After letting Avery Johnson walk, the Alabama Crimson Tide decided to hire Buffalo Bulls head coach Nate Oats to the same position. As it usually is whenever the hot mid-major guy gets hired by a power conference university, college basketball pundits are already applauding the hire…
While saying his assistant is responsible for the majority of the recruiting while at Buffalo.
Gently place decidedly bold declarations to the wayside, since no one can honestly know, view this hire at its surface is all anyone is capable of.
Oats has a decent enough sample size to suggest he’s a stellar coach, via his overall record; though a large part of it was obviously obtained in the MAC… not a conference nearly as strong as the SEC. Then again, the next Coach K has to get his start somewhere.
Rather than using a wayward analogy that fits basketball like a walrus would a donut hole, here’s the obvious notes to be aware of before we get going: Cautionary tale. Caveat. Insert mandatory preface. Etc. All the words and phrases possible, mostly to prevent you (the reader) from yelling at me (the writer) for attempting to take a stab at this thing.
Hopefully when the stabbing is done, none of us are filled with holes. Although, if there’s enough, that walrus might finally have something to jump through.
What were we talking about again? Oh, yes. College basketball.
This certainly feels like a risk-it-all type of hire. Other coaches were available, including the idea of hurling large sums of money at Bruce Pearl or the Thad Matta, but the Crimson Tide decided to think outside the figurative box. They went for the slightly less known commodity.
For that, if nothing else, the athletic department can be celebrated for avoiding the safe, bordering on boring hire. While Pearl or Matta would have certainly been met with giant noises from media and fans, their ceilings as coaches are known. To be fair to both, those ceilings are insanely high.
Alabama, however, is not looking for a high ceiling. It appears the Crimson Tide are willing to bypass safe hiring practices, at the risk of firing a former NBA coach for a guy who could potentially be yet another hot mid-major flame out, to tickle the idea he’s an all-timer. A man who can compete with legitimate legends who are now coaching in the SEC.
There’s obviously the chance that the Crimson Tide went for a different coach prior to Oats, failing to land their first option. For now, and maybe only forever, that kind of conversation rests in the land of conjecture. The way the school will spin it, as it should, is that Nate Oats was always their main target.
Nevertheless, a program doesn’t fire some with Avery Johnson’s background, then hire someone of Oats’ stature, unless it believes the new hire can compete with John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Ben Howland, so on and so forth. If they believed Oats to be a middle of the road hire, the school would have simply kept Johnson to remain a middling head coach instead.
Time will be the only tangible evidence that tells us how this hire grades out. Not me. Not you. Not a reporter with inside information. There’s too many variables, and some of those even being out of the new hire’s own control, to be 100 percent positive if the move ends up great or a social media punchline.
Still, it can safely be argued that the Alabama Crimson Tide weren’t merely looking for this year’s “it” mid-major coach. They were looking for the next guy who creates a program into a sincere blue-blood, leading it to multiple Final Fours and making both household names in the process. It’s a bold, risky move… and I love it.
No pressure on Nate Oats to live up to the otherworldly set of expectations presumably just put on him or anything.
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