Thursday, January 29, 2009

Damon's Options

The AJC (through Moore and Bradley) and ESPN (Schlabach) have weighed in on possible replacements for Dennis Felton, fired today after 5+ seasons in Athens. Here's a closer look at each, along with a few possible candidates that I've taken the liberty of coming up with myself:

Likely Targets (in no particular order):

Anthony Grant, Virginia Commonwealth
Positives: Former assistant of Billy Donovan at Florida, was actually close to being named Donovan's successor after he had accepted the job with the Orlando Magic....recruited a number of the McDonalds All-Americans that played in Gainesville.....beat Duke in the 1st round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament at VCU.
Negatives: Hasn't duplicated the success of his first year at VCU.....interviewed at a number of schools last season but did not take/get a job (which may have been his choice).....will probably be at the top of the list of a number of schools after this season.

Brian Gregory, Dayton
Positives: 98-60 record over his first 5 years at Dayton....former assistant at Michigan State for Tom Izzo.....Mark Bradley apparently likes him alot.
Negatives: Only one NCAA tournament appearance with a team he inherited......current roster at Dayton consists of only one player from south of Tennessee.....Mark Bradley apparently likes him alot.

Mike Davis, UAB
Positives: 8+ years of head coaching experience, including 6 at Indiana, where he led the Hoosiers to the 2002 National Championship game...first coach in Indiana history to lead the Hoosiers to 20 win seasons and NCAA tournament berths in his first 3 seasons....native of Alabama that played collegiately for the Crimson Tide......does not have a relatively a large buyout from UAB.
Negatives: 48-41 in his last 3 years at Indiana, with only 1 NCAA tournament NCAA tournament berths in his 3 years at UAB, following 3 consecutive berths under the former coach.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota
Positives: Former UGA and Kentucky head coach familiar with the state of Georgia and metro Atlanta areas....won a National Championship in 1997 at Kentucky.....14 straight NCAA tournament appearances at 3 schools (Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky)
Negatives: Left UGA under his own accord after only 2 seasons at the helm......will be 60 years old in 2 years......contract with incentives at Minnesota could exceed $3.3M per year.

Jeff Capel, Oklahoma
Positives: Former Duke player and son of a very successful coach at Old Dominion....directed OU to 23 wins and an NCAA tournament win in just his 2nd season.....young and well-known with AAU coaches, would likely be able to recruit the area well.
Negatives: Manageable salary, but one that OU would likely match or beat to keep him in Norman.

Sean Miller, Xavier
Positives: 93-39 record in 4 seasons at Xavier, including Elite 8 run in 2008.....former player at All-Big East selection at Pittsburgh.....beat Georgia in the NCAA tournament in 2008.
Negatives: $2M buyout from Xavier, which apparently kept Indiana from being able to hire him last season.....Xavier will likely do everything possible to keep him.

Lon Kruger, UNLV
Positives: Former Florida and Atlanta Hawks coach that knows the Atlanta area well.....experienced success at Florida, Illinois and UNLV....back to back NCAA Tournament appearances at UNLV including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2007.
Negatives: Failure as Hawks' coach may have left him in a negative light with UGA fanbase (although most recruits wouldn't even likely remember that)....not necessarily a "sexy" hire that some of the other names might be.

Scott Drew, Baylor
Positives: Led Baylor on a meteoric rise from an almost impossible reclamation project following the Baylor scandals under former coach Dave Bliss.....son of Valparaiso legendary head coach Homer Drew.....won 20 games and led Baylor to the NCAA tournament in 2008.
Negatives: 57-80 through his first 5 seasons at Baylor, although he inherited about as bad a mess as one possibly could...signed a 10 year contract at Baylor last year.

Other options (otherwise known as the personal commentary portion of this particular blog):

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh: If you ask most of the few UGA basketball fans that follow college basketball closely, this might be the best possible option. He's been at Pitt as a head coach and assistant for over 10 years now, and has a contract through 2016. He is a West Coast native that spurned overtures from Cal last year, and will more than likely be sought as the primary candidate to replace Lute Olson at Arizona. The Dawgs would need to pony up big for this one.

Brad Stevens, Butler: 3o wins at Butler in his only full season, but beyond that he's largely unproven. He has coached under 2 pretty good bosses in Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Todd Lickliter (Iowa.)

Mark Few, Gonzaga: One of the most successful "mid-major" coaches of all time, and seemingly on everybody's short list when a job comes open. But, he's been an assistant and head coach at Gonzaga for 20 years now. He may be settled for life.

Mike Anderson, Missouri: Former UAB coach that was groomed under Nolan Richardson (back when Nolan Richardson was a great coach.) Would coach a style that should translate well to the type of athletes that this state has to offer, and should be successful in the SEC.

Sam Mitchell, currently unemployed: Toronto Raptors head coach as recently as December, has publicly stated that he'd be interested in the job should it come open, which will probably earn him an interview just because he's shown interest. He was NBA Coach of the Year a few years back, but not sure if that would translate to the college game.

Bob Knight, ESPN: This would be intriguing to say the least. But he's old, and he probably won't be anywhere close to a long-term solution. 3-4 years maximum, but little doubt that UGA would win during that time period. I doubt he'll even get a call, but hiring him would certainly put UGA in a place in the college basketball universe that it never has been before.

Gary Williams, Maryland: There are rumors that he may be on his way out at Maryland, so the only question would be whether or not he wants to coach somewhere else immediately. My guess is that he'd probably take some time off. He has not recruited very well in recent years at Maryland.

Out of all of the above, Dixon, Miller, Capel and Anderson would be my first choices, although I'm not sure any of those are realistic. Grant, Kruger and Drew are probably more likely possibilities. Gregory and Tubby are probably the only ones that wouldn't get me too excited.

One thing is for sure, Damon will have many options at his disposal. He'll have to work hard to mess this up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Favors to announce choice tonight

There will be ESPN cameras on site at 6:30 PM at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead, right before ESPN broadcasts the Duke game in Techwood. To the average man that sounds like a sure bet to go play for the World's Greatest Head Coach. Too bad I'm not the average man. I'll play optimist and just say I don't have a clue where he's going. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed. One man's decision tonight could change the course of the UGA basketball program, at least for next season. Check back in later tonight to discuss the Favors decision, whatever it may be.
Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

ESPN Columnist predicts Derrick Favors will choose UGA

ESPN and Scouts Inc. analyst Antonio Williams makes a bold prediction that blue-chip prospect Derrick Favors will choose to play his college ball in Athens. Man, this would be a major coup for Dennis Felton, and not a moment too soon.

The loss to Georgia Tech tonight was disappointing to say the least. This was a game UGA should have won. The Dawgs dominated the first half, and simply lost out to a team that for some reason, seemed to want it more down the stretch. There isn't a whole lot of difference in talent between these two teams, at least not from my perspeective. It hasn't been often that the Dawgs could say that.

At least the Dawgs can get well against Tennessee this week. Or not.

Stafford and Moreno set to end the drama Wednesday

Athens Banner Herald reports that both will announce future intentions on Wednesday. ($$) indicates that both will jump to the NFL, although the ABH article seems to hint that Moreno hasn't hired an agent yet. None of this is really a surprise on any front.

Time to get on with the future. Cox or Gray, King or Samuel next season??? Should be interesting.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Missouri visits Athens today

The Dawgs start a treacherous stretch of games today with a visit from Big 12 power Missouri. The Tigers were briefly ranked last week, before a loss to Illinois in St Louis dropped the to the ranks of "others receiving votes." Still, Missouri has put together an impressive non-conference run this season, with their only other loss coming to #22 Xavier in Puerto Rico. The Tigers beat Southern Cal (ranked at the time) in Puerto Rico, and whipped Cal by 27 at home.
Missouri sports an impressive frontline with 6-8 Demare Carroll and 6-9 Leo Lyons, the team's two leading scorers and rebounders. Both of these guys are also seniors. Expect to see Price and Jackson both play more minutes than usual today for UGA, as the Dawgs' two best low-post defenders. Swingman 6-7 (senior, again) Matt Lawrence is their 3rd leading scorer, and attempts the most 3-pointers on the team, by far.

After those 3, you get into some guards that are putting up numbers not overly impressive. Marcus Denmon and Kim English are 2 freshmen scoring about 7 ppg, but neither shoots the ball well. Former Wheeler high schooler JT Tiller and junior Zaire Taylor get the most minutes in the backcourt. Taylor is the team's defacto point guard, with about 3 assists per game and a 3-1 assist to turnover ratio.

This team is coached by former UAB head man Mike Anderson, who coached for years under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. Naturally, he likes to play the same "40 Minutes of Hell" style that college basketball fans in this part of the world are so familiar with. The Tigers will extend the defense full court quite often, and when they get the ball they probably won't be looking to hold onto it for very long. If UGA is shooting the ball well, this might play right into the Dawgs' hands. Virginia Tech liked an up-tempo style, and it allowed UGA to stay in the game until the end. I happen to believe that the fewer half-court sets the Dawgs run, the better off they are offensively. If Price and Jackson can get up and down the court to hang with Missouri's two best players, this might just be the kind of game the Dawgs could steal at home.

Dustin Ware needs to play under control. Resist the urge to take it the length of the court himself. Keep his backcourt mates involved in the process of getting the ball over the halfcourt line.

It will be interesting to see how Trey Thompkins plays today. He's been terrific this season and is easily UGA's best player. But with predictably few halfcourt sets, he'll probably have to get involved on alot of stickbacks, and a few spot up 3-pointers. I don't see the Dawgs getting as many opportunities to go to him in the post as they might be used to. Trey will also need to play solid defense.

There is a possibility that both Swansey and Woodbury are back today. This is huge, of course. You need all the capable bodies you can get in a game like this.

Two players to watch today. First, Travis Leslie. This kind of style of play (if the Dawgs choose to get into an up and down game) might suit him well. Secondly, let's see if Drazen can get into one of his already legendary "rhythms", assuming he even gets into the game. Missouri's style of play often leads to alot of open looks behind the arc. McPhee might be another who could benefit. Woodbury as well if the ankle isn't gimpy.

Hard to predict anything with this team, but I expect the Dawgs to play well today, and perhaps even keep it close to the end. Having everybody healthy will be paramount to pulling off any upset today.

Dawgs are 6 point underdogs for today's 1 PM tip-off. Fox Sports Net will carry the game live, and the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network will have Scott Howard and Jeff Dantzler on the air.
Go Dawgs (and Falcons.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Capital One Bowl: UGA 24, Michigan State 12

Player of the Game: Asher Allen
9 solo tackles (5 on Ringer), 1 sack