March 8, 2008

Felton's swan song?

As Georgia closed out its regular season Saturday, the only question remaining was whether or not head coach Dennis Felton will be back to lead the team next year.

More and more, that scenario is looking tenuous at best, although following the Bulldogs' 76-62 loss to Ole Miss, Georgia's fifth-year coach defended the work he and his staff have done.

"I remain very, very proud of the job that we do and have done, and I remain very, very confident that my coaching staff and I are doing a good job. Our recruiting has gotten better, so the future continues to be bright," Felton said. "But no doubt, this year we took a step backwards, no doubt."

It's that fact why rumbling regarding Felton's future persist, issues that will certainly be discussed when athletic director Damon Evans meets with his coach shortly after this week's SEC Tournament in Atlanta is complete.

Evans routinely meets with his head coaches at the end of their respective seasons.

"I'll say this as I've said, as always I'll sit down with our head basketball coach at the end of the year," Evans said. "We do everything in totality and until such time there's nothing more to be said."

Felton, however, had plenty more to say after Saturday's game.

The Bulldogs (13-16, 4-12) will match up against Ole Miss (21-9, 7-9) again on Thursday in the first round of the SEC, and Felton seemed to take offense when asked whether or not he was coaching for his job.

"Coaches, every game, they're trying to win. Do you actually think that I'll coach any harder or better if I'm thinking about something like that? The answer is no," he said. "I won't coach any harder in an SEC tournament game than I do otherwise."

Felton added that he hasn't spent the past few weeks worrying about job security.

"I think about it when you guys bring it up. I think coaches are always aware that it's a volatile industry, we're always aware that all of us have people who can decide to fire us," he said. "That doesn't change."

To illustrate his point, Felton compared his program to three other schools - Baylor, St. John's and St. Bonaventure - programs in similar straits as his Bulldogs with coaches in their fourth and fifth year.

"I don't even know if you guys get out much and are aware of whom they are, but I can tell you they are Baylor, St. John's and St. Bonaventure," he said. "During the same time frame, it's actually kind of a convenient comparison, because Baylor was dealing with exactly the same the last five years, St. John's the last four years and St. Bonaventure the last five years.
"But we have played in a tougher league, based on RPI in those five years, than all of those programs. We have played a much tougher schedule, RPI than all those teams and we have won more games than all of them. We have won more conference games than all of them. So again, when you ask why I would think it's bizarre that there would be a question of whether I'm doing a good enough job to be able to remain as Georgia's coach, put some perspective on it."

Senior guard Sundiata Gaines, who scored 13 points in his final home game, said he believes Felton should get another chance.

"Coach Felton is a good coach. Unfortunately, we happened to have a losing season," Gaines said. "At this moment, I think he's going to be here next year. But if other people think otherwise, the Athletic Association thinks it's time for him to move on; then it's up to them. All we can do is just play and let everybody else take care of the outside stuff."

A 26-6 run by Ole Miss in the second half ruined any chances Georgia had of making its final home game a success.

Chris Warren and Dwayne Curtis both scored 15 points for Ole Miss, while Terrance Woodbury led the Bulldogs with 18, followed by Billy Humphrey with 14 and Gaines with 13.

NOTE: Senior Dave Bliss wore No. 3 against the Rebels. No. 3 belonged to late teammate Kevin Brophy, who was killed in an automobile accident prior to last year. Brophy would have been a senior along with Bliss and Gaines, who were honored before the game.

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