It would be wrong to say that Fox has failed. His teams have been competitive in league. It would also be wrong to call him a raging success. Since 2011, when Georgia made the NCAA field mostly with Felton’s holdovers, Fox’s teams have lost to Youngstown State, Southern Miss, South Florida, Iona, Davidson, George Washington, Louisiana Tech and Chattanooga. From 2011-2012 through last season, the Bulldogs were 0-4 against Georgia Tech and Brian Gregory. (They did beat the Yellow Jackets in December.)
Georgia is 7-6 in SEC play but 1-5 against teams above .500 in the league standings. It lost by 34 points to Texas A&M and Kentucky. It managed 48 points (making 11 baskets) last week in Rupp Arena. In losing to Florida at Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday, the Bulldogs mustered 53 points.
Fox's team defends well, usually a sign of coaching. Per Ken Pomeroy's analytics, Georgia ranks 16th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. It is, however, 203rd in adjusted offense. This with two senior guards who've started since they were sophomores. This with Fox having had six years to install his system and stock players to fit.
And there's the rub. According to 247 Sports' composite ratings, Fox's full signing classes have ranked 71st, 32nd, 56th, 67th, 96th and 57th nationally. (Rated 46th, the 2016 class includes two 4-star signees.) If we go by those tepid numbers, Georgia has won at a higher rate that its talent might suggest. But why should the flagship university of a state that produces bountiful basketball talent make do with tepid talent?
It’s sometimes said that Fox doesn’t like recruiting AAU players. Well, Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton played for the Georgia Stars, Charles Mann for Southern Select, J.J. Frazier for the South Georgia Kings, Caldwell-Pope for the Georgia Blazers. Assistant coach Jonas Hayes found Yante Maten playing AAU ball in Michigan. The point being: Almost every player on scholarship at a mid-major or above played AAU ball.
If a major-college coach can’t make some sort of peace with the AAU – and the AAU is mighty in this state – he’s not apt to win anything of consequence. After six seasons and 24 games of a seventh, that’s the curious ground Mark Fox occupies. He has won enough to keep his job, which isn’t to say he has won enough.