May 13, 2022

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Basketball coach Tom Crane has officially left

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Had he continued as a Bulldogs coach, Georgia would have paid Crean $7.2 million over the next two years. Instead, the takeover clause starts from the original six-year contract signed on March 15, 2018, “at the end of the 2021-22 season” that reduces that number to $3.2 million. Crane, who has appointed attorney Tom Mars to represent him, does not object to these terms.

Neither Mars nor Crane has commented on UGA’s work. Earlier on Thursday, Mars noted that Crean’s contract requires seven days’ written notice of termination prior to the split occurring. Brooks delivered that notice when he met Crane on Thursday.

He practiced as a trial attorney in Northwest Arkansas and a former Walmart litigator who practiced law in Atlanta until recently. He is best known for representing NCAA athletes on eligibility issues and for leading efforts to change legislation to allow one-time transfers.

After working for some time on the NCAA Enforcement Complex Issues Unit, Mars returned to represent coaches in contract disputes. New clients include Brian Harsin of Auburn University and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan. He successfully represented the Houston Nate coach in a lawsuit against Ole Miss several years ago.

Brooks offered Crean the opportunity to resign on February 23 and accept the $3.2 million takeover deal, but Crean declined, people familiar with the situation told the AJC. Why the Bulldogs did not provide the notice of termination to Crean a week ago is unclear.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are on a serious search for training with the help of Atlanta-based research firm Parker Executive Search. Two Georgia targets — Andy Enfield of the University of Southern California and Steve Forbes of Wake Forest — have accepted contract extensions from their current employers.

At least two other candidates still play for Cleveland State coach Dennis Gates and assistant coach Xavier Jonas Hayes. Both teams were eliminated in the conference tournaments this week, as the Hayes’ Musketeers bounced back in overtime by Butler at the Big East Championships in New York.

UGA may also be seeking an audience with Murray State coach Matt McMahon. Foreman coach Bob Ritchie and Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris are among several mid-level coaches who have expressed interest in the UGA opening, according to people familiar with the situation.