NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity addressed the men’s basketball team on Tuesday, offering reassurances after news broke about the job status of head coach Mark Fox.
The message, according to junior forward Yante Maten: Your coach isn’t going anywhere.
“He made it (clear) that he was not about to leave us, this year or next year,” Maten said. “He’s going to be here.”
The meeting occurred in Athens, before the team left for the SEC tournament.
“Mr. McGarity just reassured us with what we felt we already knew,” senior guard J.J. Frazier said. “It wasn’t really a big deal to us.”
After a report late Monday night that Georgia was doing “due diligence” on possible replacements for Fox, McGarity released a statement Tuesday morning not only denying that, but saying: “We look forward to Mark leading our program next year.”
Fox, who said he was aware of McGarity’s statement before it came out, was asked Wednesday afternoon for his reaction to those events.
“I never felt any lack of support from him or our administration. They’ve been terrific the entire time,” Fox said. “So I never was caught up in that whole thing because I always felt terrific support from them.”
Fox is wrapping up his eighth season at Georgia, where he has a record of 144-116 overall, with two NCAA tournament appearances. But with the Bulldogs considered to be on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble right now, it has led to grumbles from fans and speculation, and then Monday night’s report – a few days before Georgia plays in the SEC tournament.
“I’m not angry at anybody,” Fox said. “I try to let you guys do your jobs, and let you have access, and let you have opinions. We’re not going to agree with what everything people say. People are going to make some errors. That’s just part of it. But we did address it with our players because we felt it was important to do that. And Greg met with our players because we felt it was important for him to do so.”
Fox also sounded confident that the wording of McGarity’s statement (“we look forward to Mark leading our program next year”) was definitive enough.
“In my opinion, yeah,” Fox said, smiling. “You’ve got to ask him, but yeah.”
McGarity has said several times he would let the statement speak for itself. The statement went further than McGarity typically has during a season, when he prefers to not comment on a coach’s status.
In any case, with Fox’s job apparently no longer an issue, Georgia (18-13) plays Tennessee (16-15) on Thursday at 1 p.m. in the SEC tournament.
“I think two or three weeks ago, one of you guys asked me about my job,” Fox said. “And then four or five days later, you asked how close are we to being in the tournament. So we go from one end of the spectrum to the other in like five days. That comes with the territory. But with our team, it’s stay off the rollercoaster and focus on the next game, which for the most part they’ve been able to do.
“This group certainly has been through a lot of adversity, a lot of curveballs. And hopefully we can continue to manage it.”