This blog has moved! Yes, already!
As of Thursday, Feb. 12, this little blog has relocated to a new home on AJC.com. It’s the same newspaper, the same Web site and the same writer (feel free to groan) — there’s just a new URL.
New features: Bigger type, more graphics, comments that load 10 times faster and a larger and more recent photo that makes me look pretty doggone old. I think you’ll like it (the blog, not the photo). But I am, as we know too well, often wrong.
Is it time for Felton to go?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Athens — Hailed as a breakthrough, it was just a blip. Georgia won the SEC basketball tournament on a tempest-tossed weekend, and 10 months later it’s as if it never happened. The Bulldogs are as pedestrian as ever.
On Sunday, they fell to 9-9 by losing to an unranked Kentucky team so emphatically that it seemed worse than it was. “We shouldn’t be losing by 30 points,” said forward Terrance Woodbury, speaking of a game that ended 68-45.
Stegeman Coliseum was only three-quarters full, and 35 percent of those in attendance wore Kentucky blue. Afterward, Dennis Felton levied the same criticism at his team he had 51 weeks earlier after a 26-point loss at Tennessee — “We did not compete with the kind of toughness we needed; it was a very soft effort,” he said Sunday. And the question arises: Just what will it take to change these moribund dynamics?
The answer, sad to say, is a new coach.
Hired in April 2003 to sweep up after Jim Harrick, Felton hasn’t yet had a 20-win season or a winning record in SEC play. (His record in regular-season conference games is 26-57.) He has made the NCAA tournament only once. And, if he hadn’t made it when he did, a different man would surely be coaching Georgia today.
It’s time now to give a different man — Dayton’s Brian Gregory, say — that chance. Felton has five seasons plus 18 games, and it just hasn’t worked. On Sunday, the Bulldogs made as many turnovers (19) as baskets, and they didn’t manage their 40th point until the game’s 37th minute. On the week, the Bulldogs managed 85 points in two games; Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks had 76 by himself.
And therein lies the greatest indictment of Felton: Meeks played at Norcross, same as Gani Lawal and Al-Farouq Aminu. Not one signed with Georgia’s flagship school. On Wednesday, Derrick Favors of South Atlanta, considered the nation’s No. 1 recruit, chose Tech over Georgia. This state produces a slew of big-time talent, and somehow little of it lands in Athens.
It was understandable that Felton would struggle to sign players in the post-Harrick years, but Harrick has been gone from Georgia longer than Bill Self has been coaching Kansas. Felton has had time, and now his sixth Bulldog team looks only slightly more polished than his second, which finished 8-20.
“We knew this team was going to be significantly different from last year’s,” Felton said. “That was apparent going in. We’re relying on new players as much as anybody in the country.”
Georgia lost three starters from the team that won the SEC title, but it wasn’t as if any of the three was a lottery pick. (Seniors Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss weren’t drafted.) The latest starting five includes Corey Butler, who arrived as a walk-on. Put bluntly, a coach on his sixth season shouldn’t still be relying on spare parts. But that, due to egregious attrition and a lack of recruiting success, has become a Felton trademark.
Asked if he felt his job was again in peril, Felton said: “I’m not having any discussion about my employment except when I talk with my employers.”
Said athletics director Damon Evans, asked to assess Felton’s program: “There’s still basketball left this season, and we’ll see how this plays out.”
That wouldn’t seem an endorsement. Ten months ago, Felton got the reprieve to end all reprieves, and that astonishing gain hasn’t been even slightly consolidated. As Woodbury said: “It’s like we’re kind of forgetting we are SEC champions.”
If the Bulldogs themselves can’t remember, why should anyone else?