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Georgia poised to name Felton new coach

Georgia could introduce Western Kentucky's <b>Dennis Felton</b> as its new basketball coach as early as Thursday, though as of late Wednesday night no press conference has been scheduled.

The Georgia Athletic Board has a regularly scheduled meeting Friday at St. Simons Island, and athletic director Vince Dooley plans to have a selection for final approval then.

There were growing indications Wednesday that Western Kentucky is prepared to lose Felton as its coach.

"If he leaves, it's not because of money, it's the school in his mind that would be a consistent Final Four and national championship contender,'' Western Kentucky athletic director Wood Selig said Wednesday.

At least one of Felton's fellow Sun Belt Conference coaches, Arkansas State's Dickey Nutt, already was talking as if Felton's exit is a certainty.

"I think it's a great step up for Dennis,'' Nutt told The Associated Press Wednesday. "He's the total package. We're very, very glad to be getting rid of him.''

Felton has guided Western Kentucky to three straight Sun Belt tournament championships.

Selig, Felton and Western Kentucky president Gary Ransdell held a long meeting Tuesday night. Though Selig said the meeting had been scheduled for two weeks, he admitted Felton's future at Western Kentucky was discussed. Selig said Dooley told Selig Tuesday morning that Felton was one of Georgia's two finalists to succeed Jim Harrick as head coach. The other finalist is thought to be former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd.

Neither Felton nor Floyd returned messages Wednesday.

Felton, 39, is 100-54 in five seasons at Western Kentucky and has taken the Hilltoppers to three straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Georgia would have appeared in three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history if not for evidence of academic fraud and unethical conduct that forced Dooley and University of Georgia president Michael Adams to pull the Bulldogs out of postseason play.

Harrick was suspended with pay before he finally resigned under the pressure of the ongoing investigation into the program.

In addition to Felton and Floyd, Creighton coach Dana Altman, Mercer coach Mark Slonaker, Georgia assistant James Holland and former Georgia and Atlanta Hawks player Dominique Wilkins were interviewed by Georgia.

Felton is earning $400,000 per year at Western Kentucky. Georgia was paying Harrick approximately $600,000 per year. Felton's contract runs through the 2007-08 season and includes a $200,000 buyout clause and the stipulation that if Felton is hired by a major conference school, that school must schedule a four-year series of games with the Hilltoppers, including two games at Western Kentucky.

Western Kentucky has the nation's longest active home winning streak - 39 games - at its Diddle Arena.


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