After several weeks of delay, the Alabama Basketball coaching staff is finally complete for the 2023-24 season. Not many programs lose all three assistants in one offseason and far fewer lose all three to head coaching opportunities.
Charlie Henry became the new head coach at Georgia Southern; Bryan Hodgson was hired by Arkansas State and longtime Alabama basketball favorite, Antoine Pettway became the head coach at Kennesaw State. All three men made significant contributions to the progress of the Alabama program.
Initially, it was thought Nate Oats would have a challenge to find three comparable assistants. The first two hires were former head coaches. Austin Claunch came to Alabama after leaving the head coaching position he had held for five seasons at Nicholls State. Claunch was born in Argentina and played college basketball at Emory.
Nate Oats hired Ryan Pannone from the New Orleans Pelicans. Before joining the Pelicans as an assistant, Pannone was the head coach for the Pelicans’ G-League teams in Erie and Birmingham. He also has five years of international experience as an assistant for professional teams.
New Alabama Basketball Assistant – Preston Murphy
The latest hire is Preston Murphy. Murphy’s hiring was delayed for a couple of months until an NCAA show cause expired. Murphy was penalized by the NCAA for activity when he was an assistant at Creighton. He broke an NCAA rule and quickly admitted he had made a mistake. The two-year show cause was severe, but it was not inappropriate. The irony is Murphy’s violation is insignificant compared to what occurs frequently in today’s college basketball world.
Nonetheless, Murphy can now move on. In a released statement, Preston Murphy said,
"It’s a privilege to join Alabama Athletics and become a part of the great Crimson Tide tradition – it’s an honor I will work every day to deserve. I appreciate the trust Coach Oats, Greg Byrne and the University have put in me, and I look forward to serving this institution and adding to its long history of success."
Talking about Murphy, Nate Oats said,
"I’m pleased to be completing our basketball staff with the addition of Coach Murphy. He was a highly sought-after candidate, and we were fortunate he was most interested in joining our program. I have known Preston for a long time, and I am excited about the many ways he can add tremendous value to what we do. I am always impressed with his energy, his humility, and his basketball acumen. His insight, experience and ability to connect with student-athletes will be a significant advantage for us. Additionally, Preston is a great person who is highly-regarded throughout the college basketball community."
Combined, the new trio of Alabama basketball assistants brings considerable experience to Nate Oats’ staff. They are respected as coaches and recruiters. It is possible they will become Nate Oats’ best-ever staff.
There will be some derision from outsiders about the hiring of Murphy. False comparisons will be made. Auburn, for example, was content to hire Bruce Pearl while he was still serving a show cause and was unabashed by Pearl’s history of NCAA rules-breaking. Murphy made a mistake, suffered the consequences, and only afterward was he hired by Alabama.