Georgia Coliseum has fresh paint inside and out. The playing
floor has been refinished, and the team's new logo--GEORGIA
projecting over a basketball--is positioned on both ends of the
court, replacing the old bulldog drawing that used to stand at
midcourt. The locker room, gutted and renovated, is a cross
between a hotel suite and a Radio Shack, with TVs, VCRs and a
stereo. There the players will dress in shiny new uniforms and
pull on squeaky new sneakers.
"All those things are important when you're trying to start a
new era," says Tubby Smith. "I've had a little experience with
that." He is taking over for Hugh Durham, who was fired after
17 years as Georgia coach when the Bulldogs went 18-10 and lost
in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament
and the first round of the NIT last season.
Smith, who took Tulsa to the Sweet 16 the last two years
(scoring a memorable first-round upset over UCLA in 1994), is
working at his fifth school in 11 years. His four-year stint at
Tulsa was his first as a head coach, but before that he was an
assistant at Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth.
Experience has taught him that changing Georgia's fortunes won't
be as easy as changing its shoes.
Eight seniors, four of whom started last year, dominate the
Bulldog roster; the problem is, they haven't been able to
dominate other teams' rosters. The four other players on the
team are freshmen, including Smith's son, Orlando Jr. (Orlando
Sr. was nicknamed Tubby as a youngster for his love of taking
baths; as one of many children, he enjoyed the privacy.) In the
Smith family, of course, don't expect someone to go by his given
name, especially if it's Orlando; Orlando Jr. is known as G.G.,
initials that stand for his two middle names, Guffrie Gibson. A
5'11" point guard who was the co-player of the year in Oklahoma
last season, G.G. planned to play for Tulsa but instead joined
his dad at Georgia.
The seniors are led by 6'8" forward Carlos Strong, last season's
top scorer, who averaged 14.2 points per game. Strong grew up
five miles from campus and used to ride his bike to Bulldog
basketball games, dreaming of someday making the team. He also
used to sell peanuts at Georgia football games. An All-America
at Cedar Shoals High in Athens, Strong was dubbed the next
Dominique Wilkins before he had even played a game at Georgia.
Actually, though, it was guard Willie Anderson (now a member of
the Toronto Raptors) and not Wilkins who was Strong's favorite
Bulldog. Now Strong plays beside Willie's younger brother
Shandon, last season's second-leading scorer, with 13.3 points
In their final year at Georgia, Strong and Anderson are looking
forward to donning their new uniforms, lacing up their fresh
sneakers, winning their share of games--and then showering in
their new locker room. "If we're going to be winners, we've got
to look and feel like winners," Strong says.
The look is taken care of. All they have to do now is win.
COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Anderson's old Dawgs have new tricks. [Shandon Anderson]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Tubby Smith
Career record: 79-43 (4 seasons)
Record at Georgia: First season
1994-95 record: 18-10 (final ranking: none)
SEC record: 9-7 (second in Eastern Division)
SF *Shandon Anderson, 6'6", Sr.
Second on team in scoring, assists, steals
PF *Carlos Strong, 6'8", Sr.
Top Dawg in scoring (14.2 ppg)
C Terrell Bell, 6'10", Sr.
Averaged 1.4 blocks per game
SG *Katu Davis, 6'2", Sr.
Shot only 28.9% on three-pointers
PG *Pertha Robinson, 6'1", Sr.
Assist-to-turnover ratio was 2.14:1
Nov. 29 vs. Western Carolina
Tubby Smith's debut in Georgia Coliseum
Dec. 2 at Pittsburgh
Georgia won in double OT last season
Dec. 7 at North Carolina
Last met in '88 Preseason NIT (Heels won 99-91)
Dec. 13 vs. Georgia Tech
In-state rivals meet for 172nd time
Jan. 24 vs. Kentucky
Dawgs are 17-86 against the Cats