start because of perceived deficiencies in other areas, such as defense.
“What I think he’s doing will be a great fit for me; the offense that we’ll probably run will be a great fit for me,” Crump said. “But I’m learning a lot of stuff about Coach Crean, and he’s learning a lot of stuff about me. So we’ll see how that flows when the season gets here.”
That doesn’t mean Crump was celebrating when Mark Fox was fired last month.
“I think Coach Fox was a great coach. His time was up, and I hate that. I just wish him the best,” Crump said. “It is what it is.”
In fact, Crump said the team’s decision not to play in the NIT was directly tied to loyalty to Fox.
“We didn’t want to play in the NIT because Coach Fox wouldn’t have gotten the credit. We got together as a team and we didn’t want to play, because it wasn’t going to be on his résumé,” Crump said. “We were playing for Georgia. We wanted to play for Coach Fox.”
Claxton had a slightly different version of events, calling it “more of a senior decision.” Fox said after his firing that he let the players decide, including whether Fox could coach the team in the NIT (seniors Yante Maten and Juwan Parker both confirmed Fox’s version of events.)
Either way, Fox was let go after his ninth season, which finished 18-15, short of expectations to make the NCAA Tournament. Fox had six winning seasons at Georgia but made just two NCAA trips.
“We knew how the season ended, and what was expected out of Coach Fox and his staff,” Claxton said. “It was a business decision and it had to be done.”
Crean was hired with the aim of getting Georgia to the next level, rather than merely contending for an NCAA tourney berth every year. Whether he can do that remains to be seen.
But he is already set to make a big difference in how Georgia plays. Whereas Fox emphasized defense and post play, Crean is pointing at offense, especially that 3-point line.
“That’s more of an NBA-style offense, that’s more where the game is going today,” Claxton said. “Everybody’s using their versatility, and the 3-point line is being used more.”