One sly Fox
UGA coaching hire surprising to many

ATHENS - Unconcerned about his lack of ties to the region, Georgia named Nevada's Mark Fox as its new men's basketball coach Friday with the goal of transforming a moribund program into a national power.

The hiring of Fox, who had five straight 20-win seasons at Nevada, was a surprise to those outside the interview process. Among those mentioned as possible candidates were Missouri's Mike Anderson, Clemson's Oliver Purnell and Miami's Frank Haith.

In the end, athletic director Damon Evans settled on the 40-year-old Fox after a whirlwind courtship. The two met in Atlanta on Thursday, and Evans offered the job a few hours later.

Fox agreed to a six-year deal paying $1.3 million annually - a significant increase over the $760,000-a-year salary of his predecessor, Dennis Felton.

Felton was fired in January with the Bulldogs heading toward another dismal season. They finished 12-20 overall and 3-13 in the Southeastern Conference under interim coach Pete Herrmann.

'I know this is going to be a great day when we look back on the history of Georgia men's basketball program,' Evans said during a news conference at the school's 2-year-old training facility. 'Mark Fox is one of the country's brightest up-and-coming coaches.'

Fox was 123-43 in five seasons at Nevada, winning at least 20 games every year. He won four Western Athletic Conference championships and reached the NCAA tournament three times, twice reaching the second round.

'I'm certainly attracted to the potential for this program,' said Fox, accompanied by his wife, Cindy, and their two young children. 'There's a terrific recruiting base in the state. You can get an outstanding education. We're very excited to be here. We're ready to go to work.'

Fox's name never surfaced in reports of the search, and even the team was caught off guard. One of the top players, freshman Trey Thompkins said he hasn't decided whether he will return to school next season. Two other players, guards Zac Swansey and Troy Brewer, announced they were seeking transfers shortly after the season ended.

'I don't know coach Fox more than anyone else on the team,' Thompkins said. 'I've known him for like five hours.'

The hiring of Fox did not make the sort of immediate splash Georgia fans might have hoped for, but Evans said he's more concerned about the long-term growth of the program. While the Bulldogs had success under coaches such as Hugh Durham, Tubby Smith and Jim Harrick, they have made only one NCAA tournament appearance since 2002.

'It's not about winning the first press conference,' Evans said. 'It's about finding the right person for the University of Georgia.'