Evans looking for "improvements"

ATHENS – Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton received a two-year contract extension Wednesday, pushing his deal through the 2010-2011 season.

Felton's teams have shown a steady improvement in his four years, which athletic director Damon Evans pointed out in a statement released by the school, but he has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament. Evans told Dawg Post on Wednesday evening that he expects further improvement from the basketball team, but he placed no public conditions on Felton for the 2007-08 season.

"My expectation is that we improve every year," Evans said. "I don't want to sit here and say, ‘This is what we need to do next year,' but, of course, our goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament. When you build a program, you can't take steps back. You have to make improvements, and that's what I'm looking for."

Felton also received a $50,000 raise, but his annual salary of $760,000 remains in the bottom half of SEC coaches. Both the extension and raise were approved during an afternoon conference call including members of the Athletic Association board of director's executive committee.

The new deal signifies Felton's commitment to stay in Athens, he said.

"I've really been consistent in my love for Georgia and my desire to be here," he said. "We're expecting to keep moving forward like we've been doing."

The average salary of the coaches from the six major conferences competing in this year's NCAA Tournament was $1.2 million, according to a report by USA Today. In the SEC, Florida coach Billy Donovan, former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and Alabama coach Mark Gottfried all earn or earned more than $1 million a year. LSU's John Brady and South Carolina's Dave Odom each earn around $900,000 annually.

Felton is 58-62 with the Bulldogs and has twice taken the team NIT. This season, Georgia finished 19-14 and beat Fresno State in the first round of the NIT. It was Felton's first national postseason win at Georgia. The Bulldogs were routed by Air Force in the second round.

Georgia will lose two seniors, 3-point specialist Levi Stukes and forward Steve Newman, next season and will add four newcomers – 6-foot-8 forward Chris Barnes of College Park, 6-7 forward Jeremy Jacob of Baton Rouge, La., 6-9 forward Jeremy Price of Decatur and 6-1 guard Zac Swansey of Dunwoody. Jacob and Price are rated four-star prospects by Scout.com.

Felton calls the group his best class since he's been at Georgia.

"Every year, our recruiting has improved from a talent standpoint," he said.

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