The biggest day of Crean’s stewardship involved no game. On Feb. 11, 2019, Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit Prep announced he would sign with the Bulldogs. He was the nation’s No. 1 prospect. We knew he’d be one-and-done, but Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis and Jahlil Okafor won national championships as one-and-dones. Sure enough, Edwards was the NBA’s No. 1 pick in 2020. Alas, Georgia was 16-16 when his one collegiate season was halted by COVID-19.
Georgia’s signing class of 2019 was ranked No. 11 nationally by 247Sports. Five of those seven freshmen were rated in the top 103. All seven are gone. Crean’s breakthrough class left almost no imprint. He was unlucky in that, because of COVID, he and his staff couldn’t recruit in person in the offseason after Edwards. That, however, held for every program.
If Crean’s time in Athens is indeed at its end, a few names spring to mind. Grant McCasland has done nice work at North Texas of Conference USA, but Georgia went the hot-mid-major-guy route with Dennis Felton and Mark Fox. Steve Forbes has reignited moribund Wake Forest, but he just signed an extension. Besides, not many coaches leave the ACC for the SEC. (Dave Odom did, though. And Buzz Williams.)
Ron Hunter did splendid work at Georgia State, but he’s 57 and coming off three losing seasons at Tulane. Rick Pitino surely would leave Iona for a Power 5 job, but he wrecked the last major program he touched. There was the sex-in-the-restaurant issue. Then the strippers-in-the-dorm issue. Then the shoe-company-money-to-a-prospect’s-family issue, which – finally! – forced Louisville to dump him. Also, he’ll turn 70 in September.
The last time Georgia made a career assistant its hoops coach was when it promoted Ron Jirsa to replace Tubby Smith. Jirsa lasted two seasons. There’s your caveat. Here’s your recommendation: Jonas Hayes, who played at Georgia and is seen as a rising star in the business, is ready for his moment.
Hayes has been at Xavier the past four seasons. He worked at Georgia under Fox. In December 2017, Hayes helped land a commitment from Newton High’s Ashton Hagans, considered the best junior in this state. When it became clear Fox wouldn’t last until 2019, Hagans recanted, reclassified and signed with Kentucky. FYI, Xavier’s roster includes two players from Georgia, one from Alabama.
If memory serves, the Bulldogs have done OK in another sport by hiring an alum who was a career assistant. I’m not saying Jonas Hayes will take his first team to the Final Four. I am saying his first team won’t go 6-25.