The Birmingham Tip-Off club hosted a recruitment party/panel discussion at Iron City last night. First of all, I want to say this was an excellent event, very well organized and very well attended. I would estimate close to 1,000 people were there including members and prospective members. It was great seeing that many people excited about basketball at this time of the year in the city come together.
Joe Dean Jr.emceed the festivities which featured a panel discussion with Coach Grant, UAB Coach Jerod Hasse, and former auburn player and assistant coach Chuck Person. Bruce Pearl supposedly suffered a back injury a couple of days ago and was unable to attend, but he taped a video from his home that was played at the beginning of the ceremonies.
Pearl said that he was excited about the challenges at auburn, and looks forward to having a great rivalry with Coach Grant to improve the game of basketball within the state, and said they have "too much respect for each other to take the rivalry too far." You can tell the guy is full of B.S. He did state that they have sold out every season ticket available and sold out their first exhibition and season opening games.
The loudest applause of the night came when he said they were in discussions about playing UAB. Jerod Hasse also echoed that sentiment and said they are hoping to start a regular series at the BJCC. Both Person and Hasse spoke of the importance of playing in-state schools to generate interest within sport. Obviously, Coach Grant's hands are tied on this one. I know some will disagree with me, but Paul Bryant Jr. needs to remove his head from his ass and allow us to schedule UAB (and Troy, and South Alabama, etc, for that matter). I understand the animosity, but most of that originated with Gene Bartow who is now worm food. We will always have a strong alumni base in Birmingham, but we are losing ground in the local basketball community to auburn because of the way we treat UAB.
Chuck Person has a good sense of humor and was moderately entertaining. He said the good news for auburn is they have a lot of guys coming back, which is also the bad news. Coach Grant said he was optimistic about our depth, and said we should be able to use more guys than we have in the past. Jerod Hasse was also excited about the Blazers depth, and said he anticipates playing being one of the fastest teams in the country this year.
Coach Grant said he would like to see a High School coaches association in this state where the coaches could possible lobby to be allowed more offseason time/scrimmages, and could work together to promote the sport.
Each coach was asked to tell a funny story about something that happened behind the scenes. Coach Grant said that Chris Hines was the type, for better or worse, he never thought he committed a foul. But he did foul, a lot. Some of the other players were getting irritated at him in practice and coach called him over, and basically asked what his beef was. Chris responded, "Coach, if I play hard, these guys get mad at me, but if I don't, then you get mad at me...They're just gonna have to stay mad at me I guess."
Nearly every in-state coach was present and recognized at the beginning of the event. I recall Montevallo, UAH, Jacksonville State, Birmingham Southern, and others. CM Newton and Wimp Sanderson were also in attendance, as was Wendell Hudson, Bryan Passink, and Leon Douglas.
I had the chance to speak with some of the coaches from the smaller schools, and they are generally unimpressed with Alabama's fundamentals. "Very talented, but not very skilled" was the general impression.
I also spoke to someone fairly close to the program, and he confirmed that we were blown out in a secret scrimmage by Georgia Tech, but that Kessons, Tarrant, and Retin did not play. Coaches don't really try to win those games, a lot of times they will work almost exclusively on a weakness, much like these exhibition games. I was told that if we had a "big game" all 3 of those guys would play. I suspect they will be held out of the Montevallo game Monday might, which frankly we may very well lose.