Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Good Knight, bad Knight

Tuesday February 3, 2009

It’s been an eventful few days around the Georgia basketball coaching search. Just to recap:

  • Furman Bisher, who hasn’t covered Georgia basketball since it was played at Woodruff Hall, started the Knight-to-Georgia talk on Saturday.
  • Georgia players expressed interest in the idea of playing for Knight. Corey Butler demonstrated why players usually aren’t in the best position to make these kinds of decisions. "To be honest, I don’t know that much about college basketball," he said. "I just play it."
  • The governor of Georgia, a former UGA football player who probably couldn’t find Stegeman Coliseum if you dropped him off at the Georgia Center, is reported to be a possible broker of a deal if Knight decides to persue the job.
  • Dick Vitale joined the campaign. Just take it easy on all of the "General" references though…we’re a little nervous in these parts about generals born in Ohio.
  • Through everything, both Knight and UGA maintain that there has been no contact.

Say what you want about the opinions of everyone from Furman Bisher to Dick Vitale, but the one thing they have in common is that the best interests of the Georgia basketball program are secondary at best to them. Knight’s friends in coaching and in the media will support him in anything he wants to do. Local media have to be drooling over the thought of the Knight circus coming to town. Knight is certainly an accomplished and respected coach, but Damon Evans and those making this decision cannot allow themselves to be the rubes who allow this torrent of outside interests to shove someone into the job who might not be the best fit for the long-term success of the program.

Look, I’m not saying that Knight is a bad coach. How can anyone say that? The question isn’t whether Knight can improve Georgia basketball. First, it can’t get much worse. Second, it’s not a Knight-or-nothing discussion. Knight can and likely would improve the program. So can some of the other candidates mentioned. Given the downward trend during Knight’s last few years in Lubbock, the abrupt way in which he left the program, and the current struggling state of that program, it’s valid to ask whether someone else might be just as able to turn the program into a winner while doing a better job of positioning the program five years from now.

But at least he’d be entertaining.

If I’ve heard one line more than any other this week, it’s that one. Knight would be exciting! He would fill the stands if only because people want to see the inevitable explosion. He’d put Georgia on the map. You know what else would do all of that? Winning.

We’ve seen that even a moderately successful program will pack Stegeman Coliseum. The interest in and demand for Georgia basketball in 2002 and 2003 was sky-high. Every single SEC game was sold out. That was a team that barely cracked the Top 25. Harrick’s bittersweet final home game against Florida in 2003 was basketball at its best, and the Coliseum was second to none that night for a big-time college hoops atmosphere.

Fans weren’t scalping tickets during those years to see the antics of the coach on the sideline. They weren’t there to see tantrums and gimmicks. Though there was a strong personality coaching the team, fans packed the house to see a winning team, quality basketball, and a group of guys playing their tails off. Right up until the end the interest that was building in Georgia basketball was happening for all the right reasons.

So what now?

Georgia is not going to hire anyone now and not without talking to several candidates. (They’re not, right? Right!?) It’s going to be at least six weeks before those candidates begin to become available. Between now and then the attention around Knight will die down and shift. Hey, look, now he’s interested in the Alabama job.

This week’s news hasn’t been without its benefits. It can’t hurt to have the Georgia job as a story on most national sports shows over the past few days. Instead of some bogus test making the Georgia program a national joke, we’re hearing now how great an opportunity it is. And it is. At the same time, the frenzy that would otherwise be around the usual list of hot candidates is squarely on Knight. That’s a good thing – Georgia can go about its search, and those men can continue coaching their teams with much less distraction.

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