Fox named as new UNR hoops coach

RENO - All Mark Fox ever wanted to do was become a head coach of a college basketball team.

The 35-year-old Fox fulfilled that ambition Tuesday morning when he was introduced as the University of Nevada's new men's basketball coach at a press conference in Legacy Hall.

Fox, who has agreed to a three-year contract, is the 16th head coach in school history and one of the youngest in the country. He replaces Trent Johnson, who resigned on May 25 to take the head job at Stanford. Johnson led the Wolf Pack to a school-record 25 wins last year, and the Wolf Pack won two tournament games en route to reaching the Sweet 16.

"This is a lifelong dream," said Fox, who met with athletic director Cary Groth when he returned from Hawaii early Sunday morning. "I got the sense that the ball was in my court. I felt early on in our conversation we would be able to work together.

"It's an honor and privilege to lead this program, and I'm going to work extremely hard to maintain the level of success in the program.

"This is an opportunity that I have spent nearly two decades preparing for. Most head coaches at one time were assistant coaches. I hope I can be as successful as some of the recent coaches who have moved into the No. 1 chair."

Fox thanked five coaches - Lynn Nance, Tom Asbury, the late Jack Hartman, Tex Winter and Johnson - for helping him develop and realize his dream.

"Tom Asbury (Kansas State) gave me a chance," Fox said. "I cut my teeth in coaching with him. He was maybe the best defensive coach I've ever seen. The late Jack Hartman I spent time with. He taught me how to teach and how to motivate .

"Tex Winter of the Lakers is a basketball genius. He's been very gracious with his time over the past decade. He's been a big part of my development. Finally, there is Trent. I want to publicly congratulate coach on fulfilling his dream. We were blessed to have Trent Johnson here. He introduced me to my wife and was my boss. We all appreciate what he's done. We could count on each other. When he needed something done, he knew he could count on me to deliver."

And, Johnson said that he indicated to Groth that Fox should get the job when asked for his input.

Groth said that Fox was the only candidate to go through an on-campus interview. She had three other candidates on her short list, including Marquette assistant Jeff Strohm, who worked with Groth when she was at Northern Illinois.

"When we were looking for the right person for this job we were looking for somebody who had a high level of integrity, commitment to academics and could lead Nevada to postseason play," Groth said. "He brings continuity and competitiveness as a coach which is what separated him from the other candidates.

"I feel great about it. If you get the right person in the right job, it makes my job easier. He's a quality coach. I told the other candidates that we had an internal candidate, and a strong one. I think the coaches appreciated that."

Dr. John Lilley, Nevada president, seconded Groth's remarks.

"Mark has wonderful values and an excellent background," Lilley said. "His appointment as head men's basketball coach is an exciting one, and we expect him to continue the recent success that Trent Johnson has established.

"I didn't know Mark very well at all. We sat down, had dinner and over the course of three hours, I learned that he has very strong values, and feels strongly about commitments."

Realistically, Fox was the logical pick. He had overwhelming support from the players, Johnson, the athletic department and the community.

"The outpouring of support really touched us," Fox said. "Players and past coaches, it felt like the whole town was rooting for me.

"The stories may be about me tomorrow, but this (program) is about the players. The excitement in their voice (when I told them I had the job) touched me. I look forward to coaching this group. They are part of my family."

And, the team's co-captains, Fazekas and Pinkney, were happy about the news. Pinkney, as well as outgoing seniors Gary Hill-Thomas and Sean Paul, were present at the press conference.

"I'm excited because I've known coach Fox since I was a freshman," Pinkney said. "I'm a senior and have only one more year left, and I wanted to play for a guy that was already here."

"It's a good hire," Fazekas said from his home in Colorado. "It's the best thing for all of us players and the community. It would have been tough to take a step forward if they had brought in a new guy."

Fox said he kept in communication with recruits and reaasured them of the school's commitment. He said the families were happy to hear he would become head coach.

Don't expect to see huge changes in the way the Wolf Pack play next season.

"We're not going to change very much," Fox said. "I don't believe change is necessary. We found a style of play we had success with, and a routine we had success with. We plan to continue to play smart, aggressive basketball."

Does Fox think that Nevada can be a perennial post-season team?

"I think eventually it can happen," he said. "It will be interesting with this group. Half of them are champions, and half of them are very inexperienced (in the college game). I'm going to treat them like champions. The new guys are going to have to learn to play that way."

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.

The Fox File

Birthdate: January 13, 1969

Hometown: Garden City, Kansas

High School: Garden City High

College: Eastern New Mexico, 1991, Bachelor of Science in Physical Education; Kansas University, 1996, Master's in Athletic Administration/Sports Psychology

Previous experience: Nevada 2000-04, associate head coach; Kansas State 1994-2000, assistant coach; University of Washington 1991-93, assistant coach

Family: Wife (Cindy) and one son (Parker, 3) and one daughter (Olivia, 1).

Previous experience: Nevada 2000-2004; Kansas State 1994-2000; Washington 1991-1993.

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