By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
Tom Crean is taking on the difficult challenge of winning big at a football school.
It could require a dramatic adjustment following his nine years at tradition-rich Indiana.
Georgia hired Crean as its coach on Thursday, capping a fast-paced search only five days after firing Mark Fox .
After he fired Fox, who took the Bulldogs to only two NCAA Tournaments in nine years, athletic director Greg McGarity said, “In the end, I felt like we have not reached our full potential as a basketball program.”
It’s an old complaint. Georgia’s last win in the NCAA Tournament came in 2002 — and that was vacated by NCAA sanctions. That leaves its most recent tournament win in 1997.
Georgia’s only Final Four appearance came in 1983, one year after Dominique Wilkins left for the NBA. It won its only Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in 1990.
Despite that unimpressive history, Crean sees potential at Georgia.
“Make no mistake, this is a basketball program inside of a great university that can compete for championships doing it the right way,” Crean said in a statement released by the university. “We will work diligently and with great energy to make everyone associated with the University of Georgia very proud of our efforts.”
Crean, who will turn 52 on March 25, will be introduced at a news conference scheduled for Friday.
The Bulldogs finished 18-15 this season, leading to Fox’s exit. After Fox was fired, players voted to not accept an NIT bid if offered, and the school honored the players’ decision.
Crean was hired one day after former Ohio State coach Thad Matta withdrew from consideration. Matta was in Athens on Monday.
Crean will earn $3.2 million per year on his six-year contract, according to The Athens Banner-Herald. His hire was approved when Georgia’s athletic board held a teleconference Thursday night.
McGarity described Crean as “one of the most successful coaches in college basketball over the past two decades.”
Crean was 356-231 in 18 seasons at Marquette and Indiana from 1999-2017. He led teams to nine NCAA appearances, four Sweet 16s and the 2003 Final Four with a Marquette team led by Dwyane Wade.
“His teams have consistently been participants in postseason play, and his players have been extremely successful in the classroom,” McGarity said. “He’s going to be a great fit for the University of Georgia.”
Crean was 166-135 as Indiana’s coach from 2008-17. After a 28-66 record in his first three seasons, Indiana was 138-69 in his final six years, including Big Ten championships in 2013 and 2016.
Crean also reportedly had discussions with Pittsburgh about its coaching vacancy.
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