Georgia’s new AD learning to balance job, family life

Q&A with Georgia Athletic Director Josh Brooks
Georgia's first-year Athletic Director Josh Brooks is having to learn how to balance family life while overseeing a $150 million athletic department. (Family photo)

Georgia's first-year Athletic Director Josh Brooks is having to learn how to balance family life while overseeing a $150 million athletic department. (Family photo)

ATHENS – Josh Brooks has his hands full. And they’re about to get more full.

A dedicated family man, Brooks and his wife, Lillie, decided to expand their brood. Their team is growing from a roster of five to six.

This is not, mind you, an idea that just popped into their heads since Brooks was appointed Georgia’s athletic director five months ago. This development has been in the works for nearly three years now. That’s how long they have been going through the international adoption process.

Only other couples who have been involved in such a process can truly understand the patience and persistence that it requires.

“It just a takes long time and is a very intense process,” Brooks told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview this week. “It took us a year-and-a-half just to get approved to go in the queue, and now we’re in the queue. This May will be two years in that queue. They tell you it will be three years at the earliest or it could be four.”

For almost 12 years now, the Brooks have been parents to twins, Jackson and James. Davis joined the party nine years ago. So, to date they’ve been parents of boys.

But soon there also will be a little girl from Haiti.

“My wife wanted a daughter. I told her I don’t make daughters, so if she wanted a daughter we’d have to adopt one,” Brooks explained. “We just saw this as an opportunity to help one child.”

They’re hopeful that the newest member of the Brooks family will arrive by May of 2022 or 2023 at the latest. “But we’re OK with that,” he said. “We knew that process going in. Our boys will be a little older by then, a little more self-sufficient.”

If anybody in Athens knows Brooks, they also know his three boys. They’re usually wherever he is, especially on evenings and weekends. Brooks vowed before succeeding Greg McGarity as Georgia’s AD on Jan. 6 to continue put his family first.

So, when they’re not participating in their own extracurricular activities – Jackson’s a track star, James is “the brilliant one,” Davis loves baseball – they’re usually with Brooks at Georgia games or practices.

Davis has made more than a few appearances on the Bulldogs’ various jumbotrons around campus.

“He’s going to be the future Hairy Dawg, if he ends up going to UGA,” Brooks said. “You don’t want to sit next to him at a basketball game or a volleyball or a gymnastics meet. He’s inevitably going to be dancing on the screen, and you’re going to get seen, too.”

Georgia Athletic Director Josh Brooks. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

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Credit: Tony Walsh

At 40, Brooks is the youngest Power 5 AD in the country. Earlier this week, the AJC reported on Brooks’ opinion on the direction men’s basketball program under coach Tom Crean. But that was only one part of a sweeping interview on myriad subjects.

Following are some excerpts from that interview:

Q: There are a couple of other sports that struggled this past season, including women’s gymnastics and soccer. Are you anticipating making any changes?

A: Nothing new on any of that. I met with every coach early on and, again, my mission right now, just starting month four, is taking a look at every program and finding out how I can help them get better. Each program is in different stages, right? If you look at two of our more successful programs right now, you look at what (baseball) coach (Scott) Stricklin has done over and tie it into what (women’s basketball) coach (Joni) Taylor has done over time. You have patience when you’re talking to some of your coaches about building the program the right way and what they inherited.

For some coaches, they come in and there are already committed three classes out. That was the case when coach Stricklin came in. He had two or three classes committed it, so it takes a while to work through all that and then them get their own classes committed in. And then you can see there programs take off in year 4, 5 or 6. So, each program is a little different and you want to evaluate it that way and see what you can do from an administrative standpoint to help make them more successful. How can we help? Are we providing all the resources they need to recruit, to develop and to retain, to get the best student-athletes? So that’s my focus right now. I’m still evaluating every head coach.

And through all of it, this is still a COVID year. I think that’s what gets lost in all of this for a lot of people. We’re still working through this pandemic. It impacts everyone, but it impacts everyone differently. You think about the gymnastics team and how it impacted their season. One student-athlete may get it, and then they have to quarantine a few (athletes) and few injuries, and it impacts the season.

Q: How do you balance being a family man with the demands that come with this job?

A: Being a father and husband are very important to me. So, I’m not ashamed to take them to a game or an event. I think this is a great place to do it. Football is a little tougher because the role and responsibility I have on a game day is much bigger. I’m moving around, trying to see people, talk to donors, all that. But they enjoy going to events.

Q: What about when you add a little girl soon?

A: My only request was she’d be out of Year 1 and the sleepless nights. I don’t mind diapers and everything else, but I didn’t want to deal with being up all night with everything else we’ve got going on.

Seriously, though, I think people appreciate somebody who has their family with them. I’m trying to balance doing my job and being a good father. I think I can do both. You have to sacrifice in this job by putting in so many hours, but I’ve got to be able to take them to a game or two. This job can consume you.

Q: What changes do you see coming after managing an athletic program though the coronavirus pandemic?

A: Looking at it operationally, sometimes a situation like this will teach us all more efficient ways to do things and better ways to operate. It could be hybrids of some of these scenarios. It could be a situation where even if things return to normal from our aspect, it could be that newspapers and media outlets from an hour away or farther out want to keep doing Zooms. So maybe we have that as an opportunity with the locals still here with a zoom option. It’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts press boxes home and away in the future.

Q: When will recruits be able to visit campus again?

A: We’re waiting to hear official word, but it’s looking like everybody’s kind of gearing up for some kind of return (to normalcy) in June. We’ll see what that looks like for sure in the next couple of weeks. But we’re anticipating some form of on-campus recruiting in June. … One of our greatest selling points is just getting people on campus, getting them here to Athens and UGA. When we can’t get kids here, think about how that impacts us. So, I’m excited to get this thing opened back up and get kids back on campus.

Q: What about this transfer-portal situation?

A: It’s more of a sign of the times. In this day and age, that’s going to be more of the norm across the country. That, on top of COVID and everything we’ve been through, that’s going to be more of the norm. Everybody’s dealing with the issue together.

Q: Has it gotten out of hand in men’s basketball?

A: The future of college basketball is going to look different going forward. I’ve always said, ‘change is inevitable, but growth is optional.’ As we look at the landscape changing, we have to adapt and evolve. In some ways I think it’s an advantage for us. When you think about a kid who’s looking to transfer, a lot of times, especially when they’re heading into that last year or maybe have two years of eligibility left, they’re looking for someone who can develop them and get them ready for the next level. Well, I’ve got a head coach who’s got a proven track record for developing players for the next level, whether it’s truly high-end guys like Dwayne Wade or Victor Oladipo or Anthony Edwards or somebody like Nic Claxton, who he developed in one year, or Cody Zoeller. So he’s got a long, rich tradition developing guys, and I think that plays to our advantage. People who want to come here and get that one year. Look at what we were able to do with the three transfers we had last year in a limited period because of COVID. Andrew (Garcia), Justin (Kier) and P.J. (Horne) came in during a short window, and look how they developed. Imagine having a whole summer with them and coach Crean’s ability to coach and develop. I think that puts us in a good situation and shows that we can adapt and make some great headway in that area.

Q: Any messages for Georgia fans?

A: I’m just thankful for everyone’s patience as we work through COVID and everything else. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve had. We’re grateful for everyone’s patience through all this.

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