After every game this season, even in the victories, many people continued to doubt that Alabama men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant was the right guy for the job. Every time I was asked the question: “Does Grant get another year?”, I’d respond the same way every time: “It would take a skilled magician to pull that magic trick off.”
They must have hired David Copperfield.
Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle made me and so many others eat those words. In his blog series “The Battle Plan” hosted by the University of Alabama Athletics department’s website, he made an entire post giving his full and undaunted support of Coach Grant. In it, he explains why he thinks this season didn’t work out:
At this level of collegiate athletics there is a very fine line that separates winning and losing. The 2013-14 men’s basketball season has been a disappointing one. Many factors shape a season. We made some strategic decisions going into the year, both with scheduling and with players, that didn’t work out like we planned.
The expectations of competing for championships and a high postseason finish remain. There is much that is right about our men’s basketball program at this time. Coach Grant has earned the chance to continue building this program into the winner that we all know it should be. He’s done it before. He can do it again.
The full support by Bill Battle is an immense and huge decision in and of itself. When a new athletic director takes over a program, it’s said to bring about many changes in terms of staffing, including the coaches. Which is understandable considering the state many athletic programs have to be in when a new Athletic Director has to be hired, although the situation that put Battle in this place wasn’t that case as the eventual passing of Mal Moore occurred.
Battle didn’t waver on Grant. The fact that he stands right behind Grant when so many fans called for his head shows that Battle still sees something in him. (Although, the $5 million dollar buyout helps Grant’s case too.)
Yet fans continue to hammer down on the decision to keep Grant, and why this program is doomed. Here’s five reasons why that should all end right now and why fans should be supporting this program more than ever.:
1. The roster is very talented. Sure, Alabama is losing one their best players in Trevor Releford, who led so many games this season. But that doesn’t mean that this team will be absent of talent. With players like Shannon Hale, Levi Randolph, Retin Obasohan and others coming back next year, there is a lot to be excited about because there will be more opportunities for those guys to get some playing time and more opportunities to score.
2. The players play selflessly. This one takes a little more explanation. At schools where basketball reigns supreme, it gets harder and harder for these schools to retain players because of the “one-and-done” rule. One of the sections Bill Battle’s blog post hit hard on this rule:
The mindset of many players (and their parents and friends) is, “I’ll go pro after a year!” When that doesn’t happen, the mindset is often, “It can’t be my fault. It must be the system.” As a result there were some 500 players that transferred last year. These factors make recruiting and coaching college basketball players even more challenging, as it is difficult to build the senior-laden teams that were more prevalent in times past.
There is a very unique atmosphere at Alabama. In recent year’s past, the Crimson Tide have enjoyed some postseason success, including a huge run deep into the NIT before falling to Wichita State. Yet, Alabama continues to retain some of it’s top players that make them formidable each year. And that, with time, creates a winning tradition.
3. Next year, the team will play with everything to lose and even more to gain. Despite the overwhelming support of Grant by Battle, this all seems like a final chance for Grant to bring some results. That kind of pressure, especially in a college basketball scenario, sometimes brings out the best in a team and can create a healthy environment for winning. With the talent coming back next year, it will be hard to understand if they don’t make the NCAA tournament next year.
4. In a below-average SEC, Alabama thrives. This may sound like a really bad selling point, but bear with me. The SEC was down this year. Way down. How does Kentucky come out to be an 8 seed and Tennessee make it in as one of the last four in? What really hurt Alabama was a tough non-conference schedule that ended up shaking the confidence of the team. If things had panned out better in the beginning of the season, the regular season would not have been as bad for the Crimson Tide and they might have gotten a 1st and 2nd round bye in the SEC tournament. Things aren’t going to b much better for the Southeastern Conference next year.
5. Fans should start to pay attention to this team if they want to make comments about it. Look, things aren’t going to get any better if, say, instead of watching that basketball game, you watch a replay of the Alabama/Colorado State game from last year’s football season. If you are going to complain about Basketball, then pay some attention to it. Getting attendance to games is bad enough, so it doesn’t help that people who pay little to no time/money to watch them play say how bad they are. Leave the criticism to those that know this team and sport.
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