ATHENS — Mark Fox blamed himself for not getting his team ready to play. He did not blame himself for a first-half ejection, which appeared to be the culmination of a couple weeks of frustration with officiating.
Fox was ejected with 1:59 left in the first half of Georgia’s 80-60 home loss to Alabama. It was an eight-point game when Georgia’s Jordan Harris was called for a carry, leading Fox to get so upset he received two quick technicals and was booted.
But even though the lead soon grew to 14, and his team never got back in it, Fox did not back down afterwards.
“I have no regrets for what happened,” Fox said. “I have no regrets for what happened. We were not playing nearly in a way that we were going to have success. Did I think it was going to ignite our team? No.”
Fox was asked if this was the culmination of what happened at the end of recent losses at Florida (when Georgia was upset with foul calls) and Texas A&M (when a clock malfunction led to a stunning loss).
“You know, obviously can’t comment about those two games,” Fox said, adding: “So yeah …. perhaps.”
Then Fox was asked if specifically his issue was whether Harris should have been called for the carry, or whether Alabama guard Corban Collins had also been carrying the ball and it had not been called.
Fox smiled and hesitated a few moments.
“Again, I cannot comment on that situation,” Fox said.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was at the game. He sat on press row, but left that seat before halftime. It wasn’t clear where he went following that.
Georgia guard J.J. Frazier said he didn’t blame his coach for getting tossed.
“We’ve got capable coaches. Coach was frustrated by the bad call,” Frazier said. “That’s all I’ve got for that.”
Asked what led to the technicals, Fox went into about a minute-long speech.
“Here’s why I was upset, is that I fully understand that at Georgia, we’ve got to earn our keep,” Fox said. “We’re not asking to be given anything. I think every team, every school should be treated fairly, and we’re not asking any favors. We demand that these kids on our team perform a certain way in the classroom. We demand that they are a certain kind of citizen. And we demand a certain kind of effort for our team. And these kids work their tails off.
“And in exchange for that, those expectations, they know that we’re going to fight for them. And we’re going to fight for Georgia. And I’ll fight for Georgia and these kids every night. So that’s what I decided to do. If I had to do it again, we’re going to fight for our team and our school every night.”
The ejection and questionable calls aside, Georgia trailed throughout in a game that it needed badly to win. It now finds itself with a 12-8 record, and its NCAA tournament hopes in a flailing state.
“Coach Fox is a fighter for sure and that’s something we as a team need to embrace with regards to how we’re playing,” Georgia forward Yante Maten said. “We need to make sure that we’re determined from the jump.”
Fox said he watched the rest of the game in the team locker room with former Georgia women’s basketball head coach Andy Landers. Fox also said associate head coach Phillip Pearson, who took over after Fox’s ejection, did a good job after “I put him in a tough situation.”
Several times, Fox gave credit to Alabama, which played well. He also said he didn’t do a good job of getting the team ready to play after the disappointing loss at Texas A&M.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Alabama. They were the aggressor. They played well,” Fox said. “But I didn’t get our team ready to compete like I needed to.”