SAVANNAH ‑‑ If the Georgia basketball players buy into what their new coach is selling, then the upcoming winters in Stegeman Coliseum should be most appealing to the Bulldawg Nation.
For Tom Crean is a walking, talking promotion for UGA basketball, a program he just inherited several months ago after earlier coaching tenures at Marquette and Indiana.
Crean, who simply bubbles energy and enthusiasm, excited the Savannah Bulldog Club here Tuesday while talking about his plans to elevate the Georgia hoops program to the next level.
First, however, Crean dished out praise for Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, who would follow Crean to the podium Tuesday.
“Kirby Smart is the best football coach in the country,” said Crean. “Now I’m biased a little bit because I love Jim Harbaugh (Michigan coach and Crean’s brother-in-law). But Kirby Smart is an unbelievable coach, is he not?”
Crean also said how fortunate he is to be the Bulldogs’ basketball coach, while lauding the UGA administration and fellow Georgia coaches.
“If you’re gonna be successful you’ve got to have great leadership from the top on down,” said Crean, commending Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, UGA president Jere Morehead and the school faculty. “We’re all a part of a big giant team. Greg McGarity is the one who runs that team and it’s a great honor for me to be a part of it. It’s a great honor to be with guys like Kirby and all the other coaches I’ve gotten the chance to be around in the last couple of months. There’s no downside to the University of Georgia, there really isn’t.”
Speaking of Savannah signee Amanze Ngumezi, a 6-9 four-star power forward out of Johnson High School, Crean said: “You’ve got to come to Georgia basketball games because he is from Savannah. Fortunately he decided he wanted to stay with us. If there is a great player in this state we want to be out there quick. We want to be in there early. In sports you want to start fast and you want to finish strong and that’s exactly how we want to be in recruiting. That’s exactly how we want to be in building this program. And I feel like I’m extremely fortunate in being a part of this university and this athletic department. I see the success Kirby is building and the success he is building onto and taking it to even greater heights is extraordinary and he’s just getting started,” said Crean, while also commending the season the Georgia baseball and softball teams are having along with the other successful Bulldog teams.
Crean said the basketball Dawgs will begin work again on June 4 when they return for summer school. “The most important thing those guys can do is understand how important every day is and their commitment to the level of success we want to see.”
Crean said there is much for the Bulldogs to accomplish in practices leading up to the 2018-19 campaign.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to shoot the ball better, we’ve got to pass the ball better and get our spacing to where we understand where each guy needs to be. We’ve got to get better with what we do without the ball. This team was good defensively last year. We’ve got to build on that.
“The difference in going from a good team to having a great program is when your team is committed to each other’s success and that’s what we want to work for every day.”
Talking about having a passion for the University of Georgia in recruiting, coaching and his players’ potential for future success, Crean brought laughs and applause when he said, “I don’t need a lot of help getting energized but that energizes me!”