The 2022 season was a down year for the University of Alabama softball team, at least by head coach Patrick Murphy's standards. The Crimson Tide finished 45-22 overall and 14-10 in SEC play.
Alabama's 2024 squad will have a new look, not only with new players, but also a revamped coaching staff.
Murphy, who has guided the Tide to 13 Women's College World Series appearances and a national championship in 2012, announced Sept. 12 that former Alabama outfielder Kayla Braud will join the staff as an assistant.
Braud certainly knows what it takes to be a winner, having been part of that 2012 championship team. A three-time All-American during her four seasons at Alabama, Braud set a single-season program record with a .505 batting average as a freshman, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2010.
Braud ranks in the Tide career top 10 in several categories, including second in batting average (.438), second in hits (344), third in runs scored (271) and second in stolen bases (182). In 2012, she was voted to the WCWS All-Tournament Team, leading Alabama to its first national championship in program history.
Since leaving Alabama, Braud spent a decade as a college softball analyst with ESPN and the SEC Network. She is replacing longtime assistant Alyson Habetz, who spent 25 years on Murphy's staff before announcing her retirement in August.
Habetz's primary role was working with outfielders and coaching first base. While Murphy hasn't officially announced Braud's specific duties, she will more than likely step into the roles vacated by Habetz.
"I will never be able to fill the shoes of Alyson Habetz, but my gratitude for all she did with this program will be in my heart as I work to impact the lives of the women that wear the 'A,' " Braud said in a statement.
There's always something special about an alum returning to coach the program they thrived in as a player. Murphy acknowledged this in his announcement of Braud's hire.
"We tell every young lady who enters the Rhoads House that this is a long-term relationship that extends far past their playing days. Our current staff can't wait to start working with Kayla."
Braud is the second addition to Murphy's staff this offseason. After the NCAA allowed softball teams to employ a third assistant, Murphy named Adam Arbour to his staff. Arbour, who served as the Tide's coordinator of player management last season, will work primarily with the hitters and catchers.
Murphy has been with the Alabama softball program since its inception, serving as an assistant in its first few years, and will enter his 26th season as head coach in 2024. If anyone knows how to bounce back from a so-called "down" year, it would be him. With seven transfers and another top recruiting class, adding a former national championship player such as Braud can only enhance the program's chances of getting back to the WCWS, where they haven't appeared since 2021.
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