ATHENS — Former Indiana coach Tom Crean has been contacted to gauge his interest in the opening at Georgia, according to an industry source, although Thad Matta appears to be the early focus of the search.
The contact with Crean occurred during the weekend, after Georgia officially fired Mark Fox, the source said. At this point that appears to be the extent of Crean’s involvement with the search, but that could change.
Matta, the former Ohio State coach, has emerged as the biggest name associated with Georgia’s search, and he was set to interview with UGA on Monday, several sources said Sunday.
Matta is believed to be the first candidate to sit down with Georgia, and if all goes well, things could go quickly. Georgia has been preparing for a search for at least several weeks now, and Matta and Crean are coaching free agents, meaning due diligence already could have occurred behind the scenes.
That is not to say Georgia does not have other names on the list. College of Charleston coach Earl Grant has been favored by some at Georgia, although his team is in the NCAA Tournament — it plays Auburn on Friday night — and thus he would not be available for a formal interview this week.
But the interest in Matta and Crean indicates that Georgia wouldn’t mind someone with high-level head coaching experience.
Matta, 50, took Ohio State to two Final Four appearances and won nine Big Ten titles during 13 years before being let go last summer amid health problems. Matta also had successful stints at Butler and Xavier.
Crean, who turns 52 later in March, was Indiana’s coach for nine years, making the Sweet 16 three times. Prior to that, he took Marquette to the Final Four during a successful nine-year stint.
One concern with Crean would be that he never has been a coach at a place where football is the dominant sport. Marquette doesn’t even have football.
But Crean does have a career winning percentage of better than .600. And he’s not exactly a stranger to big-time football: Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh are his brothers-in-law.
Georgia is using a search firm run by Todd Turner of Collegiate Sports Associates, according to multiple industry sources.