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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Evans: "The Blind Spot"

In part three of my interview with Damon Evans, we discuss the hoops team, the future of Georgia athletics and what Evans calls "The Blind Spot."

If you've missed Part One, you can find it HERE. If you've missed Part Two of my interview with Evans, click HERE .

David Hale: When you look back on this football season, what's the biggest thing you'll take from it. Is it, as you said earlier, a learning year?

Damon Evans: It is. There's lessons to be learned. You have to go back and say, ok, are we going to take this season, which wasn't a bad season 9-3 but it wasn't the season we expected to have. We wanted to be better. We had different expectations, different goals set for us. I think what you have to do is go back and evaluate and see where things may have gone wrong, what areas we need to improve upon, then list those things and measure that this season against next season to see if we made significant strides.

We've got some room to grow. We've got some room in which we can improve, and I can tell everyone this: I believe that Mark is going to work his tail off to make sure that we improve, and I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure we improve and be mindful of where we are today.

But I don't want people to throw away the towel after one year of lofty expectations and not meeting those expectations and think that, oh, everything is imploding because that's not what's happening. I think history, I think the track record is proven here under our coach, and I think we'll continue to get better.

DH: You won't see too many basketball seasons like Georgia had last year. I know for most of the season, there was a lot of discussion about Coach Felton's job security. The tournament run changes a lot of things, obviously, but coming out of that run, two of the top players are not back, and it's a very young team this season. How do you evaluate the team this year? Given that last year had about an absolute low and an incredible high mixed together, what do you judge as a success this year?

DE: I'm going to evaluate the season as it goes along. I'm not going to lower our expectations. I look for us to compete this year, I really do. Our goal is and it should be every year to try to win the SEC championship, try to position ourselves to get in the NCAA tournament. That's what we should be trying to do. Do we have somewhat of a young team? Yes, but I've seen other young teams do that before. I don't want to place low expectations on our basketball program. I'm not going to do that. We are striving to get better every year. Last year, we had a great run in the tournament, and what I'm looking for is for us to build off of that. That's some momentum going into this year.

We're the defending SEC tournament champions. We've shown people we can do some great things, and I'm looking for us to build upon that and have success this year. I want us to be a success, but I'm not going to sit here and say what that success is now, today. But I can tell you this: I'm looking for us to compete well in the SEC and have a chance to get a bid in the NCAA. I think that's significantly important, and if you ask Georgia fans what do they want, that's what they want. If you ask our coaches, that's what they want. We've got a program in my mind that should be getting better each year, and a program that in my mind should be able to compete in our league.

DH: Given those expectations and the rampant discussion about Coach Felton's job at the end of last year, how do you prevent those same questions from cropping up again this season if the team begins to struggle?

DE: I'll be candid: From a fan's perspective, I can't dictate what the fans will say. There could be talk by the fans out there one side saying we need Felton, the other side saying it's time for a change. Only time will tell. What I'm going to do is sit back and take this season in and give our coach the full support. That talk's not there. That's not what I'm worried about right now. I'm worried about supporting this team, helping this team to have great success, helping Coach Felton to have great success, and let the chips fall where they may.

What results come out of the end of the year, I can't tell you that. I don't have a crystal ball right now to say, you know, we're going to be 10-19 or 19-10. I think we just need to take it one game at a time and go from there. I'm hoping, I'm optimistic that things are going to go well for our basketball program, that we'll continue to mature, that we'll improve and position ourselves to do some great things.

DH: We're getting ready to start a new year. What are some of the things that fans can expect from 2009? What are some of the projects you're excited about in the coming year?

DE: There may be some facilities that could come along, but I don't want to say anything definite because there are things that need board approval. We just completed a master plan that looks at a comprehensive study of all of our physical facilities, and we may be able to start some of those things. The economy is tough, so I want to be mindful of that. But what I want Georgia people to know is that, while there are things that are going to change, what I want them to see coming is that we're going to work harder this year.

We're going to work harder to be a better athletics program. We've got to make sure that we're totally committed to representing the Bulldog Nation, and putting our teams in a position to make everyone proud and to meet expectations and to live up to those expectations that we have.

Sometimes I think you've got to refocus. As an athletics association, we have to take a look at ourselves and say, OK, is this where we want to be, or do we want to get better? And if we want to get better which I know that's the case how are we going to do that? What I want people to know is that we're going to be working on a plan of how do we get better.

I want to be mentioned among the elite programs in the country. I don't want to be good. I may not even use the word good again, because we need to be great. We've got to figure out how to become great at this institution in a manner where every single year, we're consistently mentioned with the elite programs in the country.

DH: What are some of those first steps you see being taken in that direction? What might have the most immediate impact?

DE: First and foremost, the immediate things that everybody wants to see is our sports programs compete at a high level, which we have for the most part. It think we've got to refocus some energy in different sports programs across the board and get back to where we were once. I think that's significantly important. I think we need to make sure that we see that the changes that are occurring in each sport, that we're able to adjust and adapt with the ever-changing environment in that particular sport. I think we need to measure our peers, we need to assess where our peers are.

You've got to do an assessment of where your peers are, and you've got to assess where you are in comparison. I think that's really big. I think we have to be honest with ourselves when we do those assessments. Don't say you're great when you might not be great yet. Don't think that everything is OK, when it might not be OK. I think we've got to do a true evaluation of where we are as a total program, and then where we are as each sport breaking themselves down and saying, OK, this is where we really think we are, and this is where our competition is. Is this where we want to be?

That's a hard question because I tell people and I use this with our coaches and staff I call it the blind spot. The blind spot is the difference between the perception you have of yourself and the perceptions others have of you. That's your blind spot, and sometimes our blind spot gets a little bit too big. We perceive ourselves as being everything OK, but everyone else is perceiving us to be (worse). The difference between the two is our blind spot. Perception is reality. Sometimes it doesn't matter where we think we are, what matters is how other people perceive us.

I think we've got to make sure our blind spot is not too big, and that comes back to truly assessing program for program, the department as a whole, looking at the goals that we've set and, really, measuring ourselves to our peers. Is Florida a peer institution? You're doggone right. Where are we right now in comparison to Florida football? Let's be honest with ourselves. That's what we've got to do. I can say to you, Florida's been to two national championship games in the past three years. Is that gap widening between Georgia and Florida, or is it not? Those are things we need to sit down and assess. And if we do believe that gap is widening, how do we close it?


Anonymous said...

I love the tone of DE and MR following the season which speaks to their sincere commitment to addressing matters which contributed to our 2008 shortfalls.

I'm therefore convinced 2009 will show an improvement in these areas.

Go Dogs!

Anonymous said...

From my first glance at the title, I thought the post was going to be about Brian Evans trying to cover the fade route...