Head coach Nate Oats gives second period coaching advice to Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during a time out against the LSU Tigers at Coleman Coliseum
Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images

Alabama Basketball Faces Its Biggest Challenge Yet: Accountability

According to law enforcement officials, Alabama star basketball player Brandon Miller delivered the gun used by former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles to kill Jamea Jonae Harris last month in Tuscaloosa. Texts between Miles and Miller were revealed at a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Miller is not currently being charged with anything. According to AL.com's reporting, when asked why Miller would not face any legal troubles, Tuscaloosa Chief Deputy District Attorney Paula Whitley said, "That's not a question I can answer. There's nothing we could charge him with." Meanwhile Darius Miles and Michael Lynn Davis, the two directly involved in the shooting, are currently waiting for their trials, following capital murder charges. 

Legally, Whitley may be right, and Miller will face no legal trouble. Still, one would think a basketball program would look at this situation and decide to take it seriously. 

But apparently not Alabama's basketball program. On Tuesday, when asked about the situation, head coach Nate Oats had this to say

"We've known the situation since [it happened]. We've been fully cooperating with law enforcement the entire time. The whole situation is sad. The team closed practice with a prayer for the situation today, knowing that we had this trial today. We think of Jamea and her family, Kaine. Really think about her son, Kaine, that was left behind. So it's sad. Can't control everything anybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out, Brandon hasn't been in any type of trouble nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Wrong spot at the wrong time."

Wrong spot at the wrong time? Really? That's what we're going with here? That's the type of say-nothing platitude you use when you get busted for underage drinking or some other innocuous action. 

Police said Miller delivered a deadly weapon to a murder scene. That feels as if it warrants a more-serious reckoning on behalf of the head coach and athletic director. Of course you can't control "everything everybody does outside of practice." No one is asking you to do that. What we're asking is this: If you knew a player was involved in a slaying, why did you seemingly downplay it or pretend it didn't happen?

It's not appropriate to speculate here on what type of legal consequences, if any, Miller should face. But we can certainly talk about how Alabama is failing to acknowledge the gravity of a situation that possibly saw three of their players including freshman Jaden Bradley — at the scene of a killing. (Bradley also has not been charged.) 

Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide shoots a free throw during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

In Alabama's statement regarding the shooting, they mention Miller's full cooperation with law enforcement. "UA Athletics continues to cooperate fully with law enforcement in the on-going investigation of this tragic situation. Based on all the information we have received, Brandon Miller is not considered a suspect in this case, only a cooperative witness. Today's statement from Brandon's lawyer adds additional context that the University has considered as part of its review of the facts. Based on all of the facts we have gathered, Brandon remains an active member of our team."

Oats' demeanor smacked of someone annoyed that a side story is getting in the way of the real story at hand: Alabama's on-the-court success this season. The fact that Miller is apparently facing zero repercussions despite being said to have played a role in an actual killing just feels wrong. It also makes you wonder: Would this be the case if Miller was a bench warmer? Or did he stay with the team and play in every game since the incident because he is one of the best players in the country?

It's clear from Oats' remarks that the team has known about Miller's involvement since soon after the Jan. 15 shooting. And yet Miller has not appeared to face any consequences. The team kept rolling, the wins kept coming, and the story about their former teammate Miles' alleged involvement in a killing fell to the wayside. 

It's more than a bit concerning that Oats and the Alabama program have tried to just shove this whole episode to the side. Even though he apologized Tuesday evening for the insensitivity of his remarks earlier, Oats has made it clear he cares first and foremost about winning, and any distractions from that are just unfortunate happenstance.

And then Brandon Miller's pat down introduction took center stage.

Oats quickly took a moment to not only address the incident, but to also right his previous wrongs. "I don't watch our introductions, I'm not involved with them, I'm drawing up plays during that time," Oats said in his postgame presser. "Regardless, it's not appropriate. It's been addressed and I can assure you it definitely will not happen again for the remainder of this year." The Alabama coach then added, "I apologize for my previous comments this week. We understand the severity of it all, but I'm following the administration's lead on everything here, so we're going to talk about the game is what they would like for me to talk about."

Following the administration's lead on everything? The plot thickens. Regardless of who is creating a game plan for this PR nightmare, the same fact remains the same: Alabama's mens basketball team is not leading the league is fewest self-inflicted controversies. In fact, they're No. 1 in the nation.

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