Thursday, March 29, 2012

Selling Tony Parker on possibilities and dreams

Coach Fox has done an great job recruiting Tony Parker. He's handled it personally and is still in the daily conversation as Parker nears the finish line of his recruitment. The Miller Grove star is announcing his college decision on April 11th. He'll commit to a school that will be thrilled to get the 5 star Georgia prospect, a machine on the low block.

I've read this glimpse into the closing days of Tony Parker the Recruit twice now. I read it first hoping to glean some kind of UGA lean. The second time I read it for the beauty it contains: a rare, deep look into a critical period for a high profile national recruit. As it takes you from the hallways of Miller Grove High School, through his coach's office where he takes a phone call from Fox and into the den of his parents' home it's obvious that Parker is a grounded young man that is utilizing the support around him to manage what is an incredible weight on his shoulders. Tony Parker the Recruit is soon to become Tony Parker, committed to ________. The only thing outsiders like myself can be certain of is that Parker will be making the best possible decision for himself after carefully considering all of the factors involved.

The ESPN article by Jason Jordan in its entirety makes it clear what the pros and cons are for each school that is a finalist. The line for Georgia is easy, and frustratingly familiar - proximity is a plus but the fanbase and its support is a big drawback. Year in and year out that is what the head coach at UGA is up against. Lack of support at a football school. Empty seats that outnumber those otherwise occupied.

As a basis, compare these two quotes:

  • "Still, Parker has concerns about the lack of fanfare at home games and the fact that it may be too close to home." 
  • "They're insane," Parker said. "Being at the game there was indescribable."    "I've got to agree with him on that," Virgil said. "I'm not even that kind of fan, but that place draws you in. I was up slapping hands with dudes I didn't know. I was into that place."
The first place being described is obviously relating to UGA and Athens. The second is Kansas. Parker's father Virgil obviously felt excited being a part of the Jayhawk faithful. Easy to do amongst a strong basketball following and sold out crowd. Even easier when the game they happen to visit was an 87-86 win over Missouri.

The Georgia basketball program can't compare to Kansas. When it comes down to programs like the Dukes, the UNCs, the Kansas'...Fox is at a severe disadvantage. He's selling possibilities and dreams while Bill Self and Coach K can sell tradition and legacies. Being close enough to Athens to have your mom do your laundry is awfully comfortable for an 18 year old kid. There were days when my Def Leppard t-shirt was over a week past ripe and was still in the rotation for that 7:50 class across campus. But you can't tell me there isn't a "Crazie" that can be found camping out in K-ville that wouldn't volunteer for the job. 

Easy fix for Krzyzewski. For Fox it's much more complicated. Fixing the issue of tradition and atmosphere isn't as simple as snapping your fingers. If it was we'd be wondering which season Coach Durham's retirement tour as head of the Bulldogs was going to be. It's been a problem and ongoing concern for decades now, and probably always will it seems. It was an uphill climb well before Mark Fox loaded up a moving van in Nevada, and surely the coach after him will have to be sold on the climb once Fox's tenure closes.

But you have to give our coach credit, he's in the hunt. He's kept his program in Parker's ear long enough to make it to the finish line. In Parker's own words: "[Coach Fox] goes hard. Gotta respect that." However, in the end Parker won't sign with Georgia. On April 11th, I'll still be one of the guys anxiously awaiting his announcement. But I won't be happy when I finally hear him do what everyone is expecting him to do, commit to one of the "big boys".

It's a tribute to Coach Fox that we're even in this thing at this point. It's a feather in the cap that we're even mentioned alongside programs like Duke, Ohio State, UCLA and Kansas. But that's likely the extent of it. On a day when we're desperately craving the big recruiting victory, a steal from the likes of Coach K, Bill Self, Thad Matta...we'll have to settle for a moral victory. That seems to be our lot in life when it comes to the hardwood. 

And if I'm somehow wrong...if somehow Tony Parker is sold on possibilities and dreams, the only person that will be smiling bigger than myself is the guy that will have closed the deal.

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