Fox agrees to five-year deal
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – After two straight Western Athletic Conference regular-season championships and two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Nevada rewarded head men’s basketball coach Mark Fox with a new five-year contract.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, and Cary Groth, Nevada athletic director, said they won’t be made public until Fox’s contract goes before the Board of Regents in June. The new contract runs from July of 2006 to June of 2011.
Groth said her approach to the new deal was very simple.
“Is this a good deal for him, and is this contract going to make him happy,” she said.
That would be a yes and yes.
“This is an exciting day for me and my family,” said the 37-year-old Fox, who has compiled a 52-13 record. “It’s something I wanted to see happen. I’ve found a home in Northern Nevada. I’m looking forward to sustaining success here at Nevada.
“The most important thing to me is my family; there’s no argument with that. I am not going to make enough money to secure my kids forever, but I’ll be comfortable, my kids will be comfortable, and we can start saving for college and things like that. This is more about our program than it is about me. I wanted to see our program have a chance to grow. Cary has provided the commitment for that to happen.”
Fox went on to intimate that money wasn’t the big issue during the renogiation. In fact, Fox turned down some extra money yesterday morning.
“The money involved was the least important thing to me,” he said. “The thing that was the most important to me is that we are committed to the quest of enriching Nevada basketball.
“We can’t have short-sighted goals. We have to continue to strive to get better, and that’s a huge mountain to climb, but that’s a challenge I enjoy and am looking forward to.”
Fox’s name had popped up for several different jobs in the off-season. Only one school officially asked to talk to Fox, but was turned down by the Nevada athletic director. Groth said the school asked not to be identified.
“I never thought I would leave,” said Fox, who received a healthy pay raise. “I never even entertained the thought of leaving. There were certainly moments that I didn’t think we’d get this worked out, but we have, and now we can concentrate on making our team and our program better.
“It’s a draining process, I have to admit it. It’s been a little bit of an issue in recruiting, but fortunately for us, we’ve been able to avoid that being too much of a hurdle. It’s something that when we started in November, I knew right then that we would have to delay it because it just takes so much of your energy and so much of your concentration. I’m really pleased that we could put it to bed.”
Fox said the negotiations dragged because of recruiting and travel. Both Fox and Groth were in Indianapolis for the Final Four, but didn’t discuss contract.
“Cary and I were just too busy,” Fox said. “I was gone 10 straight days and our season lasted until the middle of March and we both traveled. We had several meetings and conversations, but we just haven’t been able to be in the same room because, quite frankly, my job is more than these contract negotiations, and we had some things that needed to get done.”
What will it take to get Nevada to the next level?
“We’ve got to continue to recruit quality student-athletes, young men who will go to school, be good citizens and play with the competitive spirit that we deem necessary,” Fox said. “The key to any team is the quality of players, and that really has to be our focal point and how we can assist them in their pursuit while they are here. There are so many things that we can do to enrich the program, and hopefully when we reach postseason, we can find success again.”
“What was most important to me was the commitment to our program to sustain the success we’ve had and try to increase it. That’s a huge challenge, an unbelievable challenge. Many people might run from that, but I’m looking forward to it. I think our players are committed to trying to be better. “
Fox stressed during last year’s Media Day that the hardest thing to do was when a title when everybody expects you to do it. He continued to stress that point.
“One of the hardest things is to climb the mountain, and what everyone says is harder is to stay on top,” he said. “We’ve been able to do that for two years by defending our championship in our conference. Certainly that’s an area where I’d like to begin. This program is much more than winning. I want to continue to build our graduation rates and our Academic Progress Report.”
Several other factors came up during the negotiation process, including improving facilities. Fox said that the completion of the new Academic Center in the Varsity Village was critical.
“I don’t think we will be building any facilities overnight, but one of the concerns we have is that we’re going to have to continue to work to improve our facilities, not just with basketball, but with all our athletic facilities,” Fox said. “I hope in the future we can see some progress in that area, but that’s not something that happens overnight.”
It’s no secret that Fox hates it when the team has to practice at Virginia Street Gym or at local high schools because Lawlor is being used for a concert or some other event.
Groth said she hates that both the Pack men and women have to go through that at times during the regular season, but said that “Lawlor needs to make money.”
With that being said, Groth said she would love to have a practice facility on campus, so there is a quality alternative when Lawlor is in use.
Another issue is the schedule. Nevada has been unable to attract big-name schools even on a home and home situation since it beat Kansas two years ago, and Fox doesn’t know that it will ever change. He said his recent trip to the Final Four didn’t break any new ground.
It will take money to lure a big-name school here, and Fox knows that.
“They (big-name schools) don’t have to go on the road,” he said. “It would have to be on national television, something that national television sets up. We aren’t in position to do that.”
Groth said that the school bought two games last year, and that she would do the same thing if the Pack could attract a top team from a major conference.
Memories of that big win over Kansas still linger around the community, and Fox & Co. created some new memories this season.
“We had a lot of very good moments,” Fox said. “I was certainly very proud of our two league championships; in the league tournament and the regular season.
“The game in the regular season that probably clinched it was the game at Utah State. That was a very good proud moment for our program. To win at the University of Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse is something I will always remember, but as I told my team early in the week, one of my proudest moments was their approach to some of the big challenges we faced. They were unselfish, very confident and driven to do their part to enrich our tradition, and that is probably what I’m most proud of.”