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“They have to see that their dreams can come true – that they can win and play in the postseason, that they can play at the next level, that they can earn a degree,” Fox stated. “We’re gonna have to earn that respect, and it’ll take time.”
Seven seasons into Fox’s tenure, it would be hard to argue that he has proven those opportunities have been firmly established in Athens.
Winning and playing in the postseason...check.
Georgia has produced four 20-win campaigns under Fox, including back-to-back-to-back efforts over the past three seasons. That marks just the second time in 111 seasons that the Bulldogs have won 20 or more games in three straight years. In 2015-16, Fox became the first coach to lead UGA to a trio of consecutive 20-win finishes and also equaled hall-of-famer Hugh Durham for the most 20-win efforts by a Georgia coach with four.
The Bulldogs have reached postseason competition four times, including a pair of NCAA Tournament bids in 2011 and 2015.
Playing at the next level...check.
Georgia has produced three NBA Draft picks under Fox, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the No. 8 overall pick in 2013 by the Detroit Pistons. Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins both were second-round selections in 2011. In addition, 11 more Bulldogs have gone on to play professionally overseas. Most recently, 2015 seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic signed contracts to play in Italy and Poland, respectively.
Earning a degree...check.
Under Fox, 27 past and present Bulldogs have graduated from the University of Georgia. That tally features all 18 seniors during his tenure, current Bulldogs Houston Kessler and Juwan Parker and seven more former letterwinners – including NBA players Jarvis Hayes and Damien Wilkins. Those efforts have led to Georgia being one of only two SEC men’s basketball programs to earn public recognition from the NCAA for being among the nation’s top-10 percent in Academic Progress Rate (APR) twice in the past four years.
Now that the foundation Fox addressed back on April 3, 2009, has been established, he and his staff are setting their sights on even greater heights.
“We’ve done a lot of things that we thought we could do,” Fox said. “And we’ve had a lot of help to get here. Our fan base has been terrific. These kids have committed to a certain way of functioning. We felt like we could graduate players. We felt like we could win. We felt like we could do those things consistently. We think we’ve made progress, but we think there’s more that we can do. It’s going to take everyone’s effort to get there.”
Summarizing The First Seven Seasons In Athens
Fox hit the ground running upon arrival in Athens and produced immediate signs that the Bulldogs were headed in the right direction. In his first season, amid low expectations, the Bulldogs in 2010 toppled three top-25 opponents and nearly knocked off several more. They led the SEC in key benchmarks such as free throw percentage, field goal percentage and assists.
The following winter, Fox guided the Georgia program to its first 20-win season in nine years. The Bulldogs also earned their way into the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first at-large bid in nine seasons. The 2011 Bulldogs were so successful that they caused one of the roller-coaster moments of Georgia Basketball that Fox is eager to eliminate. Both Leslie and Thompkins departed early for the NBA Draft, a blow that Fox readily admits the program was not ready to endure.
The next two winters both produced 15-17 records; however, the latter also provided a key indicator that the Bulldogs’ were progressing when Georgia compiled a 9-9 record in SEC play.
The 2013-14 Bulldogs made history when they tied for second place in the final league standings, a milestone accomplished by just three other Georgia teams in 82 years of SEC play.
Georgia continued that upward trend in 2014-15 when the Bulldogs secured another NCAA Tournament bid before falling 70-63 to Michigan State, an eventual Final Four participant, in the opening round.
Most recently, the Bulldogs notched a third straight 20-win season, advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament for the third straight season and secured a postseason invitation for the third straight year.
Georgia's most recent successes rank among the best in the SEC. Only two league schools have won 20 games each of the past three years – Georgia and Kentucky. Only two conference teams have posted double-digit SEC win totals each of the past three years – Georgia and Kentucky. Only two programs have reached the semifinals of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 SEC Tournaments – Georgia and Kentucky.
A Long History Of Winning Basketball
Fox producing such success on the hardwood in Athens should come as no surprise. Over the past two decades, teams Fox has coached have earned 14 postseason bids – seven NCAA Tournament, five NIT and two CBI – produced four 25-win seasons and 11 20-win results.
Fox began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach and then as a full-time assistant under Lynn Nance at Washington (1991-93). Perhaps the most significant happenstance during his time in Seattle took place off the court. He became fast friends with fellow assistant Trent Johnson, who later introduced Fox to a co-worker in the Huskies’ promotions department named Cindy Holt. The two were married four years later.
After his two-year stint at Washington, Fox completed another important step in his coaching career. He spent the1993-94 season finishing his master’s degree at Kansas. During his spare time he was a close and constant observer of then-KU coach Roy Williams and the Jayhawks.
Fox then spent six seasons (1994-2000) as an assistant coach under Tom Asbury at Kansas State. While at KSU, the Wildcats earned an NCAA Tournament invitation in 1996 and two appearances in the National Invitation Tournament (1998 and 1999).
Fox left Manhattan to join Johnson, his friend from UW days, for what yielded a successful nine-season stint at Nevada. Fox’s first four came as the Wolf Pack’s associate head coach, including a run to the 2004 NCAA “Sweet 16” for the first time in school history.
When Johnson left Nevada for Stanford, Fox assumed the lead chair, and the program kept its torrid pace. Fox enjoyed one of the most successful starts to a coaching career in Division I men’s basketball history, headlined by establishing what was then a record for best winning percentage in a coach’s first three seasons (81-18=.818). Nevada won at least 21 games and reached postseason play in each of Fox’s five seasons as head coach, won or shared four straight Western Athletic Conference titles and played in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Finding Talent And Maximizing It
Throughout his coaching career, Fox developed a reputation as a strong recruiter who then helped those players reach their fullest potential.
Fox signed and coached numerous players who earned all-conference honors in the Big 12, Pac-10, WAC and SEC. Foremost among his Nevada signees was three-time WAC Player of the Year and All-American Nick Fazekas. Fox also played key roles in bringing NBA first-round draft pick Kirk Snyder to the program, as well as prep All-American Luke Babbit. In Athens, Fox added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, UGA’s first McDonald’s All-American in almost 20 years, who was 2013 SEC Player of the Year and the No. 8 overall pick of the NBA Draft that spring.
In February of 2012, the website RealGM.com ranked Fox first nationally among all college coaches in player development, adding that he “has truly been fantastic at getting the most out of his players.” A prime example is former Nevada guard Ramon Sessions, lightly recruited out of high school but who has quietly put together a solid career in the NBA.
All-In For The Bulldog Nation
Fox ingrained himself within the Bulldog Nation. Most notably, he has shown he’s “all-in” in several very public settings.
In 2013, Fox donned body paint and other accessories (pictured right) to join the “Spike Squad” for the football showdown between No. 9 Georgia and No. 6 LSU. Fox obliged students’ call for his return this fall when the No. 8 Bulldogs hosted No. 13 Alabama.
A Lifelong Calling
Coaching has been Fox’s aspiration for as long as he can recall. All along his career path in this chosen sport, he has drawn inspiration from countless places and people. Ironically, some of his most valuable nuggets of wisdom have come from coaches outside of basketball. He includes noted collegiate volleyball coach Jim McLaughlin (USC, Washington, Kansas State and Notre Dame) as well as football coaches Don James (Washington) and Bill Snyder (Kansas State) among his professional role models.
Fox played college basketball at Garden City (Kan.) Community College (1987-89) under former Nevada head coach Jim Carey and then lettered two seasons at Eastern New Mexico (1989-91) in Portales, N.M. He was a first-team Academic All-Lone Star Conference selection in 1991.
He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in Physical Education from Eastern New Mexico in 1991 and obtained a master’s of science degree in Athletic Administration and Sports Psychology from Kansas in 1996.
Fox and his wife, Cindy, have two children: a son, Parker (16), and a daughter, Olivia (14).
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