Maten’s UGA return is Fox’s ultimatum – win big or else

Mark Fox, on the clock. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

If we go by the SEC coaches’ all-conference team, Georgia had two of the league’s eight best players last season. Kentucky had two and lost in the NCAA South Regional final to North Carolina, the eventual national champ. Florida had one and lost in the East Regional final to South Carolina, which also had one.

The point being: SEC teams played some really good basketball in March — just not Georgia. It didn’t make the NCAA field of 68. It lost at home to Belmont in Round 1 of the NIT. (Four days later, Belmont would lose by 14 points at Georgia Tech.) The Bulldogs were unlucky that Yante Maten hurt his knee against Kentucky on Feb. 18, but they actually won three of the next four games without him.

The cold truth was that Georgia played itself out of the Big Dance before Maten was injured. (Note that he returned for two games in the SEC tournament, in which Georgia was eliminated in the quarterfinals.) Even with Maten and J.J. Frazier, two first-team all-league players, the Bulldogs spent another season doing nothing of significance. This has, alas, become their signature.

Mark Fox is about to enter his ninth season as Georgia’s coach. Would a coach without an NCAA tournament victory over eight years still be coaching any other Power Five program? Would a coach who didn’t make the NCAA field in two seasons with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and who made it once in four with the outrageous Frazier have been given the chance to try, try again? The answers are no and no, but this is Georgia, which cares less about the roundball sport than any other Power Five school.

Here’s my boilerplate stance on Fox — good coach, good guy. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet for him, but it hasn’t, and when you’ve gone nearly a decade in one place and it hasn’t happened, you wonder if it ever will.

On Tuesday, Maten announced that he was withdrawing his name from NBA draft consideration and returning for a fourth season at Georgia. This is good news for Fox in that one of the SEC’s best players — unlike Frazier and De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk and Sindarius Thornwell, all gone — will again play in the SEC. But it’s good news with an implied ultimatum: If the Bulldogs aren’t playing in the only tournament that matters come March 2018, Fox won’t be coaching them anymore.

Reader Comments 0

6 comments
MrEdsBrain
MrEdsBrain

What a comparison - UGA and KY both had two all-conference players. I guess the other three starters and the bench players don't matter much. KY's overall talent far exceeded that of UGA - and while it's true Mark Fox often can't figure out how to get his players to mesh in a productive manner, it's not a simple matter of comparing number of all-conference players. 

OH:IO
OH:IO

Slim pickins if this is all you have to write about....dog hoops.


Who cares? 


The Schmeg still stinks. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@OH:IO Well...they also have a new DJ booth in the locker room!

mgunter
mgunter

Bradley, so weary of your blather about firing coaches! Maybe th AJC should can you and Schultz and replace you with th Alabama and Kentucky beat writers.

Bobslee
Bobslee

Mark, I don't agree that the 2016-2017 Bulldogs were a disappointment.  They just weren't a good team.  Please consider the cast other than Yante and JJ.  Ogbeide was pretty good, and everyone else was borderline terrible or just plain terrible.  Turtle and the two freshmen guards had four hundred  turnovers each(or so it seemed).  Actually Jordan Harris had three hundred and fifty and Crump only had fifty (he would have had more had he played more).  On the defensive end, this past year's team was poor.  It was the worst defensive team Fox has trotted out at Georgia by far.  On the defensive end they really missed those two veteran guards who graduated.  Both were both solid defenders.  Kenny Gaines was an all conference type guy on the defensive end, in fact.

PS - We do care about basketball at UGA.  At least Sweaterguy and I do

Ted Kohn
Ted Kohn

The same ultimatum could have been issued 2 yrs ago with 2 Senior guards plus JJ/ Maten and of course last year.   I no longer blame Fox.  This is a Georgia problem.  Like you said, they don't care.