Following his ninth season at Georgia, what does Mark Fox say?
Georgia has decided to part ways with Mark Fox after a 2017-18 campaign that ended Friday with a 62-49 defeat to Kentucky, the program announced Saturday evening. The Bulldogs, with arguably Fox’s most talented roster since arriving to Athens, finished 12th in the SEC and posted an 18-15 overall record while going only 7-11 in conference play during the regular season.
“For the past nine years, we have had the good fortune to coach some terrific young men,” Fox said in a statement. “This chapter has closed, and I am grateful to the many who have helped us along the way but especially to the young men who wore the red and black. We’ve been able to reach a couple of NCAA Tournaments, a couple more NITs and graduate our players. Hopefully, our time here can be the groundwork for more success.”
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Under Fox, the Bulldogs reached only two NCAA Tournaments in nine years, with the last appearance coming in 2014-15. Fox never led Georgia to an NCAA Tournament victory.
While the NCAA Tournament results didn’t materialize, Fox did have his share of accomplishments while at Georgia. During his nine seasons, Fox led Georgia to four 20-win seasons, which ties a mark only former head coach Hugh Durham was able to do during his 17-year stint with the Bulldogs.
Fox led the Bulldogs to three NIT appearances in addition to his two NCAA Tournament showings. Fox also coached three NBA draft picks in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (eighth overall, 2013), Trey Thompkins (37th overall, 2011) and Travis Leslie (47th overall, 2011).
“In the end, I felt like we have not reached our full potential as a basketball program,” athletics director Greg McGarity said. “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.”
Over the past four years, Fox has coached forward Yante Maten, who was named the 2017-18 AP SEC Player of the Year Tuesday. Maten said Fox served as a great mentor during his time in Athens.
“He is like a father, almost like a father figure,” Maten said. “He helped me a lot with basketball, the game, knowing where my reads are. He trusted me a lot. It means a lot when someone has that much faith in one of their players. I just try not to let him down.”
With this decision, Georgia will owe Fox a $1.1 million buyout as part of his contract.
Georgia proved to be a tough out this week at the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs blew out Vanderbilt 78-62 in the first round and then upset Missouri in the second round 62-60.
Fox was hired by former Georgia athletics director Damon Evans in 2009 after spending five years as the head coach at Nevada. With the Wolfpack, Fox reached the NCAA Tournament in his first three years and accepted invitations to the CBI in his final two. Fox replaced Dennis Felton, who was fired midway through the 2008-09 season.
“We will move forward to search for a new head coach,” McGarity said. “It will be a national search in scope, and we will move as quickly as possible.”
After a tough first season that ended with a 14-17 mark, Fox’s second team in 2010-11 went 21-12, which included a week in which it cracked the AP top-25 at No. 24. That was the only time Fox’s Bulldogs hit the top-25 in his tenure. That season concluded with a loss in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed against No. 7 seed Washington.
In Fox’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014-15, his Georgia team was also a No. 10 seed and lost to No. 7 seed Michigan State. The Spartans, considered under-seeded that season, would go on to reach the Final Four.
Following Georgia’s loss Friday, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said Fox didn’t deserve to lose his job.
“It's nuts that in our profession that guys like Mark Fox, guys can say he's not doing a great job as a coach,” Calipari said.