Georgia football coach helps basketball team find its resolve

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 5, 2013 

Georgia Coach Mark Richt shook hands with Kentucky players after the Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats last October. Richt's team bounced back after struggling in back-to-back seasons.

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Whenever football coach Mark Richt receives a contract extension and/or raise, he shares his good fortune by taking another Georgia head coach to breakfast. That's how he came to be sitting with basketball coach Mark Fox at an Athens Waffle House recently.

"Somehow, by the end of breakfast, I was going to talk to the team," Richt said this week.

Richt offered Fox's team encouraging words last Friday, two days after a dispiriting loss at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs lost 63-62 on a last-second shot despite holding a double-digit lead midway through the second half.

Richt likened Georgia's 2-7 start this basketball season to his football team's struggles in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Georgia had a 6-7 record, Richt's only losing season in 12 years as head coach and the Bulldogs' first since 1996.

The 2011 season began with losses to Boise State and South Carolina. "We went through — whatever you want to call it — a lot of negative noise," Richt said.

He recalled his message to the football team after the home loss (45-42) to South Carolina.

"I went into the locker room and told them I was really encouraged with the talent base and the fight," he said. "If we'd just stay together and stay positive, we could rally.

"No matter what, we had to do those two things."

Richt delivered much the same message to the Georgia basketball team.

"I'm not an expert on basketball," he said, "but I can see a team fighting and a team unified."

Growing up in Omaha, Neb., Richt played basketball through the 10th grade in high school. "Football took over in the 11th and 12th grades," he said. "But you know when a team is hustling and playing hard."

Richt noted how the football team uses the initials "G-A-T-A," which he interpreted as "Get after their you-know-what."

In its next game, Georgia beat Tennessee 78-68 on Saturday.

Recent games have tested Georgia's resolve. The Bulldogs have lost four of their past six games with three of the losses coming by a combined 10 points and the fourth in overtime.

"The basketball team just had a slow start," Richt said of the challenging season for a team dependent on freshmen and sophomores. "They just had a slow start. Everybody's trying to talk about that instead of being real positive."

Richt plans to attend Georgia's game against Kentucky on Thursday.

To talk to Fox's team continued Richt's custom of being available to offer encouragement to other Georgia teams. He said he's spoken to most of the other teams and the Red Coat Marching Band. "The majorettes, too," he said. "So I stay pretty busy."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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