"In this bright future you can't forget your past." - Bob Marley
I don't want to bog the blog down with massive amounts of coaching carousel discussions, at least not until a coaching change is actually made. However, things look dire at this moment in time. Most basketball fans, and even non-basketball fans who just don't like that Bammer is losing at something, have already written the season and Anthony Grant off. The popular opinion right now, said or unsaid, is that Grant is facing his final weeks as the head coach of the basketball program.
Maybe that's true. Call me nuts (no doubt many of you already have), but I still believe this team can salvage something from this season. Will it be an NCAA berth? Likely not. But I'm not yet sold that this team is ready to pack it in and let the wheels fall off completely. Tuesday night will be a strong indicator if this team has any guts left. Bama and Auburn fans are already expecting a beatdown in front of a raucous Auburn crowd hoping to beat Alabama at something in the course of the past 12 months, which they've yet to do. In the meantime, for the sake of discussion, in the event that things go from bad to worse and a coaching change is made, who are five realistic options (please note: i wrote "realistic options") that the university can pursue?
The consensus opinion, based on what I've read here and elsewhere, is that if Alabama makes a coaching change they must pursue a proven head coach as a way of maintaining some semblance of stability for the immediate future, excite the fanbase, subsequently tempering some of the palpable nervousness that has been present amongst the fanbase since Auburn hired Bruce Pearl. While up-and-coming head coaches such as Michael White (Louisiana Tech) and Steve Prohm (Murray State) have been discussed, hiring either of those guys would have to considered a gamble, right? I'm not sure the program can handle another gamble at this point. There is no guarantee that coaches like White and Prohm are ready to step up a weight class, particularly at a place where basketball will likely always be fighting an uphill battle for attention and respect from a football-crazed fanbase.
Grant has lost a ton of support, there's no argument there. But who do you replace him with, under the parameters laid out above? It is my opinion, assuming a Ben Howland or a Gregg Marshall has no legitimate interest in the job, there are really no guys out there right now with the pop and sizzle necessary to win a press conference. I hear people toss out names like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens with a straight face. If Shaka Smart didn't leave VCU for UCLA, he's not coming to Alabama. Brad Stevens will eventually return to the college game (my money is on him replacing Coach K, should he consider retiring now that he has the all-time wins record, plus 1,000 wins), but when he does, he will have his pick of the absolute best job available. I hate to break it to some of you, but Alabama won't be that job. Yeah, sure, Alabama can back up a truck full of money to any coaches house, but so can a lot of other schools with better basketball pedigrees.
Something else to keep in mind: some really good jobs could be opening this offseason. Texas, Memphis, Cincinnati (depending on Mick Cronin's health) are just a few that come to mind. If they do, those are much more enticing to the best available candidates than what Alabama can offer from a basketball perspective. The flip side of that is a recurring nightmare I've had, that Alabama would actually reach out to someone like Rick Stansbury, whose time as an assistant on the Texas A&M bench seems short-lived. I don't know all the details, but Bobby and DJC could tell enough tales regarding Stansbury to curl all of our toes. And let's not overlook the poor shape he left the Mississippi State program in, which it has yet to recover from. I can say with not a shred of hyperbole that it would be very difficult for me to continue to love and support Alabama basketball if someone like a Stansbury (or Bruce Pearl) was hired.
Which leads to me this thought, which some of you will find really unsettling. With a 4 million dollar payout left on his contract, and a potential lack of proven coaches available should the job come open, if Coach Grant can lead this bunch into the NIT, do not be surprised if you are confronted with the reality of a seventh season under Coach Grant.