Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whit's first blog - Bama basketball

So Will invited me via e-mail to post on his blog. Since I don't post enough on my own, I think I'll just post on here if I get motivated to do so.

Yesterday, I called Will and we discussed the state of the Alabama Basketball program. One question that really sparked my interest was when Will asked me, "Ok, you're interested in coaching basketball, so what would you say the identity of the basketball team is right now?"

To this question, I'd to like to explain my response.

First of all, I'm more aggravated with Mark Gottfried than I have ever been in my life. He needs to be removed from the head coaching position. There is no evidence, that I have seen, to prove his coaching ability. Coach G is an awesome recruiter and as a result, Alabama is competing with the best schools in the SEC in recruiting every season. In fact, this upcoming recruiting class looks to be one of his best recruiting classes in a while. However, if past performances have shown me anything...Coach G will be praised for his recruiting ability and then the season will underachieve next season.

2004 - 10th ranked recruiting class in the nation
2005 - 9th in the nation
2006 - not in top 25
2007 - 23rd
2008 - 11th in the nation with only three players committed

Wow! The players are in place. Where else could the problem be but the coaching?

Problems with Coaching
Coach Gottfried isn't a bad coach. He is simply not the caliber of coach that THE University of Alabama should have. The lack of offense and poor defense is evident of poor coaching. On offense, we are constantly running the same plays that we ran last season. Normally, this is not a problem for teams, but we do not have the personnel that we had last year. Bama Basketball was three times as good last season and even better the season before that. Last year, Jermareo Davidson was a factor inside and that allowed Richard Hendrix to have an awesome year. With those two in the post, an offense that ran through them worked quite well. Steele was handling the ball that year too. Everybody can say that we're not winning because we don't have Ronald Steele, but it the coach's responsibility to adapt his offensive and defensive plays according to the players that he has. With this basketball team, there is absolutely no reason for a 4-9 record in the SEC. Absolutely no reason except poor coaching. This team should be running the floor and staying with a small lineup instead of trying to start two big guys.

My proposed starting lineup: PG-Hollinger, SG-Torrance, WG-Riley, PF-Gee, C-Hendrix

With this lineup and decent plays, there is no telling how well this team could do. I think we would be much better off and would be better on the road because all of these players are experienced.

This year, however, I see the team running many of the same plays as last year and yet there is no dual post threat. Hendrix is the post game for Bama. Aside from last night against Arkansas, when Jemison put up 19, there has been no other game in which a post player other than Richard has stepped up like they should. I think this lack of another post man and also the poor guard play is the coach's fault. He has yet to look at a starting lineup and feel completely confident in those 5 guys. I don't know how many of you have ever played sports, I haven't played that many at all, but when a coach looks over at you and says "you're in," there is a certain amount of confidence that runs through you. The coach is putting confidence in your ability, and that makes the athlete feel excited and confident as well. Gottfried's indecision to cement a starting roster for every game is why Bama can look like a championship team one night, and then the next can look like an intramural team. We must have a coach that feels comfortable placing confidence in his players. Without a coach's confidence, players are sure to falter.

With all that said, the "identity" of this team is difficult to label. In one word, the identity of this team? CONFUSED. There is no confidence among the players and no ability among the coaching staff.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

wednesday youtube

Not quite as pleasant as a normal Wednesday subject -- today's video(s) come from yesterday's press conference:

Many thanks to RBR for posting first. Enjoy your Wednesday, folks.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

semi-serious subject

For much of my time at The Daily Home, I've spent basketball season following around the Talladega girls' basketball team, which means a lot of interviewing Jannie Keith, a 10-year head-coaching veteran. Keith's team is very good -- in fact, by the time you read this tomorrow, they'll likely already be in the 5A state championship game. In addition, Keith is an ardent Christian, someone who makes a point to praise God at every turn, and credit Him with all her team's successes.
Having grown up a Christian, and having been an athlete, I have the utmost respect for her faith, and understand how it affects everything she does. However, something Keith said in my interview with her on Monday raised my eyebrow.
“When I first started coaching basketball, the second year I decided to go up to Birmingham to watch the Final 4. And Coach Wilson was sitting beside me, and I was sitting there and I said, ‘Coach Wilson ... God just showed me I’m gonna be down on that floor.’ He looked at me strange, I guess he was thinking, ‘With what you got?’ I said that God had showed me that. Well, 2005-2006, God came through. I asked him to allow me to be on the floor. When that came true, I went back to Coach Wilson and said, ‘You remember I told you.’ I said I didn’t ask for enough. You have not because you ask not. I asked Him to put me on the floor, to let me see myself coaching on that floor. Well now, I found out that I need to ask Him for what I really wanted — I wanted Talladega’s girls to win a championship, to let me see that in my lifetime. And God is great. I don’t think, I know — He’s gonna make good on His promise.”
Essentially, Coach Keith is guaranteeing a Talladega title -- and she's guaranteeing it because of the strength of her faith, and the faith of her girls.
Now ...
When I played football in high school, I used to wear a WWJD bracelet on my right wrist. My buddy and I read a Psalm every day before practice and games. And we prayed routinely. So it's not as though I intend to disrespect Jannie's faith, or anyone else's.
But the idea of praying for a victory, believing God will allow you to score more points than your opponent ... well, it makes me uncomfortable.

So I suppose that's where the question comes: what, exactly, is God's role in the games we play?

My favorite athlete in the history of the University of Alabama was Jay Barker. Jay wasn't a terribly good athlete, he wasn't highly-recruited out of Hewitt-Trussville and he rarely wowed anyone with his physical abilities.
But his teams always found ways to win, and afterwards Barker would quote a passage of Scripture and charge off the field, helmet raised, as the adoring Alabama fans chanted his name.
Did having Jay Barker, a man of faith, a role model for Sunday School children across the state, make Alabama win?
Another example, just to keep things balanced: Auburn in 2004.
Remember those guys? I'll bet you do. Above all else, one of the best stories that came out of Auburn's 13-0 season was the team's Christian faith -- the skill players could always be seen praying on the bench after scores, they did that goofy "linking arms" thing when they came out of the tunnel ... they even sang a gospel song in the locker room ("Hard Fighting Soldier," which the marching band still plays).
The team was an absolute revelation for Auburn fans, given the discord and fractured community that resulted after a miserable 2003.
But was the team's Christian faith of consequence? Was God responsible for Auburn's 13-0 season? And if so, why didn't God lean on some of those BCS voters and give Auburn a chance at the national title that year?

Obviously, as Christians, we're taught that God answers the prayers of the faithful. But we're also taught that those answers aren't always what we believe they should be. To me, Jesus' ministry is the ultimate example (and since it's Lent, the subject is even more appropriate) -- believed by many of His followers to be a revolutionary bent on restoring the earthly kingdom of Israel to the line of David (and throwing off the oppression of the Roman Empire in the process), Jesus instead sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, so that His children would have an opportunity to enter another, much greater kingdom in a world beyond this one.
I suppose there's nothing wrong with praying that God will deliver your team the victory. But does not the other side pray the same prayer? And so, when the game is over, what will the losers say? Did we not pray hard enough? Was our faith not strong enough? Or does God simply favor the other side more?

To me, prayers of thanksgiving are appropriate. Prayers for the safety of everyone involved are very appropriate. Prayers that we'll all remember God in everything we do, that we'll give Him whatever glory is to be gained from an athletic contest, and that we'll be a witness for Him with the way we play ... are appropriate. A prayer for our side to score more points than the other? Why does God care who wins a basketball game?

Which, I suppose, is the larger point here -- sports often teach us hard lessons about life, and, in some cases, faith. Some days, the shots simply don't fall, your receivers can't catch, your infield can't throw. Sometimes in life, things don't go the way you want them to. How will you respond? Will you quit? Will you find someone to blame? Will you lose heart? Or will you come back tomorrow and try again? And if you still can't do it, will you keep coming back, keep trying?
And thus, as a sports fan and a former athlete, as well as a Christian, that's where I perceive God's place in our games -- as a forum to make us better disciples.

Anyway, just something that's been on my mind. Feel free to share your opinions in the commentary section. I'll try to get something up tomorrow, but it may be tough -- there's a lot to do.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

a lost musical icon

One of the great musical pioneers died today, and I bet you never heard of him.

Larry Norman, one of the founders of contemporary Christian music (and, like me, thoroughly appalled with its direction over the past few years) lost his life early this morning, the victim of a lousy heart. My own personal Norman memories come from hours spent on the third floor at FUMC Opelika -- Rick, our youth minister, played his songs weekly. Even now, listening to his music takes me to high school.

Anyway, I wish I could've met him. I wish I could've talked to him. And I hope I'll see him in Heaven.

A clip from last night's Tennessee-Memphis game, which was so good it almost warranted the completely insane intro ESPN provided for it.

The best part is Erin Andrews' expression after Pearl grabs her -- she's clearly terrified of him, and really, who among us isn't?
(Side note: can you imagine Gottfried pulling that one off on national TV? I think not. Kudos to TBL for the vid.)


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can't take credit for this one — comes from my brother Whit (no, not the one in the profile pic — the other one).

Still, it's pretty funny.

Also, Capstone's got the skinny on a bizarre story coming out of Tuscaloosa — not the one about Rashad Johnson, which is the cherry on top of a great week.

Have a good weekend, everybody.


Friday, February 22, 2008


Stolen from Track 'Em (and yeah, I'm a 'Bama grad, but get over yourselves) ...

Top Ten Reasons Jeremy Elder Committed Armed Robbery

From the Home Office in Marietta, GA, War Eagle Atlanta's Top Ten Reasons Why Jeremy Elder Committed Armed Robbery on Campus at Tuscaloosa:
  1. Wanted to get more attention with all those blue chippers coming in.
  1. The Houndstooth cap made him do it.
  1. Just getting some extra workouts until spring drills start.
  1. Too far to walk to do it off-campus.
  1. $26 goes a long way at the student cafeteria.
  1. The bitch set him up!
  1. Wanted to move from strong safety to strong-armer.
  1. Wanted to start preparing for a life after football.
  1. Secret role model is Ryan Perrilloux.

And the number one reason:

  1. Lab practical for Criminology class...

And with that, an abbreviated links list for the evening.
— Capstone's been on fire lately; here's his list of reasons Alabama was a sub-par football team in 2007. The section about Wallace Gilberry is particularly eye-opening.
— Speaking of recruiting, exactly how is that new class going to fit? OTS can tell you — in fact, he will.
— SMQ gives us his theories about the NFL Draft.
— Finally, the sad story of professional basketball in Seattle, as told through the eyes of two local columnists, here and here.
(Note: I stole both these links from Simmons. I give credit where it's due.)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

wednesday youtube — it's peanut butter jelly time!

As a peace offering to Brian Cook, who made himself a number of enemies in the 'Bama community last week ...

Its Peanutbutter Jelly Time

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Dance, Dance, Dance ... all night long.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We live in a fine, outstanding state. I know that because I've seen most of it — in fact, I saw a good bit of it today.
But enough about that. Here are some links to make you feel better about working inside on a day like this one ...

— Well, this won't make you feel better: Alabama's Jeremy Elder continues his courageous one-man effort to upset every ounce of progress Nick Saban's football program in Tuscaloosa has made since the 2007 season ended. Ian Rapaport has more.
Bravo, Mr. Elder. Bravo.

— Remember that discussion we had last week about over-signing? It briefly turned into a full-scale battle between Michigan and Alabama fans, with vulgar blog posts fired across the bow by both sides. Ultimately, it died down over the weekend, owing mostly to RBR's wise decision to lock commentary and prevent any more flare-ups. We'll look back on it like one of those shoving matches at our local pub: some insults were exchanged, it looked pretty ugly there for a minute ... but ultimately nobody got hurt, and we both went home talking about what jerks the other guys are.
Todd from RBR has the rundown of what exactly happened.

— More shoving and posturing: UAB's agonizing loss to Memphis, which ended with UAB students throwing things (not in Alabama!) and Memphis players wanting to re-enact Ron Artest's venture into the Detroit stands. On the bright side, it did give us this picture.
In UAB's defense, that was like the perfect storm of bad: you had players from Memphis (long famous as a thug program) celebrating a huge win on someone else's floor; at the same time, you had UAB's students rushing the court after what they thought was the game-winning shot (it was correctly disallowed). And cooler heads prevailed before anything serious happened. So no harm, no foul.
Well, except for the poster. Somebody should've stopped that.

— Capstone voices the concerns of all Alabama fans: please, for the love of Paul Bryant, LEAVE DANIEL A. MOORE ALONE.

— Finebaum wonders why Jeff Lebo gets a free pass from the state's basketball fans.
Speaking of basketball ... seriously, did you SEE Saturday's game at South Carolina? I mean, you saw that, right?
I'm not going to fault Gottfried for the game-winning shot — that kid hit that from about 40 feet, and the foul called on Torrance was chintzy, at best. But there were 14 seconds left after the free throw! FOURTEEN! DIECICUATRO! And Alabama had a timeout left!
So Torrance, naturally, rushes the ball up the floor, pulling up at around 10. Immediately he starts looking for Riley — on fire at that point — for an open look. But Carolina's defense is back, Riley's smothered, so instead Alabama frantically passes the ball around, looking for an opening that isn't there. When South Carolina finally knocks a poor pass from Torrance out of bounds ... there's :00.2 left on the clock.
Gottfried finally calls timeout.
On the bright side, this did lead to an award-winning phone call between my brother and me — I saw the phone ringing and started giggling, knowing what was about to ensue, then he started ranting (a brief excerpt: EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE) and my giggling turned into uproarious laughter, to the utter amazement of my co-workers, who thought I'd lost my mind.

— Finally, TD makes Charles Barkley's case for governor of Alabama.
Anyway, I plan to run for da office of Governor of Alabama in the year 2014. My home needs me….. no, not Arizona, the proud state of Alabama! So what if I turned my back on my home state ever since I joined the NBA? I’m coming back to save all you ignorant hicks aren’t I?! I’m NBA royalty, and I have the fire and will power needed to make Alabama great!
That's TideDruid: a real man of genius.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Odin's beard!

Via AA:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

weekend youtubery ...

Gives us political debate, the way it ought to be. Or rather, the way it is, even though it probably shouldn't be that way.


follow-up note on Gottfried ...

I was bored tonight at work and reading through an old Simmons column about the coaching deficiencies of the Celtics' Doc Rivers. Just read something in there that made me think of Mark Gottfried.

See, it's not hard to tell when your coach stinks. You usually know when your players are constantly saying things like "We just need to sustain that intensity for four quarters," "We need to play the kind of defense we're capable of playing," "We can take big leads, now we need to learn how to keep them," "We're a young team, so we're still learning how to bring the same consistency every night," "We have to start getting stops," and my personal favorite, "We need to learn how to execute down the stretch."

All if it is B.S. All of it. Players from well-coached teams never say these things. If those fake quotes look familiar to you, or if that Milwaukee article looks eerily familiar to others that have been written about your own team, then your coach is underperforming and needs to leave.

Just saying.


Friday, February 15, 2008

only a matter of time, I suppose ...

Before someone found a way to throw water on the Alabama fans rejoicing over the recent inking of the nation's top recruiting class. The cause of the weeping and gnashing of teeth? A combination of this story by Montgomery's Tim Gayle -- an outstanding reporter who's funny as hell in person, by the way -- and this blog post from AOL's Fanhouse, part of a larger debate about the evils of recruiting, over-signing being chief among them.
Of course, that post got the boys at RBR all wound up -- particularly OTS, whose angry response to Brian Cook's post is just about the least objective thing he's posted in his brief blog history. And Joe Cribbs has another vantage point on the subject, although it's pretty obvious his view of it is clouded by his Aubie-colored glasses (and the requisite contempt for Alabama that comes with it).

Like most things in college football, this is one of those complicated subjects with a number of layers, and it's one that's existed for some time. In fact, one of Furman Bisher's criticisms of Coach Bryant from way back in the 1960s -- part of a larger critique aptly titled "College Football is Going Berserk" -- was that Bryant had left a trail of "discarded athletes. ... 'Riff raff,' he calls them." The implication, obviously, was that Bryant was something of an overseer in a football factory -- he extracted everything he could from a student-athlete, and when he had no more use for him, he'd chuck him aside like an old tire, leaving him to fend for himself in the harsh, cruel world.
(Note: Bisher's column, along with his general antipathy where Bryant is concerned, has already been discussed ad nauseam in countless Bryant books. Although none of them has investigated the root cause of their mutual hatred, which is probably best for everybody, especially since Bryant is dead and Bisher's roughly 200 years old now. Suffice to say, Bisher's still not welcome in many circles in Alabama, even in the year 2008.)
Regardless, it's an example -- just like this discussion -- of the delicate line a college football coach must walk, between CEO and father-figure. You love your kids, you teach them how to play, you train boys to become men ... but there comes a point, sometimes, in which some of them simply have to be cut loose.
And the reality of that is the same reality we face in the real world. Take Tommy Tuberville as an example. He coached for a number of years with Noel Mazzone at his side as offensive coordinator, and there's no doubt the two became great friends over the years. But when the heat turned up on Tuberville in late 2001, he cut Mazzone loose. That's just business sometimes.

Of course, this doesn't address the question of oversigning, which, at its core, looks an awful lot like a coach conning recruits into thinking they've achieved their dream of playing SEC football ... only to have it cruelly ripped away.
But is that really the case? I'd certainly like to think no -- a handful of the recruits undoubtedly will never make it to campus, either because of issues academic or personal (you forget this now, but Auburn's beloved Brandon Cox almost never made it to The Plains because of some personal issues. Of course, once he got there he didn't want to leave, but I digress.) And likely there's a player or two that might give up football this spring, maybe he wants to concentrate fully on that dream of becoming a behavioral psychologist.

Whatever. It's a load of sound and fury signifying nothing. What should excite Alabama fans, in the words of MemphisTider, are the players. Don't look at the raw numbers, or become enchanted by the star ratings -- those mean nothing. Get excited about the student-athletes themselves. In the words of coach Norman Dale, "This is your team!"
And yes, Alabama fans should obviously proceed with caution -- they've been tantalized by recruiting classes before (remember 2000?). But it can't hurt to be hopeful for the future, particularly since we've been holding onto the past for quite a while.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday youtube ...

Wanted to give you Chris Berman's famed flip-outs -- sadly, the evil that is ESPN has claimed "copyright" on them. Silly.

Just for the record: I don't like Berman as an on-air personality -- like many of the analysts at ESPN (Vitale, Corso, the entire NFL crew) Berman is almost entirely schtick at this point, and very little hard analysis. But these off-air vids prove very little, except that he gets frustrated with the people he's working with. Nothing wrong with that -- you should hear some of the things I've yelled at my co-workers (at least in my brain). He's a TV vet, and probably knows more about how to run things than anyone else. So I'm not at all perturbed by what's shown in these videos.
(UPDATE: The great folks at Deadspin still have all the videos, located here. Sweet.)

One other thing: Dan Patrick Radio is back at -- the show runs from 8-11 (CST) and they archive it by the hour, so it's easy to listen in the afternoon, as well.

In place of those great Berman videos, let's enjoy a classic vid of Coach Bryant talking down to a sideline reporter.


Monday, February 11, 2008

time for a Mark Gottfried rant

Well, the Bamasphere is starting to come down on Mark Gottfried. Everywhere you look: TD, Capstone the Rap Sheet or even Bama Hoops, the consensus seems to be that the Mark Gottfried era is, at the very least, on thin ice.
So I suppose I should weigh in here, given that Mark Gottfried's coaching acumen (or lack of it) has been one of my favorite subjects since before I even knew what blogs were.
I first started to notice it during the glorious 2002 campaign, when Erwin Dudley, Rod Grizzard, Mo Williams and company led Alabama to a regular-season SEC title. As much as I enjoyed the run, it was hard to ignore the fact that Gottfried's offense tended to sleepwalk through extended stretches — not that they didn't score, but they didn't really move, set picks or do anything aside from pass the ball back and forth until the shot clock wound down to 5, when someone would inevitably throw up a terrible shot — that the team got lit up on the road (that was what kept them out of the tournament in 2001) and that they were getting by at home mainly on a combination of tough defense, favorable officiating (SEC officials are terrible and tend to get swayed by vibrant home crowds, which Alabama has for most of its SEC home games) and quality foul shooting.
In fact, the most famous moment of the 2002 season was a broken play.

Obviously, it's a great moment, and Antoine Pettway deserves all the credit in the world for having enough sense to get to the right spot to make the winning basket. But how could there be no play called? No timeout taken? What in the hell was the coaching staff waiting for — the buzzer?
Still, I ignored these questions because, quite simply, my favorite team was winning more than it was losing. Even when they fell flat in the NCAAs (losing to Kent State in the second round) I shrugged my shoulders. Who can argue with an SEC title? And a two-seed! At Alabama, of all places — a 2 seed.
The next season, things appeared to be getting better. Alabama — with essentially the same group from '02, sans Grizzard (who left school for the NBA Draft, which worked out GREAT for him) — opened the fall of '02 ranked in the top-5, then improbably rose to number one in the nation around New Year's after a few other teams lost.
As it turns out, that's probably about where the Gottfried era peaked.
The Tide promptly lost on the road (of course) to Utah, then started SEC play in 2003 by falling back into the old routine from 2001, getting by at home and getting destroyed away from it. There was a stirring comeback at Mississippi State that signaled they'd found their way again — they hadn't. I attended road blowouts at Ole Miss and Auburn in person. They got ripped by Vanderbilt ... twice, the final time coming in the first round of the SEC Tournament, their one and only chance to impress the NCAA Committee before selection Sunday.
And this was when I turned on Gottfried for good — sitting in the press lounge, eating before a game one night, a visiting writer asked what we thought was the problem with this Alabama team. Without hesitating, a member of Alabama media relations (who I won't name on the off-chance they read this there) spat out the word: "Coaching." He then proceeded to vocalize every wart about the team that I'd kept to myself during 2002.
The good news: it wasn't just my imagination. The bad news ... well, you know.
Ultimately, 'Bama did sneak into the NCAAs, long enough to get beaten by Indiana (having its own issues with Alabama alum Mike Davis at the helm) in the first round. Even worse, there were rumors that Gottfried might be skipping town to take the vacant job at UCLA, the school where he'd cut his teeth (under Jim Harrick, who was having pretty good success at UGA before his disregard for the NCAA caught up with him). Sadly, he stayed.
Of course, he wasn't sad he stayed. Alabama slogged through an up-and-down season in '04, trying to adjust to the absence of Williams, Dudley and Kenny Walker. The Tide did beat Auburn twice that season — the Tigers were about to enter their own period of basketball Hell, which they still haven't completely come out of yet — and did beat Tennessee. And Gottfried figured out late in the season that he could spread the floor with Ken Winston, Earnest Shelton, Pettway and friends and basically shoot the lights out.
As it turned out, that's what propelled the greatest postseason run in 'Bama history.
After surviving a first-round game against Southern Illinois — and the cry for Mark Gottfried's head was getting louder before that win happened — Alabama improbably got scalding hot from 3, beat top-seeded Stanford in the second round (they were the top seed overall that year) and then completely took apart defending NCAA champs Syracuse (and their vaunted 2-3 zone) in the Sweet 16.
Incredibly, Alabama was in the Elite 8, a place Alabama basketball had never been. And who really cared if eventual champ UConn (featuring Emeka Okafor) destroyed them in the Elite 8? Mark Gottfried was back, baby!
Sadly, that's not the case.
Alabama basketball went through a general malaise in 2005 (first-round loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and followed that up with a somewhat-inspiring 2006 (second-round loss to UCLA, a Final 4 team that year, and that was after the best player on the team — Chuck Davis — was lost to a season-ending injury). And, of course, there was 2007, when Alabama played most of January and February like a team that didn't enjoy basketball, getting swept by Auburn for the first time since 1999 (Gottfried's first season) and failing to qualify for the NCAAs for the first time since 2000.
The defining moment of that season, for me, was the regular-season finale at Mississippi State. With a chance to impress the committee away from home with a win or at least a quality performance, Alabama barely registered a heartbeat, losing 91-67.

The biggest problem of the Gottfried era, to me, is that his biggest deficiencies as a head coach are the same deficiencies that existed in 2000. In order:
• Lack of movement on offense. This has been a constant criticism since he set foot on campus, to the point that my brother Whit nearly had an aneurysm screaming at the team to "MOVE!" during a home game last season.
• Poor performance on the road. Not just a poor record, because it's hard to win away from home in the SEC (mostly because of the aforementioned officiating problem). No, the trouble with Alabama is its tendency to get pulverized on the road, to get beaten like one of those hapless WCW wrestlers who used to get jumped by the NWO in the back.
• Steady stream of excuses. In 2003, the problem was that Grizzard left early. If Grizzard hadn't left early, the offense would be fine. In '04, Alabama was a young team (they actually weren't, but whatever). In '05, they were a young team again. In '06, it was Chuck Davis' injury that was the problem. Then in '07, Ronald Steele's injuries were what hampered the team.
There's already been a few of these in 2008. Steele decided to redshirt before the season started (don't be surprised if he doesn't test the NBA waters this summer). Hendrix has been hampered by injuries (and the flu). The shots just aren't falling when they need them.
And always, always, always, there's this one: "I really like our effort ... we just need better execution."
Translation: it's not my fault. I can't play for them.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Non-Alabama fans don't believe this, but there's a group of Alabama fans who will remain loyal to their coaches no matter what. Mike DuBose had people willing to kill for him until sometime in the middle of 2000. Alabama fans adored Dennis Franchione right up until the day he stepped off the plane in College Station. People defended Mike Price rigorously — I even remember being at his hearing and seeing an Alabama fan get up to speak "on behalf of the fans" in Price's support. And Alabama fans insisted that Mike Shula "needed better players" right up until the day he was fired, as well.
(Note: many of these same people immediately burn that bridge the second the new coach is hired, then pretend they never liked that guy in the first place. Seriously — some of Shula's biggest supporters started hating on him the day the Saban era began. I'm not kidding. Alabama fans are weird people.)
Want to know a secret? I'm in this camp. I don't like the idea of firing a coach. I like Mark Gottfried as a person, and hate the idea of subjecting him to the ignominy of a public termination. Even though I've slammed him in journal form, I'm quietly rooting for him to succeed at every turn.
I just don't think it's going to happen. The man's peaked as a head coach. He's taken Alabama as far as it can go. He'll never be better than what he's been — a few big wins, a few embarrassing losses, 8-8 or 7-9 in SEC play, maybe an NCAA Tournament appearance (maybe) and nothing more.
So I guess that's the biggest question facing Alabama basketball. Is what you have now a satisfactory product? Because if not, well ....


Friday, February 8, 2008

a Friday political thought ...

Honestly, I'm not avid follower of American politics (or politics anywhere else in the world, quite frankly) — I get most of my political knowledge from "The (A) Daily Show" and the Google News site.
I do know enough to know that this presidential election has presented a situation almost unprecedented in American history — it's been more than 50 years since we had an election in which neither the incumbent president nor his vice president was a candidate. One thing I've always found funny is exactly how a candidate becomes a front-runner — in 2004, for example, I don't ever remember hearing John Kerry's name until sometime after the Iowa caucus, when he was suddenly declared the guy (ahead of Howard Dean, who'd been getting the most love to that point).
So it has been thus far this year in the Republican world. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani ... all these guys were considered interchangeable parts as potential presidential candidates, with John McCain (who gave W a strong run in 2000) considered mostly an afterthought. Then suddenly, McCain started winning primaries, earned "front-runner" status ... and now it looks like the nomination is his to lose. How this happened, I have no idea.
Of course, I thought all along that McCain was the best guy for the job from the right side of the aisle, if only because I'd given up hope that Ron Paul — the candidate I voted for on Tuesday — had any shot at getting elected and rolling back the government like it needs to be. I've always liked McCain, and he seems like the ideal candidate — war vet with enough savvy to go on Comedy Central and stick it to Jon Stewart (most Republicans typically avoid Stewart as much as they can), plus he's willing to reach across the aisle, listen to the concerns of the other side and work with them. I don't always agree with McCain, but I respect him, and that's a good start for a presidential candidate.
Apparently, that thought process doesn't jive with the nation's most influential conservatives. Most notably, Ann Coulter stated she'd rather vote for Hillary Clinton than McCain, and James Dobson stated he'd rather not vote, if the choice is between Clinton and McCain (couldn't find the link). Maguire — who's a sheep where Ann the Man is concerned — has echoed those same sentiments on his new soap box.
The fact that the MSM is pretty much declaring McCain the frontrunner scares the daylights out of me. McCain will only sell out what's left of the Republican Party and continue (or accelerate) its move to the left. What alternative is left for this country's true conservatives?
What's odd is that no one seems to be able to pinpoint exactly why McCain is such a bad choice, aside from the fact that he hasn't taken a beating from political pundits and occasionally attempts to get along with Democrats. So he's not W. Is that such a bad thing?


Thursday, February 7, 2008

As a rule, I do my best to avoid recruiting season — in fact, as a sportswriter, I often find myself longing for the old days, when sportswriters covered recruiting by (and here I channel Lewis Grizzard), "checking the roster on the first day of practice to see who showed up."

Sadly, it's a fact of life now among college football fans, just as the NFL and NBA drafts are entertaining and important events for fans of those particular leagues. Thus, the DP offers up some recruiting links in the wake of a monumental Signing Day, followed by one Auburn fan's perspective (my cousin Jamie's, via email).

— Capstone does the Alabama recruiting victory dance.
— names 'Bama's Lance Thompson Recruiter of the Year.
— Ian Rapaport has a good entry on 'Bama's success, as well.

— The Wiz has the skinny on the bizarre story of Kevin Hart.

— As promised, the Auburn perspective, courtesy of Track 'Em Tigers: here and here.
And the email from Jamie, who trades emails with me frequently — some of those conversations are still up on the old LJ. His thoughts are presented here as is, with only minor edits made for grammatical and stylistic correction.

With apologies to rape victims, I feel as though I was gang raped yesterday.
I think the whole disappointment from the AU side has a lot to do with the success of Bama. There will be 2 star recruits in AU's class that out perform some of Bama's 4 and 5 star guys. I'm the last person you have to tell that "stars" don't matter, but there was much more to Auburn's class that is so disheartening.
1) Losing committed players. Enrique Davis was not lost to USC, but Ole friggin Miss.
2) Jarmon Fortson, an Anquon Bolden clone left for FSU even though he was a lifelong AU fan and his HS QB is already enrolled at AU.
3) Charles Deas, the guy I was most excited about, got in very good physical shape in prep school. Unfortunately, he's an idiot and will be headed to JUCO.
4) Signing day woes. AU landed NO ONE on signing day. Enrique Davis and Robert Quinn (4 star DE from South Carolina) both told people they plan on signing with AU the night before NSD. They both apparently had nightmares about Auburn, and decided on other options.
5) The lack of success head to head vs other big name schools. We made a habit this year of out recruiting Georgia Tech and Mississippi St for sigs. Meanwhile over at the Capstone it's like a proverbial High School All-American convention. I kept waiting for a little momentum to change and it never happened. Fact is it intensified.
Lastly, I would say to both Auburn and Alabama supporters alike, that one class does not make or break a program, but damn does this make next year VERY important down here.

And with that, have yourself a nice Thursday. I'm off to work.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A couple of quick Signing Day notes — I'll be back later with more.

• For everything 'Bama-related, check out the open thread at RBR. Also, Cecil wrote another outstanding column about how good this recruiting class can be.
(You know, assuming they qualify, assuming there's not a major scandal in the near future, assuming they avoid serious injuries and the coaching staff doesn't completely turn over. And, of course, assuming they all want it badly enough. Little things like that.)

• To follow the national scene, there's no better place than the Sporting News' Signing Day Blog.

• One other thing I found, just in case you needed a few minutes to kill: re-evaluates the '04 signing class. Eye-opening, I thought.

And with that, I'm off to do, you know, my job. Will holla.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008

Well, folks, Super Bowl weekend is finally upon us. God help us all. Don't know about you, but the game seems a fait accompli for New England to me — they're too close, too good and too well-coached. Well-coached teams don't blow games like this one. I'm betting they pull away in the second half and win with relative ease.

(I'll be rooting against them, of course.)

In any case, here are some Friday links:
— What's it like to cover Nick Saban on a daily basis? Well, occasionally, you'll probably have days like this one, where he gets all riled up and goes after you. My favorite part of this is the commentary below, where all the readers (predictably) go after Rapaport for being smug (and he probably is, even though I don't really know anything about him). for being a reporter and — this one was my favorite — actively rooting for Alabama to fail (even though 95 percent of Rapaport's blog posts are pro-Alabama and he's never had a run-in with Saban up until this point). Hilarious.
— Didn't realize Mike Wilbon had suffered a heart attack. Yikes. Hope he comes back soon — LeBatard doesn't need any more time in the spotlight.
—More ridiculousness from ESPN: Sportscenter anchor says "wife beater" on-air (referring to a shirt), forced to apologize for it later. Good grief. Where have you gone, Howard Cosell?
— Recruiting wheel continues to turn in Alabama's favor: cornerback Alonzo Lawrence committed to Tuscaloosa this afternoon, which could provide some much-needed secondary depth. Also, for those interested in what Jim McElwain's offenses might look like, TD has more.
— Auburn-related links: Phillip Marshall discusses what life has been like for AU offensive lineman Chaz Ramsey, who's received a good deal of heat for his block on Glenn Dorsey even though a) Dorsey was already hurt when the game started (he hurt his hamstring in a non-contact play on the game's first series), b) Dorsey wasn't seriously injured on the play (in the clip below, you can see him getting up and walking off the field) and c) LSU, you know, won the damned national championship.

Also, Auburn and West Virginia re-scheduled their game for October. So Auburn's killer early schedule looks a little easier, plus they get to play on TV.
— OK, I know no one but me cares about the NBA around here — still, this was ridiculous. Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown? Sheesh.