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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 struggled little in what could have been the Bulldogs’ last chance to make Crean’s case, 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 hasn’t been able to find a way to stop the free fall of 20 losses in the last 21 games.
The loss of the SEC Tournament was a fitting end to a dismal season. Georgia was held without a basket 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.
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“A lot of things that hurt us all year hurt us today,” Crean said. “Too many turnovers, too many open 3s, too many miscommunications and too much morale loss when you don’t score.”
When asked if he had discussed his professional status with his players ahead of Wednesday night’s game, Crean replied: “You know what? Anything about my situation has to go through the athletic department, no? It’s not something I spend a lot of time. I train my team every day. It’s what I focus on.
Crean’s future now rests with sporting 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 drops 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 was unable to duplicate the success he enjoyed at Marquette, where he made it to the Final Four, or at Indiana, where he coached three Sweet 16 teams.
Georgia (6-26) has lost 18 of 19 SEC games, setting a new low for the conference schedule. The Bulldogs suffered the most single-season losses in program history while being held to just one SEC win for the first time.
Crean couldn’t overcome the inability to keep his best players in the offseason. Georgia’s top two scorers from last season transferred to other SEC schools — point guard Sahvir Wheeler at Kentucky and guard KD Johnson at Auburn. Yet another player who could have played a key role this season, Tye Fagan, transferred to Mississippi.
The losses of all three players through the transfer portal were devastating. Georgia then lost two players to season-ending knee injuries.
The Bulldogs’ only returning starter, forward PJ Horne, was injured before the season. Jailyn Ingram averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds in nine games before suffering a knee injury in early December. Crean said he has no real power forward for the rest of the season. As a result, the Bulldogs dropped to the bottom of the SEC rankings.
Crean’s highlight at Georgia was the signing of Anthony Edwards, who became Minnesota’s No. 1 NBA draft pick in 2020 after a season in Athens. But even with Edwards’ dynamic talents, Georgia only finished 16-16 overall and 5-13 in the SEC in the 2019-20 season.
Crean said the coronavirus pandemic, which has drastically reduced in-person visits, ended his opportunity to take advantage of the recruiting boost he would otherwise have expected from having a Georgian player selected as his first draft pick. of the NBA. Instead, Crean was increasingly 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.