UGA basketball coach isn't worried about new facility

GREENSBORO — A day after the University of Georgia Athletic Association board of directors voted to spend $40 million to improve football facilities, new men's basketball coach Mark Fox came before the group with no such requests.

"You know, everyone asks about Stegeman Coliseum," Fox said. "The building is perfect. It's intimate; it's got nice seats; it's got access to our campus."

The issue, he said, "is not the building. It's the energy we put in it. If we can get the students back and get the fans back and improve our team, then Stegeman is going to be a wonderful place to play college basketball."

While Georgia boasts a state-of-the-art basketball practice and training facility that opened in 2007, 45-year-old Stegeman Coliseum has drawn criticism as a possible reason for the Bulldogs' lack of hoops success, particularly in recruiting.

UGA has not seriously considered replacing Stegeman, but a long-range master plan suggests expanding and renovating it to widen concourses and add restrooms and other amenities. Athletics director Damon Evans said he likes those ideas but that no decision has been made on when, or whether, to proceed.

"That's for someone else to work on — not me," Fox said after Friday's meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee.

Fox's concern is producing a better team that will draw more people.

"When we were at Nevada, we had a beautiful arena," he said. "We never once talked about it in recruiting. ... The atmosphere is something that ultimately you can sell in recruiting, and that's what we have to focus on."

Georgia drew 6,678 fans per game to 10,523-seat Stegeman last season as the Bulldogs finished 12-20 overall, 3-13 in the SEC.

"We have 20 of 21 sports with winning records," UGA President Michael Adams said at the start of Friday's meeting. "We're going to deal this morning with one that I'm confident in a couple or three years we're going to be saying 21 of 21."

Fox acknowledged there is much work to be done.

"We realize we have a few areas to address," he said.

The group laughed at the understatement.

"I came to a smart school," Fox said. "Y'all know."

Asked by a member of the group about the offensive philosophy he'll bring to a team that has had much difficulty scoring, Fox said: "One year I was talking to an NBA head coach, and we got into a philosophical discussion. He said, 'I think we should make the rim bigger.' That's the first thing I thought of when you said that.

"We have to become more offensive," Fox continued. "We had more turnovers than assists [last season], and the stats don't show a great free-throw percentage. I say, 'You're on full scholarship; you should be able to make a free throw.' ... Ultimately, we're going to put a real premium on shot selection and decisions with the ball and taking better care of it so we have more possessions to give ourselves a chance to score."

Evans ended the board meeting with a plea for support of Fox's rebuilding effort: "We just need every board member to come to basketball games next year and bring a friend — or 10, 20, 30."