‘Bama basketball fans still have reason to watch

Published 5:05 pm Saturday, March 21, 2009

If you’re an Alabama fan, March Madness probably doesn’t do too much for you this year—unless you’re looking forward to spring football practice.

After the Alabama basketball team was blown out by Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament, there hasn’t been much to get excited about as far as that sport goes. The Crimson Tide obviously wouldn’t get into the NCAA tournament, and even an NIT berth was a long shot (and it didn’t happen).

The tournament might still be of interest, though, if only because it might provide an opportunity for Tide fans to watch their future coach. Missouri’s Mike Anderson, Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant, Clemson’s Oliver Purnell and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith have all been mentioned as possibilities to replace Mark Gottfried, who was fired mid-season.

Three of those coaches had their current teams were knocked out of the tournament on the first day of action. That could be either good or bad (or both). Bad because, well, the coaches didn’t necessarily make a great impression, but good because Alabama officials theoretically could begin discussions with the coaches sooner than anticipated.

As of March 20, Anderson is the only name on Alabama’s supposed short list left in the tournament, and his Tigers are expected by most observers to make a strong showing. ‘Bama should hire Anderson, and the longer his current teams stays alive the better.

Anderson seems an obvious choice because of his ties to the state and his coaching style. Anderson hails from Birmingham, and he teaches a fast-paced brand of basketball that would surely coax ‘Bama fans out to Coleman Coliseum. As much respect as Smith deserves and receives, his preference for a low post offense would bring back too many memories of Gottfried as soon as his team began to struggle.

If Anderson is the man, Alabama fans should hope he impresses as much as possible before switching schools. It could only help the program’s reputation to be able to introduce at a press conference a coach fresh off a Final Four appearance or even a national coach of the year award.

So, even if the Alabama basketball team is more likely to be found at the library than an NCAA regional, Tide fans still have a reason to watch the tournament.