The Alabama men’s basketball team is rejuvenated.
Where Oats goes, winning is soon to follow.
After 11 years, he jumped to the NCAA Division I level, where he became an assistant under Bobby Hurley at Buffalo. Hurley left for Arizona State and Oats took over.
In four seasons at the helm, the Bulls won three MAC Tournaments, two MAC regular season titles, and reached the second round in two of his three NCAA Tournament appearances.
The success up north caught the attention of Alabama Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne in Tuscaloosa. Byrne hired Oats as the head coach of the Tide basketball program in 2019.
In two years — with the 2019-20 season cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak — Oats has an SEC Tournament Championship under his belt along with the 2021 SEC Coach of the Year Award.
Perhaps most importantly, Oates has the team primed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Following the victory over LSU in the SEC title game, Alabama is a 2-seed in the East Region — its highest seed since 2002.
Oats’ path to this moment faced a scare in 2015, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer.
Who is Nate Oats’ Wife Crystal Oats?
Nate and Crystal Oats were married in 1997. The Oats family is rounded out by three daughters: Lexie, Jocie, and Brielle.
In a video posted by the Alabama basketball Twitter account commemorating Suits and Sneakers Week — a Coaches vs. Cancer event that unites coaches and the basketball world in the fight against cancer — Oats expanded on the outlook of the initial diagnosis:
“We were furniture shopping and I just remember walking in and out of some furniture stores in a daze, trying to act like life’s going to go on normal but knowing this is anything but normal,” he said in the video. “There’s a good chance she doesn’t make it. In my mind, I’ve got three daughters. This is not good. Then you kind of get your mind right — OK, we can make it. Let’s figure this out.”Advertisement
The University of Alabama head coach considered stepping away from coaching for a year to be with his wife. She encouraged him to stay on the sideline. Nate credits his Christian faith for helping his wife and giving him motivation to grow.
“There were circumstances surrounding that where I had to make some decisions about whether I wanted to be the Christian man that I said I was, or whether I wanted to be hypocritical,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019. “I didn’t want that. So in the last four years — three-and-a-half years or so — I really had a lot of introspection to where you evaluate where you’re at as a man and what you want.”
Crystal has been cancer free since August 2016, according to WIVB-4 in Buffalo. The couple said the battle strengthened their marriage.
As we all know, the Internet is a place where thoughts are fully formed and consequences are weighed out. One social media user snapped at Oats’ complaints by referencing a photo with Oats and Crystal the day before she started chemotherapy. Mrs.
Oats responded to the Twitter troll with a tweet of her own.
The account and tweet have since been deleted.
As a coach, the ups and downs of the game are part of the job. When the downs come his way, Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats has a source of motivation to persevere.