The Mark Fox era has come to a close.
This means Georgia will now be on the hunt searching for a new head men’s basketball coach. While Fox wasn’t able to deliver the kind of consistent postseason success Georgia had hoped for, he has left the program in much better shape than when he arrived.
Assuming there are no defections – and there very well could be – Georgia is set to return a solid guard-big combo in Teshaun Hightower and Nicolas Claxton. Derek Ogbeide will enter his senior season, and sharp-shooter Tyree Crump will be back for year three. Former top-50 player Rayshaun Hammonds started to play well at the end of his freshman season and could be in for a big sophomore year. Incoming freshman Amanze Ngumezi is talented enough to see a role early on, too.
With the right mindset from the right candidate, Georgia could be a coaching hire away from getting over its proverbial hump.
The big names
Tom Crean: Once he was able to rebuild Indiana, Crean led the Hoosiers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years. In three of those tourney trips, Crean got Indiana into the Sweet 16. Now, he may have worn out his welcome in Bloomington as he wasn’t able to put the historic basketball program back in the Final Four. But Georgia would gladly take those kind of results with its basketball program.
Plus, Crean is no stranger to the Final Four. In 2003, he took Marquette to the Final Four with Dwyane Wade on his roster.
Thad Matta: Matta has been a winner wherever he has been. He took Butler to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2001. He led Xavier to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2004. At Ohio State from 2004-17, Matta put the Buckeyes in the NCAA Tournament nine times. In that span, Ohio State reached the Sweet 16 five times, the Elite Eight three times, the Final Four twice and the championship game once.
Matta was let go, however, after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in his final two seasons with seven players defecting over that span. He sat out this season from the coaching ranks. A health issue stemming from a back ailment will also certainly be a factor in his candidacy for a head coaching job.
Scott Drew: It may seem tough to pluck Drew out of Baylor. He has been there for 15 years and helped build the Bears into a respectable program nationally. During this span, he has guided a program with little basketball history prior to his arrival to seven NCAA Tournament appearances. Baylor is on the bubble this season but might see its streak of four big dance showings end.
At Baylor, Drew has won 60.5 percent of his games. Georgia would also likely have to pay Drew a salary of over $3 million per season. Is that something the Bulldogs are prepared to do for a basketball coach? Fox never earned more than $2.2 million in a year, so this could be something that prevents Georgia from hiring an established coach at a Power 5 institution. In addition, Drew may not want to go up against brother Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt on the court and in recruiting.
The mid-major names
Danny Hurley: Hurley is one of the hotter names in the country when it comes to rising coaches. Over the past six seasons he has built Rhode Island into one of the more respectable teams in the country. This season, he led the Rams to a non-conference win over Seton Hall before dominating the Atlantic 10.
However, he has Northeast ties and could be in the running for the Pittsburgh job, which just came open after the program announced Kevin Stallings would be fired after two seasons.
Kermit Davis: Davis has a long history as a head coach in college basketball, which dates all the way back to the late-1980s. Most recently, Davis has built Middle Tennessee State into a quality team that has scored upsets over No. 2 seed Michigan State and No. 5 seed Minnesota, respectively, in the past two NCAA Tournaments. His offense runs a lot in transition and is exciting to watch. Davis also has connections to high school programs all over the Southeast.
But after a great two-year stint at Idaho from 1988-1990, Davis took the Texas A&M job and was fired a year later for committing NCAA rules violations. He was handed a two-year show-cause penalty as a result. While that happened nearly two decades ago, that could eliminate him from consideration at Georgia.
Earl Grant: Grant is a young up-and-comer at age 41, who had great success as an assistant under Gregg Marshall (Winthrop, Wichita State) and Brad Brownell (Clemson). Under Brownell, Grant was credited with being able to bring in standout players K.J. McDaniels and Jaron Blossomgame. In 2014, Grant was hired away from Clemson to be the head coach College of Charleston, which is where he has been the past four seasons.
It has been a gradual rebuild for Grant, with College of Charleston reaching the NIT last season and winning the CAA Tournament this year. This means Grant has the Cougars in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. Grant preaches defense as a head coach, with his team allowing 68.2 points per game during the 2017-18 season.
The high-major assistants
Jeff Capel: For Capel, a head coaching opportunity would be a second go-around. This time, it would come after spending the past seven seasons on Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff. That kind of experience could be what Capel needed before jumping back into leading a program.
Capel first became a head coach in 2002 at VCU, where he did well in four seasons. From there, he took over Oklahoma and guided the Sooners to the Elite Eight in 2009 thanks to the star tandem of Blake Griffin and Willie Warren. His final two seasons were mired in turmoil, however, which led to his dismissal. But enough time has passed to where Capel could be ready for a second shot.
Kenny Payne: As a coach, Payne has been a career assistant. But since 2010, he has worked under one of the game’s best in Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Before that, Payne was an assistant at Oregon from 2004-09.
Hiring Payne would be more of a risk than the other aforementioned candidates since he has never been a collegiate head coach. But Payne is a top-notch recruiter for Calipari and the Wildcats. Being close to Atlanta and its basketball-rich area would be big for someone like Payne.