A 12-game losing streak capped by Georgia’s worst offensive performance of the season has left coach Tom Crean awaiting a final verdict on his future with the school.
Georgia put up little fight in what may have been the Bulldogs’ last chance to make a case for Crean, losing 86-51 to Vanderbilt in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Tampa on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs finished with 26 losses, the most in school history. Crean was unable to find a way to prevent the free fall of 20 losses in the final 21 games.
The SEC Tournament loss was a fitting finish to a dismal season. Georgia was held without a field goal in the final 12 minutes of the first half and trailed 35-14 at halftime. The Bulldogs set season lows for fewest points in a half and a game.
“A lot of the things that hurt us throughout the year hurt us today,” Crean said. “Too many turnovers, too many open 3s, too much missed communication and too much losing our spirit when we’re not scoring points.”
When asked if he had addressed his job status with his players before Wednesday night’s game, Crean said: “You know what? Anything with my situation, that’s got to go through the athletic department, right? That’s not a thing I spend a lot of time on and I just coach my team every day. That’s what my focus is.”
Crean’s future now rests with athletic director Josh Brooks. Crean was hired by Brooks’ predecessor, Greg McGarity.
The buyout clause in the six-year, $19.8 million contract Crean signed in 2018 decreases from $7.2 million to $3.2 million with the end of the season.
Crean is 47-75 overall and 15-58 in SEC games in four seasons. He has been unable to duplicate the success he enjoyed at Marquette, where he advanced to the Final Four, or Indiana, where he coached three Sweet 16 teams.
Georgia (6-26) lost 18 of 19 SEC games, setting a new low for the program in the conference. The Bulldogs suffered the most losses in a season in the program’s history while being held to only one SEC win for the first time.
Crean couldn’t overcome the inability to keep his best players in the offseason. Georgia’s two leading scorers from last season transferred to other SEC schools — point guard Sahvir Wheeler to Kentucky and guard K.D. Johnson to Auburn. Yet another player who could have played a key role this season, Tye Fagan, transferred to Mississippi.
The losses of the three players through the transfer portal was devastating. Georgia then lost two players to season-ending knee injuries.
The Bulldogs’ only returning starter, forward P.J. Horne, was hurt before the season. Jailyn Ingram averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds through nine games before hurting his knee in early December. Crean said he didn’t have a true power forward the remainder of the season. As a result, the Bulldogs plummeted to the bottom of the SEC standings.
Crean’s highlight at Georgia was signing Anthony Edwards, who became the NBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick by Minnesota in 2020 following one season in Athens. But even with the dynamic talents of Edwards, Georgia finished only 16-16 overall and 5-13 in the SEC in the 2019-20 season.
Crean said the coronavirus pandemic, which dramatically cut down on in-person visits, shut down his opportunity to take advantage of the recruiting boost he would have otherwise expected from having a Georgia player selected as the NBA’s top draft pick. Instead, Crean increasingly was forced to rely on transfers.
Georgia’s only winning season under Crean was a 14-12 finish in 2020-21, when the Bulldogs were 7-11 in the conference.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism