Where does Alabama go from here?

January, 27, 2009

Sometime over the weekend, after Alabama had lost to Kentucky on Saturday, Mark Gottfried met with his family and at least one close friend to discuss his next move.

The best move it turned out was to resign, leave on his own terms and hope to land another job, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

Gottfried had decided, after council with his inner circle, that the worst thing to do would be to fight the inevitable firing that would come at the end of the season.

As one source said, the snowball effect could've taken him over and then there would've been no exit strategy.

Gottfried's move is akin to what Mike Davis did at Indiana three years ago. Davis removed himself from the cauldron in February instead of waiting for the Hoosiers to potentially relieve him of his duties. He then ended up getting the UAB job in the spring, once Mike Anderson left to go to Missouri.

Ironically, Davis and Anderson are two potential candidates for the Crimson Tide, according to multiple sources. Alabama may not formerly hire former Tide coach and Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton (Davis' coach at Alabama in his first year), but the school is expected to lean on Newton to some degree.

Regardless of race, the pool of candidates is expected to include VCU's Anthony Grant and Miami's Frank Haith, according to sources close to the program. The same sources don't expect Minnesota's Tubby Smith to go to Alabama, but a pitch could be made in his direction.

Multiple sources, and interim Alabama coach Philip Pearson, said Gottfried wants to coach again. Pearson talked at length about the recent chaos for him personally during a podcast with me Monday night. You can listen to it here: CBB Podcast

The Tide hasn't been helped by all the injuries of to Ronald Steele (knee injuries kept him out last season and then a troublesome heel this season) and the early-entry attrition to the NBA draft.

Alabama has been hurt maybe more than any other school by early defections. Players like Mo Williams, Rod Grizzard, Kennedy Winston, Gerald Wallace and Richard Hendrix left early. Recovering from these losses wasn't an easy chore. In this writer's opinion, Wallace and Williams are the only two so far who clearly were told the right information in regards to their NBA future.

Pearson said during the podcast that the Tide is still close to having a quality season. Alabama (12-7, 2-3 SEC) lost a lead to Texas A&M at home, couldn't catch Clemson on the road and then Steele's injury led to three of four losses in conference play. Bama is at Arkansas on Thursday night. Pearson said he firmly believes the team can still make a run in the SEC.

Pearson said he met with each player and talked to their families. He said he wasn't sure if Steele would return now that Gottfried was gone. Steele's brother, Andrew, is on the squad and Andrew said it's a sensitive situation. Pearson said the Tide also signed five players in the fall and that he would continue to ensure they were happy with their decision. Like Gottfried, Pearson is an Alabama grad and said he has no problem recruiting for his alma mater.

Pearson's situation is reminiscent of Andy Kennedy's at Cincinnati. Kennedy was an assistant and good friend to Bob Huggins. When Huggins was bounced at UC, Kennedy was asked to be the interim. He didn't hesitate because he knew it was the best move for him, too.

Pearson understood the same thing. He said that Moore did say that his contract would be redone to reflect him coaching the team for the rest of the season. But he said there were no promises made beyond this season. Pearson said he fully understands he's in an unstable situation.

One interesting side note to watch with a potential Davis candidacy is highly-touted Alabama talent DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins committed to UAB in the fall, but wouldn't sign because the school wouldn't sign off on an agreement that said it would let Cousins out of his national letter of intent if Davis left for another job. Cousins is a free agent on the recruiting market with schools like Memphis trying to lure him now. But an open job at Alabama may have him waiting even longer.

• Notre Dame is in trouble -- as in making the NCAA tournament. Yes, it sounds blasphemous to say, but it's true. The Irish are 12-7, 3-5 in the Big East. Look at some of the games remaining for the Irish: at Pitt, at UCLA, Louisville at home (suddenly with two straight home losses the Irish are no longer invincible at home), at West Virginia, at Providence, at Connecticut. The Irish better start winning these games. If the Irish were to lose at least four of those and finish 9-9, they will be an interesting test case for the committee. The Big East tournament could be crucial for the Irish.

• Meanwhile, Marquette is the real deal. I firmly believed it after the Golden Eagles beat Providence. Beating Notre Dame is yet another example. The easy thing was to say that Marquette has the toughest end-of-season schedule of any Big East team. And it does. But now if the Golden Eagles continue to play the way they are, why can't they handle it? The end of season run consists of at Georgetown, Connecticut, at Louisville, at Pitt and Syracuse. Going 3-2 in this stretch is hardly out of the question. That seemed like a reach a few weeks ago.

Blake Griffin is ridiculous … as in ridiculously good. All he did in the Bedlam game Monday night was put up another double-double, his 17th of the season. He threw up 26 points, 17 boards and three assists in Oklahoma's 89-81 win over Oklahoma State. Start clearing space for the player of the year honors.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?