How do you know Gottfried’s clueless about defense?
Jocularity aside, Mal Moore and the gang mercifully pulled the plug on the Mark Gottfried era on Jan. 26 after ten and a half years of excruciating basketball. Inconsistent offense. Head-scratching substitution policies. Poor execution. No hustle. And defense? Ha! Who needs it?
Soothsayers will recall that Elite Eight appearance in 2004, or the 27 wins in 2002, or that fleeting No. 1 ranking in 2003. Realists will credit a large part of Alabama’s stellar 2001-02 record to T.R. Dunn’s defensive coaching, or the emergence of star point guard Mo Williams. That Elite Eight team? Lights-out long-range shooters like Antoine Pettway and Earnest Shelton, both upperclassmen, willed the Tide to a handful of wins where coaching was inconsequential.
And face it, that Elite Eight team was a fluke, a Cinderella story. They finished 20-13 in the regular season, got bounced in the second round of the SEC tourney and got hot in the Big Dance. Doesn’t mean Gottfried’s the new Red Auerbach, it means he was a lucky S.O.B.
But, I guess it’s not nice to kick a man while he’s down.
Wait…one more…And he forced Ron Steele, the glue that’s held this team…forget it, forget it. He’s gone. Let it go.
So now the charge is to find an adequate replacement. Athletics Director Mal Moore told reporters after Gottfried’s resignation/firing that the university was seeking a coach who possessed three particular qualities: “a sitting head coach at the college level,” with “championship-caliber experience,” who is “the right fit for this university, for this area, for this campus, for this setting.”
Moore went on to say that he and Executive AD Dave Hart will compile a list of their top three choices and make their move after the season ends.
So, you ask, who fits that bill? Well…
Current school – Missouri
“I know that name because…” – He used to coach at UAB
Why he’s a good fit – Anderson nursed at Nolan Richardson’s bosom from 1982 until 2002, where he learned the secrets of Richardson’s frenetic style of fast breaks and traps, dubbed by opponents as “40 Minutes of Hell.” Anderson has head coaching experience at Arkansas (where he was part of a NCAA title in 1994), UAB (where he led the Blazers to the Sweet 16 in 2004) and Missouri (18-4 at press time this season). He’s a Birmingham native and Jackson-Olin alum.
Why he’s not a good fit – Mizzou is a basketball school, with a legacy much more substantial than Alabama’s. The Tigers recently christened a brand-new arena, a sign that the school is well invested in continuing their basketball tradition. So why would he leave? Could Anderson pry a similar commitment from Mal and the football-crazy boosters at Bama?
Current school – UAB
“I know that name because…” – UAB!
Why he’s a good fit – He learned at the feet of basketball icon Bobby Knight, took one of the nation’s elite basketball programs to the national championship game in 2002, and he’s a former Alabama player. His teams have a reputation for hustle and defensive prowess.
Why he’s not a good fit – Like Gottfried’s Elite Eight team, that title run in 2002 might have been a fluke occurrence. Since that season, Davis has made the Big Dance only twice. Discipline issues, academic problems and inconsistent play have plagued his UAB teams thus far. Plus, does the Board of Trustees really want to get involved in another UAB/UA-big brother/little brother war?
Current school – Virginia Commonwealth
“I know that name because…” – He lead VCU to a first-round upset of Duke a couple of years ago in the Dance.
Why he’s a good fit – Ever since his bracket-busting VCU team knocked off Duke in 2007, Grant’s name has been in the mix for nearly every open job on the market. He cut his teeth on the championship circuit with Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators as an assistant coach. The Gators made the title game in 2000, losing to Michigan State, but won it all in 2006. Grant took the VCU job immediately after the 2006 season, where he has compiled a 52-14 record over the past two seasons and won two conference championships.
Why he’s not a good fit – Grant has no strong ties to the state of Alabama and has only been a head coach for four seasons. Plus, those in the know say that he has been eying the University of Georgia job, which just came open last week after the firing of Dennis Felton.
Current school – Butler
“I know that name because…” – Well, you probably don’t know that name…but you should.
Why he’s a good fit – Stevens, although a relative unknown in casual fan circles, has made quite a splash in his short tenure as Butler University’s head coach. In his first season last year, Stevens took his senior-laden squad to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament and a 30-4 record. This season, despite a very young squad, Butler is, at press time, 19-1 and ranked 13th in the nation.
Why he’s not a good fit – Well, he’s only 32 years-old, which wouldn’t matter so much if he had more experience coaching in the national spot light. Stevens played at tiny DePauw from 1995 through 1999, before joining the Butler staff as an assistant in 2001. He has spent his entire career coaching in something called the Horizon League. He has no “championship caliber experience.” And would a “yankee” be the “right fit for this university, this for this area, for this campus, for this setting”? (Don’t laugh. Remember, it’s Alabama…)
Current school – Minnesota
“I know that name because…” – He used to coach at powerhouse Kentucky
Why he’s a good fit – Tubby’s a winner. At Kentucky, Smith accounted for 10 NCAA Tourney appearances in 10 years, five SEC titles, one national championship and a 263-83 overall record. He’s been a head coach in the SEC for 12 years, has a long track record of solid recruiting and crashes the Big Dance on a yearly basis.
Why he’s not a good fit – He’s the highest paid state employee in Minnesota – and UM is a basketball school. The chances that Alabama will fork over more than $3 million for a basketball coach when the Nicktator is already commanding $4 million: Slim to none.
Whatever direction Alabama decides to take, the ship will be steered in house, not by way of a search-firm-for-hire. The decision will reportedly be Moore’s and Hart’s to make, with a dash of advice from former UA coaching legend, C.M. Newton.
Will Mal’s boys capture lightening in a bottle once again? Will ‘Bama land a savant like Nick Saban, or a village idiot like Mike Shula? No one knows, but one thing’s for sure. At least Tide fans care about basketball again.