The impact of a fiery moment, from a mild-mannered coach, on Georgia’s win
ATHENS — The last time Georgia was involved in a viral moment, Kent Davison was part of it, but only at the end of a 15-second clip that made Jimmy Kimmel Live.
This time, Davison was front and center.
It might be surreal to those who know him, but there was Davison, Georgia’s fairly anonymous director of operations, having to be restrained by assistant coach Jonas Hayes during a scuffle with Missouri on Saturday. Davison drew a technical foul, as did a Missouri assistant coach, after a fracas just after the first half ended.
There remained confusion after the game on exactly what happened. The half had ended with Georgia forward Yante Maten grabbing a rebound, then a Missouri player appeared to grab at the ball, and before anyone knew it there was finger-pointing, shoving and referees and head coaches trying to separate everybody.
“I didn’t see what started it,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “I tried to get in and break it up. I don’t know if break it up’s the right word. But I just tried to calm people down.”
Maten’s comment: “No one really knows what happened, other than we’re competitive and competing for the basketball.”
There was general agreement on this: It spurred a run by Georgia, which trailed by six at halftime but then went on a 21-6 run (including J.J. Frazier’s basket with six seconds left in the first half) and ended up winning, 71-66.
“I’m sure the run was fueled by what happened at the end of the first half,” Anderson said. “I thought their crowd was great in the second half.”
Frazier, apparently on instructions not to delve much into the incident, was asked whether it fired up Georgia for the second half.
“Do you think we came out a little fired up?” Frazier said.
I think so, a reporter answered.
“There you go. There’s your answer right there,” Frazier said.
Maten was asked what it’s like to see your coaches getting into it on your behalf.
“We all fight for each other. That’s how teams work,” Maten said. “We fight for our coaches, our coaches fight for us. That’s how family works.”
And Davison has been like family to Georgia coach Mark Fox for most of both their lives. They’re both basketball coaching lifers, with Davison coaching Fox at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, and then Fox hiring him when he took over at Georgia in 2009.
“I’ve known him since I was 12 years old. He’s been like a second father to me,” Fox said.
Last week it was Davison who appeared at the end of a clip that went viral. Georgia (it claims) invited an Auburn player into its huddle near the end of a 12-point win, but Davison wasn’t in on the joke and asked an official to get the opponent out of the huddle.
Now it’s Davison involved again. It all makes the Pennsylvania native seem like a no-nonsense, fiery guy. But in reality he’s very laid-back, soft-spoken and able to use his personality to fix problems.
“Our players love the guy,” Fox said. “And I loved him when I was a player. Players love the guy because he finds a way, he has a great way to connect with people. …
“When we travel, every hotel when I think something’s going to be difficult he says, ‘It’s handled, don’t worry about it.’ Because people really enjoy working with him. So he’s someone that I think if we needed the team bus to be gassed up, single gallon by single gallon he’d be the first guy to line up to help Georgia do it. He really is a team-oriented guy and a great person.”
Davison, who wasn’t available to speak after the game, may have helped provide that lift on Saturday. Georgia’s NCAA tournament chances may not have withstood losing to Missouri (RPI rank of 263 entering the game). And the incident, however it started, fired up the Bulldogs and their crowd.
“We have a great fan base,” Frazier said. “They’ve seen how fired up and how much harder we started to play. They felt a part of the game as well. That emotion gave us the boost we needed, and it helped out tremendously.”