The Georgia basketball team is off to its best start in a decade, and first-year head coach Mike White is proving to be a difference maker.
In most cases, one leads to the other. Hiring the right coach can lead to more recruiting success, and having those two build together is what makes a program become dominant. The Georgia football team is the perfect example of this happening.
So why not Georgia basketball? The program has had its share of premier players come through the doors, but the needle hasn’t moved on the program in quite a while. It all boils down to the head coach, and Georgia has made some serious blunders in hiring (and firing) basketball coaches in the past.
After Hugh Durham — the coach with the longest tenure in program history, 16 years — Georgia brought in the legendary Tubby Smith, who ended his two years with the Dawgs boasting the highest win percentage in program history at .703.
Smith ultimately left Georgia to take over at Kentucky where he led the Wildcats to five regular season SEC titles, five SEC Tournament titles, and a national championship. Oh, to think what could have been.
After that, the Dawgs fell off the cliff.
The big downside really began in 2000 with the hiring of the problematic Jim Harrick. The damage he and his son and the scandals they brought to the program really set things back.
From there it was a string of stop-gap-like hires — coaches who never really had the opportunity to succeed, or who gave the program less-than-average results. The longest-tenured coach since the success of the Tubby Smith era was Mark Fox, leading the team from 2009-2018 and finishing with a .551 winning percentage.
The common thread is that every coach was viewed as “different” or “the guy who could turn things around”. None of it came to fruition.
When Georgia parted ways with Tom Crean in 2022 and made the Mike White hire, there was little fanfare. Perhaps the Bulldog Nation had become immune or numb to the idea of a new coach changing the culture, and simply took a wait-and-see mentality.
Just 18 games into his first season, White is showing signs that he can be that guy. The Bulldogs are more than competitive, they’re a presence. They’re pulling upsets and even in losses they’re keeping games close against some of the better programs in the nation.
There hasn’t been a huge injection of talent in the program. Georgia hasn’t landed a recruiting class in the top 40 in the country since 2020. Nobody is listing Georgia as a destination for the country’s top talent. But yet, White has this team serving notice that they won’t lie down.
Perhaps the Bulldogs got the right guy for a change. Maybe not looking for the splash hire or the same old coaches being recycled from program to program was a good decision.
Best of all, if White does the unthinkable and lands Georgia on the college basketball map in a major way, we can say we stole him from the Gators.
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