January 30, 2009
Danny P Smith -
Thursday''s firing of University of Georgia men''s basketball coach Dennis Felton sent shockwaves through the Southeastern Conference.
The change came days after Mark Gottfried resigned at the University of Alabama.
"It''s unfortunate coaches are dismissed during the season," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "It''s tough for the student-athletes."
Less than a year ago John Brady, who took the LSU Tigers to the NCAA Final Four in 2000, was dismissed in the middle of the season.
Gottfried led the Crimson Tide to the NIT Finals in 2001 and to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2004.
"I feel badly for Mark and Dennis because I know both of them personally, but I also understand the business," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "Right or wrong, it''s not our decision to make. It''s up to the administration. I understand the nature of the business, but that doesn''t mean you don''t have sympathy for the coaches, their families, and their players."
Felton was 84-91 overall and 35-65 in SEC games in a little more than five seasons at Georgia. He helped the Bulldogs capture the SEC Tournament championship last season.
In the cases of Felton, Gottfried and Brady, it seemed to be what have you done for the program lately. Alabama was 12-7 when Gottfried resigned, while Georgia was 9-11 when Felton was fired.
"It''s just disturbing," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "All of a sudden they are bad coaches?"
Florida coach Billy Donovan said coaches being let go during the season is "a sign of the times in college basketball," but he respects the jobs Gottfried and Felton did.
"I played against Mark and have had a long relationship with him," Donovan said. "He is a very good coach with a complete body of work. Dennis'' teams always played hard and competed as tough as any team out there.
"Coaching is result-based, and that''s the challenging part. Stakes are a lot higher. There are more games on TV and there is a lot of money in college athletics. There has to be a balance between that and getting teams better."
Georgia named Pete Herrmann the interim coach, and he said the mood in Athens, Ga., was understandably unpleasant.
"It''s not a good day for the Georgia program," Herrmann said. "I don''t feel it''s in the best interest of the team, the players, and everyone in preparing for games when a decision is made like this, but it''s a product of the administration in charge at the time."
All Herrmann can do is pick up the pieces and move forward for the Bulldogs'' game at Alabama at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"We have to get ready to compete in a terrific league and you''ve got 48 hours to prepare for the next game," Herrmann said. "That''s got to be our priority. We just want to make sure our players are on the right path to preparing to compete in the SEC."
Herrmann''s coaching counterpart Saturday will be interim coach Philip Pearson.
"I guess you can call this the interim game," Herrmann said. "It''s on the road, so it''s out of our comfort zone. These are two proud schools with great traditions. The hardest part for the players at both schools will be to look at the situation and have a good practice, a good preparation, and get ready to compete."
Other SEC games on Saturday include: Ole Miss at Mississippi State, Florida at Tennessee, Arkansas at LSU, South Carolina at Kentucky, and Vanderbilt at Auburn.
LSU''s 100 years and counting
The LSU basketball program is having its 100-year celebration this weekend.
Activities in Baton Rouge during the two-day event, beginning today, include a reunion, an alumni game, and the announcement of the school''s All-Century team.
"It means a lot to have the 100-year celebration at LSU," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a part of this in my first year. It will be an honor just to be around the former coaches and players. It''s very important around here, but on a national level, it doesn''t seem to be getting its just due."
LSU began playing intercollegiate basketball Jan. 30, 1909.
South Carolina coach Darrin Horn will return home Saturday when the Gamecocks travel to Kentucky.
Horn, a native of Glasgow, Ky., said the hair on the back of his neck might stand up for a brief time when he enters Rupp Arena, but then it will be down to business.
"It will be a neat thing, but I''ve got to realize I''ve got a job to do," Horn said. "I try not to think a whole lot about it, but the people around you and your family bring it up. When you grow up there everything is Kentucky basketball with the SEC and the level they play. There are only a handful of places like Kentucky, but you want to be competing on that stage. Again, I''ll just be doing my job."
Another Florida triple-double
Florida sophomore Nick Calathes'' triple-double Wednesday against Georgia was the second of his career and third in school history.
Calathes had 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in the 83-57 victory.
Calathes'' first triple-double came against Creighton in the second round of the NIT last year.
Corey Brewer recorded Florida''s first triple-double against Jacksonville in 2005.