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Gottfried rounds up colleagues for Kuwait trip

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's Mark Gottfried has found a tougher coaching environment than the Southeastern Conference.

Gottfried is among the college basketball coaches and sports personalities who will coach eight teams from military camps across Kuwait in a project called Operation Hardwood to support troops.

"I thought it was important for us to encourage them, to let them know they are appreciated," Gottfried told The Tuscaloosa News in a story Wednesday. "As a parent with five kids, I know that if I had a child over there, I would be worried every day and I would want that child to know that people at home appreciated what they were doing."

More than 100 players will participate in the event Aug. 27 to 31 at Camp Arifjan, one of the major U.S. bases in Kuwait.

Gottfried initially planned to go last spring, and solicited support from other coaches after interest waned.

"A lot of coaches felt like they couldn't afford to miss recruiting time," he said. "I was afraid the idea was going to
die, so I got on the telephone and called a lot of other coaches.

"I went into recruiting mode. I called some coaches and they came on board, and I think we have a great group now."

The current coaches joining Gottfried on the trip include Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Dave Odom (South Carolina), Bobby Lutz (UNC Charlotte) and Kelvin Sampson (Oklahoma). Former coaches Mike Jarvis (St. Johns) and Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech). Former Duke player and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas will also coach a team.

Each will coach one of eight 13-member military basketball teams from installations throughout Kuwait in a tournament. They also plan to visit a local sports clinic to meet
and coach Kuwaiti children who are learning the game of basketball.

"Our mission will be to support the troops in a positive way,"
Gottfried said. "If that only means that we take their mind off
the daily grind over there, that will be something."