While the NCAA Tournament is the biggest thing in sports right now, with the Sweet 16 on most people’s minds, it’s hard not to feast your eyes on the mess that’s going on in Tuscaloosa. The Alabama Crimson Tide are without a coach and might be without several key players moving forward.
Before the week started, following an overtime loss to Norfolk State in the NIT, the University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson agreed to mutually part ways after four seasons. The change was expected, and perhaps so is the aftermath.
Since Johnson exited the program, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm, the top fan choice and Tide alum, signed an extension to stay with the Cyclones, and Byrne made it crystal clear Rick Pitino will not be a candidate to take over the college basketball program, which has missed the Big Dance three of the last four years.
Now, four players have entered the now-famous NCAA Transfer Portal.
Freshman point guard Kira Lewis Jr. (13.8 ppg.), Alabama’s leading scorer and playmaker) might leave. So might bucket getter John Petty (10.2 ppg.), guard Dazon Ingram (7.1 ppg.) and reserve big man Daniel Giddens (1.7 ppg.).
Add the Crimson Tide’s second leading scorer and top rebounder Donta Hall running out of eligibility, and there are some major cause for concerns here.
Forget a new coach, Alabama really might struggle to even put a competitive team on the court for the 2019-2020 season if these players actually decided to leave Tuscaloosa for friendlier pastures.
For everything Avery Johnson helped build at Alabama, from raising attendance to landing blue-chip talents like point guard Kira Lewis and NBA lottery pick point guard Collin Sexton, it might get torn down in a hurry.
In many cases, a high school prospect commits to a basketball coach just as much as he does the program itself. It happens more than you think, to be honest. So when coaches leave, players tend to do the same.
However, this is getting a little scary if you are an Alabama fan.
Sure, players like Lewis and Petty aren’t for sure leaving. A new coach can come in and win these kids over and make them want to stay. All the NCAA Transfer Portal allows is for other coaches to have the ability to contact the player. Yet, there’s no way this is a good feeling.
Alabama basketball will always be little brother to Nick Saban the football program. Nobody will ever deny that. There has to be some competitive balance, though, and the news this week only shows the Crimson Tide spiraling to something worse than mediocre in the SEC instead of improving.
What’s crazy is this might just be the beginning…