COLUMBIA – Adversity isn’t defending Missouri's Jordan Clarkson, one of the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorers, on the last possession of regulation play in a tie game.
Adversity isn’t Georgia, winless away from its home court this season, playing overtime in Mizzou Arena against a team that hasn't lost there in its last 26 tries.
Adversity is lung disease taking your father’s life late Friday night.
While much of the Midwest thawed out from a polar vortex, Georgia coach Mark Fox spent Tuesday in Garden City, Kan., saying his final goodbyes to the man who inspired him to coach.
Raymond Lewis Fox died from lung disease at his Kansas home Friday. He was 78.
That heartache reduced Fox to tears on the sidelines of Norm Stewart Court shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday.
His Georgia team had just stunned No. 21 Missouri 70-64 in overtime, snapping the nation’s longest home-court winning streak and ending a whirlwind week of emotions on a high note for Fox.
Fox admitted to fighting back tears at one point in the first half Wednesday night. The emotions were too fierce to suppress after the final horn sounded.
“My dad was a real tough son of a gun,” a red-eyed Fox said after the game.
Fox had considered taking a leave of absence from his coaching duties to grieve. He considered it for “about five to 10 seconds.”
“In coaching and education, the most important thing is your student, the player,” Fox said. “That never really became an option.”
Fox rejoined his team in Columbia on Wednesday morning. The team welcomed him back with the Bulldogs' biggest win of the season.
Fox was raised in Kansas, so Big Eight Conference basketball is in his roots. To beat a former Big Eight foe in the first game after his father’s death was special.
He hoped his personal loss wouldn’t become extra motivation for his team.
But that’s exactly what happened.
“Coach Fox had a bad couple days, so we just wanted to win it for him and just play hard,” Georgia guard Charles Mann said. “And that's what we did. We just played hard and got the win."
Missouri coach Frank Haith had sensed this disappointment coming during the team’s week of practice. He talked to his team about it before tipoff Wednesday night.
“We didn’t have the right look about us,” Haith said.
Sure enough, Haith was right.
Haith took his first timeout 2:09 into the game, trying to curtail a game-opening 8-0 run by Georgia. Starters Jabari Brown, Ryan Rosburg and Johnathan Williams III were temporarily benched.
Missouri scuffled throughout, but the Tigers shot just 39.3 percent. Torren Jones missed a layup. Jordan Clarkson made four of his 14 shot attempts. The Tigers finished with more turnovers than assists.
Rebounding was a struggle, too. The Bulldogs snagged 15 offensive rebounds.
“They went (for rebounds) with way more tenacity than we did,” Haith said. “They were definitely really, really aggressive around that basket.
“The toughness thing is something that … it’s hard for a coach to accept. You got to compete, and that’s hard for me. We didn’t compete.”
Fox’s father had hoped to see that increased tenacity from his son's team. Fox and his father, a former high school basketball coach, last spoke about basketball on Christmas.
“One of the things he said was you need to play some damn defense,” Fox said. “And he was right.”
Basketball was a rare topic in conversations between Fox and his father. Calls after games were not common.
And Fox doesn’t think Wednesday’s game would have been any different.
“He wouldn’t have patted me on the back,” Fox said. “Hell no. He would say get the next one.”
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.