Eight simple rules (and then some) for playing at Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. -- In just a few months on the job, Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton has already made quite an impact.
The country-club atmosphere that prevailed under predecessor Jim Harrick has been replaced by Felton's my-way-or-the-highway approach. Already, one key player has been kicked off the team. Another finds himself on shaky ground.
"You've got to put things in place that are conditional to success for the long haul," Felton said Tuesday. "I'm talking about work ethic, discipline and a mature, serious approach to the team -- simple things that go into any successful team."
Steve Thomas, the team's leading rebounder, was kicked off the squad over the summer when he wouldn't conform to The World According to Felton.
"He wasn't interested in going along," Felton said, "and I'm just talking about the minimum things."
Jonas Hayes is still on the team, but he's also resisted the new regime. At a news conference looking ahead to Saturday's first practice, Felton created plenty of doubt about the senior's future at Georgia.
"He's got one foot in the door and one foot out," Felton said. "He's kind of shown an apprehension about being inconvenienced. He wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it."
While Felton says "my rules are simple," it's clear that he's a hard-core disciplinarian. Among other things, he banned "gaudy" jewelry, ordered all players to live in a school dorm and holds a mandatory team breakfast at 7:30 a.m. each day.
If anyone breaks a rule, all players must get up for running at 6 a.m.
Even athletic director Vince Dooley seemed a bit taken aback by Felton's strict approach.
"I knew he was demanding," Dooley said. "I didn't know he was quite as demanding as he is. But that's OK. In no way do I disagree with what he's saying."
While Felton's approach may be a turnoff to many prospective recruits, he considers it vital to the development of a true student-athlete, someone who'll be ready to compete in the real world once his basketball career is over.
"To be successful, you've got to present yourself in a favorable way," he said. "If you want to be a rap artist, you make an impression to a certain segment of the population with gaudy jewelry and wild hair. But if you want to be a financial broker -- recruit clients, gain their confidence -- you've got to look the part, or else you're going to get killed out there."
While Felton expressed surprise that his approach is being viewed as something radical, the returning players have certainly had to adjust.
"I'm surprised that he's surprised," senior Damien Wilkins said. "As you can tell, he's a disciplinarian, a no-nonsense kind of guy. But when he's pushing you to do the right things, how can you complain? Maybe you don't like it, but at least you're not doing anything to get in trouble."
Harrick was forced out at the end of last season after former player Tony Cole made stunning allegations of wrongdoing -- most notably that athletes had been taking a sham class on coaching taught by Harrick's son.
The Bulldogs called off their season, giving up a spot in the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments.
Now, it appears the school is headed for some lean times on the court. With freshman Corey Gibbs coming off knee surgery, only 10 players are healthy enough to practice Saturday. If someone gets hurt, the Bulldogs won't have enough players to work 5-on-5.
"We've got to cross our fingers and maybe find a body or two when he have walk-on tryouts this weekend," Felton said.
He's looking at a two-year timetable to get the program running the way he wants. If the players think their coach is too demanding now, just wait.
"We're working the guys hard," Felton said. "But the truth of the matter is, they'll be working so much harder a year to a year and a half from now. They'll know how to work then."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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