Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mark Fox – Our Hardwood Hero


I know it’s early in his UGA tenure…but amuse me for a minute here…

Is Coach Mark Fox our Jukebox Hero? If you wanna be a naysayer you’ll dismiss this thought too eagerly, you’ll point to the record and all the last minute losses. You’ll also raise your voice when you mention the brain fart to Wofford at home. And certainly half way through his first season, it’s not a record that sparkles and shines. Fox's charges are prone to turnovers in bunches and have made a habit of faltering down the stretch.

Yeh, I hear ya. Coach Fox's 11 wins against 12 losses generally adds up to an early vacation in March. But there are stars in his eyes, you know? While at Nevada, Coach Fox compiled a 123-43 record with three straight NCAA Tourney appearances. He was the WAC Coach of the Year three times. Prior to his first head coaching gig, he served under Nevada head coach Trent Johnson as his associate head coach. Coach Mark Fox pacing

He had a good thing going in Reno. Then he put his ear to the wall…and heard a distant scream.

And while I'm not saying the Georgia Hoops program is a beat up six string in a second hand store, it's not exactly a sold-out show either. For years the men's basketball team has toiled along with a smattering of highlights. When a good coach came along to rescue us from obscurity, he either bolted for a sea of blue or left the program in shambles.

All of this while sitting in a fertile recruiting ground where the right coach could simply cherry pick his starting lineup and its backups without the need for hemorrhaging frequent flyer miles. We heard the roar of the crowd during the Tubby and Harrick tenures, but in between the audience has mostly stayed away or sat on their hands.

I can remember camping out for tickets back in 1990 on the eve of an SEC showdown with LSU of epic proportions. I contend to this day that it was the biggest athletic victory on campus to date. Sure, the football program has a laundry list of big wins and the Gymnastics program has gone through stiff competition like a chainsaw through cordwood. Plus, how many tennis matches have gone our way at Magill Tennis Complex? Too many to count.

However, those programs are set up for success. The men’s hoops has difficult chords, key changes and complicated bridges to negotiate through. No offense to Coach Richt and the success he has enjoyed. But he, Yoculan and Diaz were given well-tuned Gibsons complete with amps and a plush recording studio. Every basketball coach dating back to Coach Durham has been asked to produce hit records from a garage using their uncle’s old Peavey. Jirsa didn’t know a fret from a fuse box and by the time Felton came to town the drummer had left and the bass player was in rehab. So everyone just sat there…waiting. Just like Felton’s offense, the program once again became stagnant. Boring.

But Fox…well, he’s got just one guitar….slung way down low. The first 23 games may not have produced the record we would like to see, but it's given us a taste. He’s got us rockin’. The argument for Fox being SEC Coach of the Year may not make the regional playlist this season, but it's a safe bet it will be a hit in the near future. The highlights have been glamorous. Despite the critics, the program’s gaining some attention. Young rockers are taking notice. They’ve got stars in their eyes too.

Furthermore, the seats are selling. Slowly but surely, Stegeman will be a live show again. Once a forgotten event, the mens hoops will have adventurous souls gathering outside. It’ll be a heavy downpour. But they’ll gather just to put their ear to the walls and hear the roar of the crowds.

And that one guitar, made his whole life change. I may just be drinking the Kool-Aid again, but I think it's gonna change ours too.


Addendum:
Big game against Tennessee on the hardwood tonight. I’m sure those HillBillys remember getting their ass kicked. Tune in on SECtv tonight at 8pm. If you’re like me though, you may need ESPN360 to watch.

Also, another big game in Athens Saturday. Bama comes to town with their first year coach Anthony Grant. I’m sure you remember him. So you can get your tickets here.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a UGA grad and have no interest in Wofford whatsoever. That said, the loss to them was not a "brain fart". Just because they are a small school doesn't mean they don't have a good team. They have an excellent record, are in the top 100 of the RPI and also beat South Carolina. If we played them again now, I think we would beat them, but it would be no gimme.

Ollllddude said...

I thought the game was on channel 17 in the ATL. Should be easy to watch on the big screen.

Bernie said...

@Anon I get your point, and perhaps brain fart woulda been a better phrase to describe the AwwBarn debacle. But regardless, we shouldn't lose to Wofford at home. Both teams shot horribly. They just made more from the charity stripe.

@Ollllddude you are correct sir!

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