The Georgia men’s basketball program is healthy and building momentum, UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity said following Thursday’s meeting of the Athletic Association Board of Directors. And credit for that goes to coach Mark Fox, said McGarity.
Fox was awarded a contract extension during Thursday’s meeting which will extend him through the 2019-20 season.
“Mark and I discussed an extension following the season,” said McGarity. “I am very pleased the Board approved the extension today, and we are very appreciative of the leadership Mark provides to our basketball program. Mark continues to build on the solid foundation he has established as our head coach.”
“Six years ago I envisioned that together we could heal and build a great basketball program at the University of Georgia,” said Fox. “The collective efforts of many people now allow us to praise our team on the court, in the classroom, and in our community. This pride, along with the passion of the Dawg Nation, provide great energy as we strive to achieve even higher levels of success. I am grateful for the continued support from our board, Greg, and President Morehead. It is an honor to work each day with people that share the same values and commitment.”
Georgia won 21 games this season, going 11-7 in Southeastern Conference play to finish tied for third in the standings. In the NCAA Tournament, Georgia lost as a 10 seed in the round of 64 to 7 seed Michigan State, which made it to the Final Four.
Fox also led Georgia to the 2011 NCAA Tournament and is 106-89 in his six seasons with the Bulldogs.
“We have a healthy program that’s getting healthier every year, and Mark Fox is the reason that’s happening,” McGarity said. “His leadership, the way he represents the institution and the way these young men represent him and the University.”
All of the indicators, McGarity said, from on-court results, academic performance and recruiting, to ticket sales, student engagement and concession sales — they’re all moving in the right direction.
While battling almost countless injuries to starters and other key players, hurdles that began in the preseason and continued all the way through to the end, Georgia went 21-12 this season. Back to back 20-win seasons hadn’t happened since the Dogs won 20 or more three years in a row in the late 1990s.
“We never really had our entire squad intact, and I understand injuries are part of it, but the way we were able to deal with those injuries and the way other players stepped up when players went down, is another indicator that there are a lot of good things going on,” McGarity said.
In the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have won 23 SEC games, the most in a two-year stretch since winning a combined 21 in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
“The next step is stacking success on success,” McGarity said. “I know Mark and his staff are working hard to put back to back NCAA tournament appearances together; to go ahead and build on what we’ve built, really in all areas. I know he’s committed to continuous improvement.”
Georgia loses two key post players in seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic, who combined for 23.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, as well as reserve guard Taylor Echols. The Dogs should return the bulk of this year’s squad, including guards Kenny Gaines (11.7 ppg.), Charles Mann (11.2) and J.J. Frazier (9.5).
One of the standout moments of this season came in the Bulldogs’ 72-64 loss to then-undefeated Kentucky on March 3. In a sold out Stegeman Coliseum, the scene was as loud and energetic as it has been in many years. Georgia couldn’t hold on to its nine point lead with 9:12 remaining, but the play on the court and the atmosphere in the arena left a lasting memory.
“The energy in the building, if people thought that Stegeman Coliseum couldn’t produce an electric atmosphere, that night proved them wrong,” McGarity said. “And it gave us a glimpse of what it could be.”
Over the next two years Stegeman will benefit from a number of proposed upgrades, most significantly a center-hung scoreboard that will be in place for the 2016-17 season. For next season, the current scoreboard will be equipped for more high-definition video and that equipment will then be transferred to the new system.
“We’d also like to upgrade all of our technology in the building, as far as presentation, sound, lights and anything that has to do with fan engagement,” McGarity said. “Over the next two years there will be a number of upgrades that fans will notice very quickly.
“We’re going to do everything we can to support Mark and support his program, and provide all of the resources he needs to be competitive.”
John Frierson is a staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men’s Hall of Fame at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Follow him on Twitter: @TheFrierson and @ITAHallofFame.
Photo Courtesy UGA Athletics