UGA Basketball

Georgia finalizes contractual agreement to make Tom Crean the new men's basketball coach

Former Indiana head coach Tom Crean.
Former Indiana head coach Tom Crean. AP

Georgia has found its new men’s basketball head coach.

The Bulldogs have finalized a deal with former Indiana head coach Tom Crean after receiving approval from the UGA Athletics Association Board of Directors. Crean replaces Mark Fox, who spent the past nine years as Georgia’s head coach. Crean spent nine years at Indiana from 2008-17 before his ouster.

Thursday's meeting happened in Sarasota, Florida, which is where Crean lives, according to multiple sources. On a conference call confirming the deal, athletics director Greg McGarity said Crean will earn an annual salary of $3.2 million.

This ends a coaching search that saw the Bulldogs look at two candidates. Crean was Georgia’s second option after it met with and offered former Ohio State head coach Thad Matta earlier in the week. Matta, however, had a change of heart during the late stages of negotiating and decided to withdraw his name from consideration.

With Crean, Georgia is getting a coach with great NCAA Tournament experience. Before he took the Indiana job, Crean coached at Marquette for nine seasons. During his run with the Golden Eagles, he advanced to the Final Four in 2003 with Dwyane Wade on his roster. Crean’s Marquette teams also made the NCAA Tournament five times, including three consecutive years after the program moved from Conference USA to the Big East.

At Indiana, Crean inherited a program that was placed on probation the year he took over in 2008. After three losing seasons, Crean led Indiana to a 27-9 overall record and a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. A year later, Crean’s Hoosiers won the Big Ten title and went back to the Sweet 16.

After missing the big dance in 2014, Crean took Indiana back to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2016, with the latter appearance being in the Sweet 16 and off of another Big Ten title.

In 18 years as a head coach at Marquette and Indiana, Crean holds a career coaching record of 356-231.

Crean, however, was fired from Indiana after the 2016-17 season. While the Hoosiers started 14-6, they were unable to overcome injuries to star players OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. en route to an 18-16 finish. Crean took this year off from coaching and has been working as an analyst with ESPN.

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who spoke to The Telegraph Thursday about Crean’s candidacy for the Georgia job, said Crean, a friend who lives roughly two minutes away from him in Sarasota, Florida, learned a lot about the game during his year off from coaching.

“It helped him big time,” Vitale said. “He got on TV, he did a good job for us at ESPN. He stayed in the game. He’s been to clinics, he’s been out to recruiting camps.”

Now that Georgia has Crean in the fold, he will soon begin to fill out his coaching staff.

As for one of his three assistants, it remains to be seen if Jonas Hayes will be retained. Hayes, who has been with the program since 2013, has been Georgia’s best recruiter over the past few years and played a big role in landing Newton point guard Ashton Hagans in the class of 2019. A week before Fox’s firing, Hagans decommitted and has opened up his recruitment.

Lincoln Academy Prep forward Elias King, who decommitted earlier this week, said Fox was the reason he wanted to play for Georgia. He added, however, that keeping Hayes around could help secure his pledge again.

“It’s very important that (Hayes) comes back,” King said. “Me and him are very close.”