After moving on from Mark Fox, Georgia replaced him with a big name in Tom Crean this past offseason.
Crean had last been at Indiana, where he had a 55.1 win percentage and took the Hoosiers to four NCAA Tournament trips. After being dismissed following a nine-year tenure in Bloomington, he took a year off before being named the Bulldogs head coach to continue the improvement of coaching pedigree in the SEC.
Most would agree that almost every team there are peaks and valleys throughout a season, especially ones in a transition either in their coaching staff, locker room or culture in general.
To start the year, they were on a peak as they started 8-4 through non-conference play. When they hit their conference schedule, though, Georgia fell hard into a valley and has yet to climb their way out. They’ve gone 2-8 in their last 10 with one of those wins coming in a non-conference win at home against Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Of those eight losses, the average margin of loss is by 16.5 points, and seven have been by double digits, including 15-point losses to Alabama and Auburn, a 20-point loss to Kentucky and a 46-point loss to Tennessee. This stretch has the Bulldogs sitting at #13 in the SEC at 1-8 and an overall record of 10-13 with eight games to go in the regular season.
Following their most recent loss Saturday at home against Ole Miss that extended their losing streak to four and was by another double-digit margin, Tom Crean finally boiled over.
“It’s all on me,” Crean said after the game. “Because I’m the one who decided to keep these guys. And I get it, because the last thing I can do with making decisions on keeping guys in the program in the spring, is now overly get mad at them because I’m the one who made the decision.
“I live with that every day, and it doesn’t mean that they’re not great kids. But very few programs, when there’s a takeover, when you have guys who haven’t done it at any point really in their career, a lot of those guys move on. That’s what happens when there’s a job change. And I didn’t do that. And I’m not going to complain. And we’ve just got to do everything we can to fix it.”
I would say that’s a prime example of complaining, but regardless, those were some out-of-bounds comments for any coach to make publicly about his team.
When their team is playing poorly, coaches can take one of two approaches. Either they can have hope that their group can find a silver lining in their struggles, or they can express their frustration so much so that it lights a fire in their group and inspires them to play better.
This is more similar to the latter, but it’s almost as if Crean doesn’t think they’re going to come out of this funk and is instead blaming himself for keeping the group that he has now, which was supposed to be Mark Fox’s.
If you’re a player in that Bulldog locker room, how do you feel about Coach Crean after comments like these? It’s difficult to do, but coaches are best able to question his team’s effort, because he knows how far they can push themselves better than anyone.
To question why he chose to keep some of them around and saying that he can’t even be upset as if to say he did it to himself is crossing the line, specifically for his players. If they were playing poorly beforehand, it’s not going to get any better now that they believe their own coach doesn’t believe in them.
Another layer to this is recruiting. If you’re a player being recruited by Tom Crean, how do you feel about him and his program after these comments? Who’s to say he wouldn’t make the same kinds of statements about you if you and your team weren’t playing well, even if you were a player he actually got to recruit?
The most pressing issue now is the recruitment of Anthony Edwards. A top-five player and the #1 shooting guard in the ESPN rankings for 2019 after reclassifying is set to commit on Monday morning between Georgia, Florida State and Kentucky.
The Bulldogs and Seminoles were the perceived favorites but Edwards reportedly cancelled his visit to Florida State, which would mean Georgia is expected to be his choice come decision time.
Edwards liked the idea of being home and would be the highest-rated player ever to commit to Georgia, but what do these comments mean for his recruitment? Is there any effect on his decision and what does it mean for Florida State or Kentucky? With a decision as important as this one looming, these comments were as poorly timed as they come.
Tom Crean is a great coach, but these were terrible things to say about his group.