Push the Ceiling?

ATHENS - Dean Legge talks with Fletcher Page about Mark Fox and the future of Georgia basketball.

Fletcher Page: Let's get to it Legge... After two 20-win seasons and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, has Mark Fox proven himself to be the long term answer at Georgia?

Dean Legge: For now, yes. Expectations are a tricky thing. One can make the argument that Georgia should do better than going winless in the NCAA Tournament for over a decade - and I would argue that. At the same time, you can’t deny that Georgia basketball is no longer this festering, dysfunctional has-been that it seemed to be not that long ago.

I think Fox has earned the right to be considered the long-term answer. But I’m not going to lie. I think the SEC is shifting under our feet here. I don’t know where Alabama is going, but LSU is on the rise; Tennessee just hired an excellent coach; Auburn’s Bruce Pearl knows how to win; Billy Donovan and John Calipari? Come on.

My point? Fox may be the long-term solution right this second, but the SEC is becoming very, very competitive… that’s not always been the case while he’s been the head guy.

Fletcher Page: I'm with you, the conference is on the rise. Kentucky is going to stay Kentucky and you know Florida will be back. The coaches now assembled should rise the overall profile of the league. I don't think we're going to see a team finish tied for second and miss the tournament again in the coming seasons.

The real question is, Dean... Will Fox be able to push the ceiling of his program by.... you guessed it, recruiting at a higher level?

Dean Legge: Can you please define “ceiling”? Not a trick question.

Fletcher Page: Gotcha. Let me dig into this.

I think the ceiling going into this season was one game in the tournament. Through all the injuries, Fox hit that mark and the team put up a good fight against a Final Four-bound Michigan State.

Good season. I don't see any reason to believe the same thing won't happen again next year. Be around 20 wins, get in the tournament and maybe have a chance in a game or two. Is that OK with you? Is that good enough?

How does Fox push the ceiling to Sweet Sixteen caliber? From hovering on the bubble to, say, entering as a 4 or 5 seed? Recruiting. Is he recruiting well enough to push expectations?

Dean Legge: Slow down son. This isn’t the 6th grade dance at Brockett Elementary when Lindsey Straughn walked in - clam down. I feel like you are getting flustered. You just asked five questions:

“Is that OK with you?” - It won’t be eventually.

“Is that good enough?” - It was this season. I am not sure it will be in 2017.

“How does Fox push the ceiling to Sweet Sixteen caliber?” - Recruiting.

“From hovering on the bubble to, say, entering as a 4 or 5 seed?” - Recruiting.

“Is he recruiting well enough to push expectations?” - Not this second.

So that’s the dilemma. The question, really, is at what stage do you realize that you can’t go higher? I’m not saying it can’t happen with Mark Fox as head coach - I hate people who do that sort of stuff. To say that something will never happen because it has yet to happen is disingenuous.

But, do we already know that Fox “can’t” get them to where Georgia wants to go? I don’t know that. I know that he’s made his margin of error pretty thin, but its not impossible at all to wind up in the Sweet 16. I just wouldn’t bet on it.

Fletcher Page: Hey, Lindsey isn't ready for this.

Look, it's hard to accept this, and it's even harder to put into practice and hope it work out — but the answer is time. With the current staff and the way recruiting seems to be improving, we need to give Fox time and see what the next couple cycles hold.

I've always looked for continuity and stability as indicators or factors in building a program. I've decided flexibility is just as important. I think Fox rearranging his staff and tinkering with that complicated Triangle offense he started with are signs that he can change.

I think Turtle Jackson could be special. I really do (my Athens bias may be showing, but watch and see). Now they need help in the post, now and forever and always. You can get guards anywhere (even from Ludowici). But they need more in the post to take the next step.

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