Coaching Search Continues

ATHENS – Reading the newspaper or checking the blogs for the latest updates on Georgia's search for a head coach is the last thing freshman point guard Dustin Ware is interested in doing.

Every day around campus, he's already surrounded by a few thousand amateur reporters, and he can't help but hear all the rumors of various big names being bandied about. The truth is, he said, he doesn't know much more than anyone else, and for now, he's not too interested in the rumors anyway.

"They drive me crazy," Ware said. "I get enough of it around campus every day, with people coming up to me and saying, ‘I heard he's going to be the coach,' so I don't really pay too much attention to it. Whoever will help us win, it doesn't really matter to me."

That doesn't mean he's comfortable with the situation as it stands.

It has been 22 days since former coach Dennis Felton was relieved of his duties after an 83-57 loss at Florida, and the bleak situation around the Bulldogs' locker room hasn't improved much.

Georgia (10-16, 1-10 SEC) has won just once under interim head coach Pete Herrmann, and while the Bulldogs' upset of Florida last week created a few good feelings among fans, the only storyline to create any real waves this season has been the rumors that former Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight might be interested in the Georgia job.

"It's definitely strange," Ware said. "The day everything happened (when Felton was fired), it was just like, man, I've never been in this situation, not knowing what's going to be next. But I've just been praying about it and working hard, and everything else is out of my hands."

The process of identifying the next Georgia head coach hasn't moved quickly – or at least, the details of the search have leaked out in any large numbers.

Georgia heads to Mississippi (14-11, 5-6) today having lost 12 of its past 13 games, and the focus for most fans has long since turned to next year, but athletics director Damon Evans hasn't given them many details to savor while riding out the remainder of this season.

Evans has hired a search firm to identify a pool of candidates for the coaching job, but he has refused to discuss any individual candidates, cautiously avoiding Knight's name in public discussions.

"Fans do have their favorites, there's no doubt," Evans said. "But I can't let that be the driving force for my decision with regard to a basketball coach."

What will drive his decision, he said, is finding a coach who can improve on some of Felton's biggest weaknesses.

For one, Evans said, he wants a coach who can cultivate the fertile recruiting grounds within the state to land some top players. Freshman Trey Thompkins was the highest rated in-state recruit Felton was able to land during his five-and-a-half-year tenure, and Felton's failure to nab Atlanta-area star Derrick Favors this season likely sealed his fate.

"I've got to have someone who understands and is able to relate to this state and the recruiting base in this state," Evans said. "The state of Georgia has some pretty good athletes come out of it. I think this individual needs to understand that and establish a relationship with the appropriate individuals and associations in this state."

More than just building a relationship with the top high school prospects, however, Evans wants a coach who can forge bonds with the community.

One of the biggest criticisms leveled against Felton was his inability to establish a connection with a large segment of the fan base. Evans said his next coach must be able to "gauge Bulldog Nation."

"I truly believe that if you want to be successful these days in any business, you've got to be engaged and garner the support of all the different constituent groups out there," Evans said. "I just think that's being smart, whether it's the athletic industry or any other industry."

A number of candidates Evans has in mind are already coaching with other teams, and he said he won't make direct contact until those coaches have finished their seasons. He does expect a decision to be made soon after the conference tournaments, however, and it could happen during the NCAA tournament.

Thompkins said Evans hasn't discussed candidates with the team either, but whoever lands the job, Thompkins said the team only has one qualification.

"Whatever guy comes in here, if his style is going to win games, I'm down for it," he said. "I'm a player who can adjust to any style, who's willing to cooperate with any adjustments and anything he has planned."

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