Raymond Lewis Fox lost a long battle with a lung disease just four days ago. At the time of his death, his son, UGA head coach Mark Fox, was on a plane frantically trying to reach him in Garden City, Kan. to say his final goodbyes. Unfortunately, the younger Fox did not make it in time.
During a time when most would excusably be mourning with their family, Fox instead met his mediocre 6-6 team (0-5 on the road) at one of the most hostile atmospheres in college basketball following his father’s funeral on Tuesday. Going into the game, Missouri boasted a 26 game home win streak, tied for most in the nation. But during the final moments of the game that Fox’s Bulldogs had no business even competing in, tears were shed on the Georgia bench, and one of the nation’s longest home win streaks came to a close with a 70-64 overtime upset by the Bulldogs.
The game could have been put away late in regulation, but sophomore Charles Mann failed to sink either of two free throws that would have given the Bulldogs a two-possession lead. After Missouri marched down the court and tied the game up with a 3-pointer after the misses, the game was sent into overtime.
What happened next exemplified the power of sports, regardless of the win/loss records of the teams competing.
With 1:39 to go in the overtime session, junior Neme Djurisic hit a game-tying 3-pointer after the Tigers seemed to have gained momentum. Then following a Mann layup to give the Bulldogs their first lead of overtime, and a pair of free throws made by both Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris, the emotions that Fox had admirably held in throughout the course of the game became too much to hold back any longer.
While the final seconds ticked off the clock in the improbable Georgia win, Fox sat in his coaching chair, head in hands, and deservedly cried in an outburst of emotion. A moment undoubtedly shared with many who watched from Athens and around the state of Georgia.
Last night was a reminder that sports is not always about who comes out the victor and who heads home with long faces. It showed that despite a disappointing start to a season many did not hold much hope for anyway, the Georgia nation can and will always band together when one of its own needs them the most.
Embraced by his players immediately following the win, Fox was able to take a break – even if it only last a short while – from the critics and pundits that have criticized his production of late. Twitter immediately lit up with overwhelming support by Georgia fans and followers. Had this game been in Athens, students and fans undoubtedly would have cheered deep into the Georgia night for him to hear.
The Georgia Bulldogs won a conference road game against a ranked opponent last night. But the real winner was Fox, who deservedly got to pay a final tribute to his late father of whom he was not able to embrace one final time despite his efforts last Saturday.
You’ll have a hard time convincing me, and many others, that Raymond Lewis Fox was not embracing his son as he wept last night during the final seconds of a victory he will never forget.
No matter how many times sports seems to let you down, it’s certainly nice to realize that when they need to the most, they are capable of getting it right.
Speaking on behalf of Bulldawg Nation, we love you coach Fox. Enjoy this one forever.
(Photo: Logan Booker/BI)