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Friday, February 20, 2009

Evans Looks for Coach to 'Gauge the Bulldog Nation'

Here's the third part of my interview with Damon Evans in which we chat about the vacant coaching position with the men's basketball team. Evans will not discuss any individual candidates, so take from that what you will, but he did have a lot to say about the job in general.

For Part 1 of my interview in which we discussed the SEC's war of words, CLICK HERE.

For Part 2 in which we hit on other football issues inlcuding Thursday games and G-Day, CLICK HERE.

I'll have Part 4 up tomorrow which deals with the economic issues currently facing the Georgia Athletics Association.

Also, if you're interested in some good basketball rumors, Brett Jensen at Total UGA has some intriguing inside scoop ... but a subscription is required.

Hale: Given where the basketball program is at right now, do you have any regrets about how you handled the coaching situation this year, whether it be bringing Dennis Felton back after last season or removing him mid-year?

Evans: You take things one day at a time. Last year was an incredible finish for our basketball program, and you've got to give credit where credit is due. No one thought we would do what we did by going to that SEC tournament and winning it or winning it in the manner that we did, and I felt that was deserving to have Coach Felton continue as our basketball coach.

I had hoped that we would build off that. I was excited. That was something that hadn't happened that much as of late with regard to our basketball program. I was excited and hoping we'd build off that, but unfortunately we didn't. Unfortunately things weren't going like I wanted them to go, the way a lot of people had wanted it to go, and it was just time. I felt it was the appropriate time because we weren't moving in the direction I felt we should have been moving in, and I truly believe that we can do some good things here, if not great things in Georgia basketball.

DH: How tough was it for you to make the decision to change coaches when you did? What was the catalyst the led you to make the change at that time?


DE: It's always a difficult decision any time you're making a personnel decision because you're going to impact not only an individual, but in a lot of instances, the lives of a lot of individuals because of their families. Not only that, when you make that decision, it impacts the lives of the people who work with that particular individual. It's always tough to do.

It's a hard thing to do, but that's part of what my job responsibility is, to make sure that we have the right people in place. It wasn't one thing. It was a culmination of many things that led to my decision to make a change at that point in time. I don't want to get into specifics, but it wasn't one thing. It was just the appropriate time.

DH: I know you're not discussing individual candidates at this point, but the Bobby Knight story got a lot of publicity -- more than the basketball program has gotten in a long time. Does any of that make you consider bringing in someone with a recognizable name that would energize fans more seriously than maybe you had before?


DE: First off, I won't comment, I don't think it's appropriate to comment on any particular individual or potential candidate that is out there now. The decision that's going to be made at Georgia is going to be one that I feel meets what we need at this time, that fits the philosophy of Georgia, of Georgia basketball, of Georgia athletics, of this institution as a whole.

Fans do have their favorites, there's no doubt. Fans have been saying this person, this person, this person, this person. I appreciate the fans' interest. I think that's what makes us great. It makes me feel good because that shows they have some passion about Georgia basketball, which is a good thing, but I can't let that be the driving force for my decision and our decision with regard to a basketball coach. I'm going to go through this process with the use of a search firm, look at candidates that I think for one, that are interested, and then make a decision that fits Georgia and that I think can take us to the next level.

DH: OK, so when you're meeting with the search firm and you're trying to decide on a list of potential candidates, what are the main things you are looking for in Georgia's next head coach?

DE: Multiple things that I look at. You've got to have fit, but I'm looking for someone who can help the young men on the basketball team grow and develop athletically, that can help them reach their full potential from an athletic standpoint and academically can help them in that area graduate from this institution. Someone who I'd like to say is a CEO of basketball.

When you're working at an institution of this caliber, being a head basketball coach is one of the most visible positions at this institution, and you're not just the coach, you're the administrator for the program, you're the manager for the program, you're the leader of the program, and I encompass those to be a CEO of basketball.

I've got to have someone who understands and is able to relate to this state and the recruiting base in this state. 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. I'll say this someone who can recruit student-athletes, can go out and get good players. You've got to be able to recruit in this business. You've got to be able to go out and get players, and if you can't get players, it's going to be difficult. You can be the greatest coach in the world, but if you don't have players, it's going to be hard to win. That's an important aspect to be able to recruit.

The other thing is, in today's time, is integrity. I want to do things with a high level of integrity in our basketball program. We've had some bumps in the road as of late, going back to the previous staff. We can't afford to do that. We don't need to do that here. So I'm looking for a CEO of basketball, someone who possesses outstanding leadership, understands the role of athletics as it relates to being at an institution of higher learning the academic component someone who is going to help our young men grow and develop athletically and academically, and someone who has a great knowledge of basketball, someone who can recruit players to this institution and, just as important, someone who can gauge the Bulldog Nation.

DH: For all the wins and losses, it always seemed to me like that was the biggest criticism of Coach Felton, that he failed to really connect with the Georgia fans. Given that that's what you're looking for this time around, how do you go about finding that person? Does it become a sales pitch on your end, or are you looking for someone who immediately and genuinely wants to be here?

DE: I think you want to sell your program because I think Georgia has a lot to offer. I'm going to tell you, I'm going to market Georgia. But I do want a person who wants to be here, who wants to be committed to Georgia.

Bruce Pearl came in to Tennessee and brought an uncanny ability to relate to Tennessee Volunteer people. He's been able to recruit well. He has engaged that Volunteer community in an unbelievable fashion. So I've seen it done. Let's make no mistake about it winning helps. Winning helps to engage people. We want someone who is going to come in here and win. But 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.

I just think that's being smart, whether it's the athletic industry or any other industry. You've got to have people believe in what you're doing. Leadership is simple. Leadership is influence. Good leaders get people to buy into what they're doing and to follow them because they think that leader will take them to the promised land, whatever that promised land may be for that particular industry. In this case, it's national championships, SEC championships, NCAA tournaments. And I want someone who can lead in that fashion, get people to follow him and believe in what he's trying to accomplish.

DH: What kind of time table do you think you're on in terms of finding a coach?

DE: I'm realistic. It's probably going to be more toward the end of the season because it's not appropriate for me to contact coaches directly while they're still in season. That's not something that I would do. When we narrow candidates down, some may go further than others in the tournament, so I say let's be realistic that toward the end of the season not the regular season, but through the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament.

1 comment:

andy (athens) said...

"You can be the greatest coach in the world, but if you don't have players, it's going to be hard to win. That's an important aspect to be able to recruit."

--evidence against Bobby ever comin here...