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January 27, 2009

Gosh, Maybe the SEC Does Care about Hoops

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:57 am

Yesterday Mark Gottfried resigned as head coach of Alabama, marking the second consecutive winter that SEC football’s notorious in-season coaching turnover has reared its Darwinian head in the hitherto more sedate precincts of the conference’s hardwood. (Last year it was John Brady of LSU who made a hasty exit.) Gottfried’s departure provides further confirmation of Gasaway’s First Law: “embattled” is one word you never want to see next to your name. (Can you just be “battled”?)

At 12-7 and 2-3 in-conference, the Crimson Tide are far from being the SEC’s worst team, nor are they underperforming so very greatly in relation to preseason expectations. True, this year ‘Bama landed McDonald’s-esteemed freshman JaMychal Green, but he has played a relatively small role in the offense. Meanwhile oft-injured point guard Ronald Steele left the team last week. The school said Steele wanted to give his plantar fasciitis time to heal. Others suggested the real issue was Steele’s relationship with Gottfried

Whatever the reason, Gottfried is gone and interim coach Philip Pearson is now in charge. Speculation will unavoidably center on whether Pearson can coax Steele back into uniform, but what Alabama really needs at this point is some defense: both on the perimeter, where SEC opponents have made 41 percent of their threes; and down low, where the Tide has rebounded just six in every ten of their conference opponents’ misses, the worst such performance in the league.

Defense, Coach Pearson. Defense.  

BONUS post-mortem note! My understanding is that Ronald Steele is or has in the past been one player who puts the “student” in student-athlete. If that is still correct I salute him for accomplishments more substantial and enduring than mere hoops. But speaking of mere hoops, the manifest awe in which Steele’s on-court performance “when healthy” has long been held–indeed continues to be held–has always completely mystified me. Steele was a very good player during his healthy season in 2006, yes, but he was said to be much more than “very good.” In fact he was named a first-team preseason All-American going into the following year. Strange praise indeed for a 6-1 point guard with an average assist rate who made just 42 percent of his frequent twos. How Steele was able to hypnotize the national media from relative (hoops) obscurity in Tuscaloosa while his outstanding teammate Richard Hendrix could hardly get so much as a “He’s good!” (well, except for this one) is surely one of the enduring media-studies mysteries of our time.

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