Photo Courtesy of MyAJC.com
When Georgia finished the regular season 16-14 overall and just 7-11 in SEC action, the time for a change had come for Bulldog basketball. After nine seasons of continued finishes in the middle or the bottom of the SEC and only two NCAA tournament appearances in 2011 and 2015, Mark Fox was relieved of his duties on March 10th.
Athletic Director Greg McGarity said, “In the end, I felt like we have not reached our full potential as a basketball program.” In-state recruiting of top tier players should never be a problem for Georgia, yet it has been. “I really thought we were on the way to turning the corner this year. We just did not achieve the level of success as a program that I believe we should at the University of Georgia,” McGarity said.
Many names began to arise for the new vacancy such as Charleston’s Earl Grant, former Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta, and former Indian Head Coach Tom Crean.
The early favorite that met with Georgia officials and was reportedly working out a deal was Thad Matta. After a few days of reports of Matta as the new Georgia coach, suddenly the complete opposite was the latest headlines.
Matta reportedly has a last minute change of heart, and decided that he was just not ready to return to coaching. Matta is dealing with complications of a back surgery that left one of his feet with permanent damage.
Georgia Athletics and AD McGarity then turned their attention to Tom Crean. The former Marquette and Indiana coach has nine tournament appearance between the two schools and recruited successfully at Indiana. As discussions continued, both sides reached a deal. The Crean era for Georgia Basketball has begun.
Photo Courtesy of hoopdirt.com
There is a reason to be optimistic about the hire.
Crean had decent recruiting classes at Indiana and brought in players, such as Victor Oladipo, to play for the Hoosiers. One key component in Crean’s early career in Athens will be the recruitment of Five-star prospect Ashton Hagans. Hagans, who decommitted from Georgia on February 26th, is considered to be one of the top 2019 recruits in the state, and he is hoping to reclassify to the 2018 class.
If he retains Assistant Coach Jonas Hayes, the Crean and the Bulldogs have a good chance to convince Hagans to recommit. Tom Crean can also use Jonas Hayes to begin to build his own recruiting relationships in both Georgia and the southern US. Crean doesn’t need to do much recruiting outside the state of Georgia, and with Hayas help, the bridge will be easier to cross.
There's a new dawg in town, and his name is Tom Crean.
-Photos courtesy of Curtis Compton (AP) and Georgia Basketball