Tip-off is three months away, but by last week Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick had compiled some remarkable 2002 stats. Two of his players have been indicted on assault and rape charges, all four of his incoming recruits have been declared ineligible, and his recruiting practices have been criticized by the president who hired him. Harrick's response? He says his program is on "sound, strong, solid ground." This trouble, he says, "is all a blip on the radar screen."
Based on Harrick's track record, that's sort of true. He was fired from UCLA in 1996 for falsifying an expense report; in '97, at Rhode Island, he signed Lamar Odom, who'd been denied entry to UNLV for academic reasons and was also cited for soliciting a prostitute. (Once at URI, Odom went AWOL during final exams.) Shortly after moving to Georgia in '99, Harrick tried to bring in Kenny Brunner, who had been jailed on armed robbery charges and who had also faced a criminal charge of assault with a samurai sword. (Both charges were dropped.) To Brunner, who also had academic woes, Georgia president Michael Adams just said no.
But Harrick didn't seem to get the larger message. Last month Georgia recruit Wayne Arnold, a guard out of Berkmar (Ga.) High, failed to complete summer school, which left him a course shy of a diploma. With two of Georgia's other signees' having also failed to qualify academically, and a third, Larry Turner, denied entry to UGA because of alleged test fraud (Turner denies the charge), Harrick was a dismal 0 for 4.
Arnold may yet resurface, thanks to a correspondence course. But on Aug. 19 guard Tony Cole and forward Steve Thomas go on trial for, respectively, assault and rape of a female student. (Both say they're innocent.) Harrick, of course, recruited Cole, who was then being sued for sexual harassment in a separate case. (Cole also denies that charge.)
" Coach Harrick is a very good coach," Adams says. "But there's no secret his recruiting operation has to improve." Harrick seems secure in his $595,000-a-year job; in the end, he wins. He took UCLA to the national title in 1995, went to the Elite Eight with URI in '98 and last year won the SEC championship. "We want our basketball program to be above reproach," says Adams. If that's the goal, Adams himself has proved to be an interesting recruiter.