College Basketball Nation: Dennis Felton

3-point shot: A more mellow Frank Martin?

February, 21, 2013
1. Frank Martin has weathered the storm of a six-game losing streak and a bit of a media meltdown in breaking down the ineptitude of the Gamecocks last week. Martin's demeanor during South Carolina's upset win over Ole Miss on Wednesday night in Columbia was reserved for him. He sat for most of the game. He didn't need to yell as the Gamecocks came up with defensive stops, blocked shots and forced Ole Miss into poor rushed possessions. This isn't necessarily a mellow Martin compared to his intense stare-downs and animated sideline behavior at Kansas State. But he clearly has seen this is a complete overhaul at South Carolina and has to show some patience as long as the effort is in place and the execution follows the instructions. This is exactly what occurred in the final five minutes against the Rebels. In spending the evening in Columbia, I got the sense that there is a real belief that Martin will turn the Gamecocks around. And he should. The SEC is probably the best conference right now for upward mobility because so many programs are struggling to find consistency.

2. If the ACC wants to take full advantage of adding Syracuse in 2013-14 then it should guarantee at least Duke or North Carolina once a season at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse has already announced a 35,012 crowd for Saturday's game against Georgetown. That will be the 17th time the Orange have had 30,000-plus for a Georgetown game, the most of any other opponent. Syracuse is losing Georgetown as a conference opponent after this season. Three of the top eight 30,000-plus crowds at the Carrier Dome are eventually going with Syracuse to the ACC in Pitt (7), Notre Dame (6) and Louisville (4). The 35,012 fans coming for Saturday's game against Georgetown is yet another reminder of the Big East breaking up and what the Northeast college basketball fan will be missing.

3. Old Dominion is expected to have an interest in former Georgia coach Dennis Felton as a potential prime candidate for the open head coaching position after athletic director Wood Selig fired Blaine Taylor. Felton worked for Selig at Western Kentucky. Felton worked five-plus seasons at Georgia before being fired in the middle of the SEC season in 2009. Felton coached the Bulldogs to an SEC tournament title, recruited well and got Georgia through a post-probationary period. ODU, which is currently led by interim coach Jim Corrigan, is going to end up being one of the best jobs in Conference USA when the Monarchs move next season. The Monarchs beat UNC Wilmington 84-61 Wednesday night for their only second win of the conference season and fourth overall.
There's nothing life-altering in today's men's hoops news out of Athens, Ga., but there is some recognition of a job well done, and that's interesting in and of itself.

Per a release from the school, Georgia awarded coach Mark Fox a contract extension and salary adjustment -- i.e., a raise -- in appreciation of being "extraordinary and [bringing] a new level of excitement to our basketball fans," as Georgia president Michael F. Adams put it. As a result of all this excitement, Fox is getting a bump in salary from $1.3 million to $1.7 million per year. Georgia also added another year to his contract, which now runs through 2016.

It's a financial back-slap in appreciation of a job well done, and few would claim Fox doesn't deserve it. In 2009, Fox inherited a program that had gone 84-91 (including a 26-59 mark against SEC opponents) in six seasons under Dennis Felton, and one that had yet to truly recover from sanctions levied thanks to Jim Harrick's legendary academics nonsense. Few expected much from Fox in Year 1, but the Bulldogs were surprisingly competitive in a 14-17 season. Year 2 brought the program's first 20-win season and at-large NCAA tournament berth since 2004.

For the first time in a decade or so, Georgia basketball feels ascendant. At the very least, Fox has proved that Georgia can be competitive in the SEC on a yearly basis, something Felton was unable to accomplish in the post-Harrick era.

How much is that success worth? What about a $400,000 raise and a contract extension? Yep, that sounds about right.

A disturbing trend

January, 11, 2010
By the end of January 2009, two coaches -- Mark Gottfried at Alabama and Dennis Felton at Georgia -- had been giving their walking papers and coaches everywhere noted the disturbing trend in college hoops.

So where does that put this season? Two weeks before the anniversaries of Gottfried and Felton's departures, three coaches are out: Glen Miller at Penn, Dereck Whittenburg at Fordham and now Jerry Wainwright at DePaul (Dartmouth's Terry Dunn resigned).

None have been caught in any sort of scandal and none are employed by deep-pocketed state universities with football money to burn, yet all three universities decided they couldn't wait another two months.

It is really strange when you consider that none of them were very good last year. For reasons that are every bit as perplexing as their in-season dismissals are surprising, all three were retained.

What changed: angry boosters, transferring players and most of all mounting losses. Penn was winless when it let go of Miller and it's deep-pocketed alumni were staying away from the Palestra; Fordham was in the Atlantic 10 basement again and star player Jio Fontan decided to pull the plug on his time in the Bronx and DePaul, winless in the Big East regular-season last year, was starting on the same goose-egged foot.

Certainly losing is cause for dismissal in college athletics but firing a coach in season blurs the line between the college and professional game even more. Worse it sends a frightening message to the athletes and puts even more pressure on 18 to 22 year olds to win. And win now or else.

Firing coaches mid-season is more than a dangerous trend. As the numbers show from one January to the next, it's a growing trend.