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Holloway: Patience is a virtue
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It’s been six weeks since Georgia coach Mark Richt cut loose his longtime assistant, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.

At the time, the move was met by fans with an emotion somewhere between glee and relief. Since then, the weeks have turned long and cruel.

Georgia has been rejected publicly by high-profile coaches three times in that span, and the most recent and stinging jilt was one of their own — former Bulldog Kirby Smart decided he was happy to stay in Alabama.

Now Richt’s getting blasted as a witless stooge in the papers, on the blogs and over the airways, and despairing fans are acting like they’re ready to run out into Green Street traffic at 5 p.m. on a Friday.

But now’s not the time to panic.

Push away from the keyboard, put down the phone and step back from the curb.

Panicking in this situation — like USC athletic director Mike Garrett did this week — gets you Lane Kiffin. With a little more patience, there’s little doubt the Trojans could’ve done better than a 7-6 coach with one year of experience and an attitude problem.

Certainly, Richt has opened himself up to criticism with multiple misses during the course of this hiring process, but you can’t say he hasn’t been patient. You can’t even fairly argue he’s handled it poorly.

The Bulldogs have been shot down only because they’ve aimed high. Perhaps Richt should have known that landing Smart, Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster or LSU’s John Chavis was a long shot. But he shouldn’t be criticized for trying.

There’s no fault or shame inherent to failure when it is the result of lofty endeavors. Getting to greatness usually involves risks, and risks, by definition, don’t often pay off.

If you want to bash Richt’s tact, take aim at the fact that news from the search is leaking out of Butts-Mehre Hall like a sieve under his watch. After all, isn’t that the biggest outrage — that this all played out on ESPN and now Georgia has been embarrassed; that Athens isn’t seen as the premier coaching destination of the southeast?

The consternation of fans is understandable, even if the level is irrational.

Georgia is still likely to emerge from this protracted ordeal with an upgrade at defensive coordinator — it’d be hard not too with the bar for improvement set so low. That doesn’t mean the man that gets the job will galvanize the fan base in January, but that is (hopefully) a tertiary concern for Richt.

The goal isn’t to hire a known name. Remember, Brian Van Gorder was nobody’s hot commodity before he became the best thing since Erk Russell during four seasons between the hedges. Prior to his arrival in Athens, Van Gorder had five combined seasons of coordinating experience at Central Florida, Central Michigan and Western Illinois.

Hard to imagine somebody with that resumé exciting anybody right now.

Taking that a step further, if Dallas Cowboys assistant Todd Grantham ends up getting the Georgia job, would the search be seen as a failure? Grantham is widely reported to be the frontrunner, but is in the midst of a playoff run with his current NFL team.

He doesn’t have the name-appeal of the candidates that Georgia has already swung on and missed. But there’s no three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule in college football, and there’s still a chance for Richt to hit a home run.

Whether he does or not won’t be known until October, if then. But because he’s resisted the pressure to make the rash move and has taken a measured approach to what could be the biggest hire in his career, Richt has a better chance of hiring the next Brian Van Gorder than the next Lane Kiffin.


Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Contact him at bholloway@gainesvilletimes.com

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