She moving chattanooga fox just too damn

Saturday, September 09, 2017 by Chams

Three games. Three second-half leads, two of those by 14 or more points. Three disturbing defeats.

That's the recent work of the Georgia's men's basketball team heading into tonight's visit from No. 23 Florida.

That trend of being unable to hold onto considerable cushions down the stretch is also what might have the Bulldogs searching for a new coach by the middle of March.

Mark Fox is in his ninth season at Georgia. He has all of two NCAA tournament appearances and no NCAA tourney wins to date to show for his first eight years in Athens. He has three NIT bids with two total victories in the Nobody's Interested Tournament.

What else he always has had is a high degree of integrity, both professionally and personally, which we're reminded far too often is an embarrassingly rare trait in all of college athletics these days.

But at some point being a good guy just isn't enough when you're being paid $2 million a year and you keep coming up short on March Madness invitations. At some point, you've got to win. And while few expected the Dawgs to be great this winter — they were picked eighth in the conference in the preseason media poll — this is also a team filled with solid juniors and seniors, including SEC player-of-the-year candidate Yante Maten.

Instead, after these last three defeats Georgia is 12-8 overall and 3-5 in the SEC, which gives it the second-fewest league victories to date after Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, each 2-6 in SEC action.

Is this entirely Fox's fault? Doubtlessly not. Coaches don't miss shots or turn the ball over or foul at the wrong time. It could be argued — and fans of Fox surely will — that he's done some amazing work to get those leads against more talented teams.

After all, Georgia already owns a 19-point win over Alabama, an overtime victory against No. 13 St. Mary's, a win at Marquette and a blowout of ACC member Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs definitely can play tournament-worthy basketball on occasion.

But they've also lost by 10 at mediocre Massachusetts, thrown away those double-digit, final-half leads against No. 11 Auburn and Arkansas and wasted a 25-point performance by Maten in a home loss to South Carolina.

(Sidenote: Maybe it's the Florida Gator in him, but UMass coach Matt McCall owns Georgia and Fox, having won at Athens with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.)

But back to the Dawgs. Said Maten after watching Arkansas come from 16 down to win in double-overtime while knocking down 11 3-pointers: "In the second half, I guess we got a little relaxed and started letting them hit 3s."

As our sports staff's David Paschall points out in an accompanying article to this column, there is no relaxing in the SEC this year. As many as eight SEC teams have been projected to reach the NCAA tournament, and cellar-dweller A&M was once No. 5 in the nation before losing its first five in league play.

In a way, that's both the good news and bad news for Fox. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi now has Georgia as one of his "Next Five Out — which means Joey Brackets thinks the Dawgs still can play their way in or lose their way back to another NIT — so remaining games with Florida (tonight), at Florida on Valentine's night, twice against No. 18 Tennessee and at home against Auburn on Feb. 10 give Fox's team plenty of chances to impress the committee and cool any argument to can its coach.

But this team's makeup — three of the top four scorers are seniors and the fourth is a junior — also screams to the fan base: "If not this year, when?"

These calls are never easy, especially when Fox is the poster guy for doing it the right way, without so much as a whisper of impropriety. And it's not as if the Dawgs are ever gosh-awful. They almost always play with both discipline and intensity. But for some reason, down the stretch, when it becomes winning time, Georgia too often doesn't.

Nor does Fox's explanations for those defeats help his cause to remain.

Of a meltdown at Auburn that turned a 14-point halftime lead into a 14-point loss, the coach noted: "We just didn't respond to the wave of emotion in the building." And "Our defense just collapsed." And, when asked why the normally relentless Maten scored only six of his 17 points from the field: "I didn't do a good enough job of getting him the ball."

Finally, there was this from redshirt senior Juwan Parker, who surmised, "We just got punched in the mouth, and we didn't respond."

Every team has bad nights. But three straight lose-from-ahead defeats under a ninth-year head coach whose top four scorers are three seniors and a junior are more than one bad night. They're a bad trend. And if that trend doesn't stop soon, it might be time to stop Fox's time with the Bulldogs, however much his decency and character would have most of us wish otherwise.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/columns/story/2018/jan/30/wiedmer-mark-fox-needs-turn-georgiaround-hurr/462431/