ATHENS - Another day, another state-of-the-program discussion about Georgia men's basketball.
Head coach Mark Fox is in his fourth year at Georgia, which isn't going so well. He was asked Tuesday if four years was enough time to build a foundation, and enough time to judge a coach, or whether the history of Georgia basketball should make the standard longer.
"Well we're not to four years yet," Fox said, and that's true, the team is just a little more than halfway through its season.
But then Fox took it in another direction, implying that in a way this is Year 2. In his actual second year, Fox led the Bulldogs to an NCAA tournament berth, only to have Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie bolt for the NBA.
"When I was offered this job, the first contract offer I declined, because it wasn't long enough, because I didn't think it was the right time frame," Fox said. "Not to have a good team, but to be completely rebuilt and established ... I didn't really put a time frame on it. And I'm not ready to do so now. But I'll just tell you now that when I first communicated with Damon (Evans) about it, that was my feeling."
Fox didn't say how much the original contract offer was from Evans, then the athletics director. But he ended up signing a six-year contract, through the end of the 2014-2015 season. That was then extended by one season two years ago by Greg McGarity, who succeeded Evans in the job. At the time, McGarity said he wanted to send a message to Fox that "he is the man that we know can lead our program and can build our program the right way. And we know that takes time, and he's off to a great start."
And now, in Year 4, the team is still feeling the effects of Thompkins and Leslie leaving a year early for the pros, according to Fox.
"Here's what you have to understand: We took over a situation, and we put together a better team in the second year, and then we had two guys leave early," Fox said. "And (then) it's almost like we have to rebuild it again."
In the history of its program, Fox pointed out, Georgia has only had five players leave early and be drafted, and two of them were Thompkins and Leslie two years ago. (The others were Jumaine Jones, Dominique Wilkins and Jarvis Hayes).
"And that certainly set us back a little bit, and we're having to come back," Fox said. "That's made it a little more challenging. But it is what it is. We've gotta put together a team that can win some games."
And in that vain, the Bulldogs are playing a very young team: Only three upperclassmen (senior center John Florveus, senior guard Cincent Williams, and junior forward Donte' Williams) are receiving much playing time.
Last week Fox said his young players "need more time." This week he was asked if he worried about giving time to young players while trying to win enough games to leave a good impression.
"Oh, I don't worry about the outside. I gotta do what's best for this team and this program in the long haul," Fox said. "And that's all I'll ever do. I'll worry about the student-athlete, and do what's best for our team. I don't pay attention to anyone on the outside. ... Everyone has all the answers and no solutions. And you can't please everybody. I'm gonna do what's right.
"We got it squared away once. We can do it again." ______________________________________________