January 22, 2013

Fox focused on the journey



Mark Fox wants to win. On Tuesday, he said make no mistake about that.

But when it comes to building a foundation that will last, he's focused on the long haul, although that trip may be longer than some might prefer, being that he's three-plus years into his tenure as Georgia's head coach.

"We're not to four years yet, but I will tell you that when I was first offered this job, the first contract I was offered, I declined because I didn't think it was the right time frame, not to have a good team, but to be completely rebuilt and established," Fox said. "I never really put a time frame on it, and I'm not ready to do so now."

With a record of 7-10 overall, 1-3 in SEC play coming into Wednesday night's 8 p.m. game (SEC Network) at Stegeman Coliseum against No. 8 Florida (14-2, 4-0), it's been a frustrating season in many respects for the Bulldogs.

With youth comes inexperience and with inexperience comes on-court inconsistency, battles Fox has fought with the team for the past two years.

Fox was asked if the Bulldogs are still in a rebuilding process.

"Here's what you have to understand, we took over a situation and we put together a better team the second year and after that we had two guys leave early. It's almost like we have to rebuild it again," Fox said. "I think Georgia has had what, only five guys go out early in the history of the program, and two of those guys (Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie) were a year-and-a-half ago and that set us back. That made it a little more challenging, but it is what it is. We've got to put together a team and win some games."

But how long will that take?

Fans are not typically a patient bunch, and Internet message boards have been ripe with chatter wondering how long Fox should be given to turn the Bulldogs' fortunes around.

"I don't worry about the outside. I've got to do what's best for this team and this program in the long haul. That's all I'll ever do," Fox said. "I'll worry about the student-athlete and do what's best for our team. I don't pay attention to anyone on the outside. After my second year, everyone has all the answers and no solutions. You can't please everybody. We're going to do what's right. We got it squared away once, and we can do it again."

In the meantime, Fox said he expects Georgia's growing pains to continue while young players like freshmen Charles Mann and Brandon Morris, among others, get adapted to playing big-time college basketball.

"They give us the best chance to win, but we're going to have to live with some mistakes that you normally wouldn't live with just because of their relative inexperience," Fox said. "The good thing is that they're getting the time that they need to become really, really good players."

Those lessons are expected to continue against the Gators, who beat Georgia 77-44 two weeks ago in Gainesville.

"The Florida team we saw in Gainesville and on tape is way better than every team we've played, and we've played some good teams," Fox said. "They have a terrific club, they really do."

So, do the Bulldogs have a chance?

Four of Florida's five starters average in double-figures, led by guard Kenny Boynton (13.3 ppg) and forward Erik Murphy (12.5).

"We've got to do lots of things. We need to be able to handle their pressure, stay poised offensively, make some baskets and then figure out a way to guard them," Fox said. "They've got an inside-outside attack, a guy who can score at every position and that's a challenge. We're going to have to play very, very well."

NOTES: Sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic sported two black eyes and a swollen nose as the result of taking an elbow to the face Saturday against LSU. But despite the rough appearance, Fox said Djurusic's nose was not broken and despite practicing with a protective mask on Monday, will not be required to wear one Wednesday. ... Sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said team trainers gave him a tetanus shot following his collision with LSU's Corban Collins.