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Cinderella gets to dance; Felton's wife gets dress..


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Cinderella gets to dance; Felton's wife gets dress

By MICHELLE HISKEY

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 03/20/08

A dreary, despairing season of bad UGA basketball ended in a tornado and a miracle, and today the Bulldogs play in the national tournament.

For the coach's wife, destiny is a red dress.

Melanie Felton fell in love with it last month, smack in the middle of the worst part of the season.

Nothing was going right for her husband, Dennis, whose undermanned team had dropped five straight Southeastern Conference road games. She heard rumors he might be fired.

So she went to the defense that all coaches' wives use: No big purchases in uncertain times.

But coaches' wives also know the importance of a positive public face. Melanie Felton stepped up for a fashion show in Athens to raise money for Hope Haven, a home for people with developmental disabilities.

Down the runway she came, in a Carilyn Vaile jersey knit wrap, the exact color of the state's biggest university.

Unlike so much her husband had tried with his team, the dress fit.

And because of the stress, it was a size 8.

"When I'm sad and frustrated, I work out," she said just before the team left for today's game. "Boot camp, the gym. I've dropped a size."

For the Feltons, looking good is a key to better basketball.

When Dennis Felton came to Athens five years ago to clean up a program punished for academic cheating and player payoffs, he insisted his players wear suits whenever they travel. His closet is full of custom ones.

He demands they be aware of who they are to the public, off court and on.

But this season on the court, his Dogs looked bad. He wanted a turnaround.

She didn't tell him, but the coach's wife wanted the dress.

It hung in her mind, like her faith in her husband's abilities, as she tended to sons Jazz, 13, and Nile, 10.

"We don't know what's going to happen this season," she said she told them. "But whatever happens, we are going to be fine."

A red dress gets you noticed. But Melanie Felton was in the background last weekend at the SEC tournament in Atlanta as the Bulldogs shone.

First came Thursday's tip-in overtime win over Ole Miss. Nervous, she paced the concourse.

Friday, the tornado ripped the Georgia Dome, delaying their game until the next day at Georgia Tech. A fitting end, she thought, to this tortured season.

Then came Saturday's drama, unfolding as she drove her boys all over Gwinnett County for their AAU basketball games.

On her car radio, she listened as Georgia upset Kentucky, and she cried by herself. On only a few hours' rest, the Bulldogs turned around and beat Mississippi State.

Suddenly they had the look of success, and their coach wanted his. On Sunday morning, a few hours before the conference championship game, she rushed from Athens with his dark navy suit with red lining. (He rejected her choice of tie).

Later, she heard her husband mistakenly tell a national TV audience that she wasn't in the Tech arena. He thought she was watching their son play. But Jazz's team had lost, and she and the kids were in the stands.

The oversights, obstacles, acts of God and a wardrobe wish all held off for one afternoon as the Bulldogs, the worst team in the league, beat Arkansas to make the NCAA tournament.

Her first thought: My husband's job is safe.

The second: I can buy that dress.

Destiny came Monday, when she breezed into Slippers, a boutique in Athens' Five Points.

The $210 dress was now half price.

"I'm going to wear it with boots and a black cami," she said.

The Bulldogs tip off at

12:20 p.m. today at the Verizon Center in Washington, big underdogs to Xavier.

The loser goes home. The winner plays Saturday.

Melanie Felton's plans for the red dress?

She says she'll save it for Saturday.

Faith is a red dress.

Hit Slippers for all things red, black

Athens Some of the most recognizable women in University of Georgia sports shop for their red and black wardrobes at Slippers, a boutique in Five Points.

Suzanne Yoculan, coach of the GymDogs, recently purchased a pair of red, black and white patent-leather pumps to show off when her team defends its national championship next month.

Kathryn Richt, the wife of football coach Mark Richt, picked up an Italian leather purse shaped like a football, in the team colors. It was a Christmas present right before the team won the Sugar Bowl.

"For women, clothes and shoes and accessories are part of the emotion of sports," boutique owner Amy G. Bray says. She took over Slippers from Melinda Durham, wife of former basketball coach Hugh Durham.

A deep blue-red (not a tomato orange-red) always sells in Athens, Bray pointed out, "and this spring it's an important fashion color everywhere."

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