While it wasn’t quite mass hysteria, Nate Oats proved popular in a setting of basketball conversation and chicken wings on Monday night.
Oats, who was introduced as the new head basketball coach at Alabama last Thursday, seemed to win the press conference that day but in what may be a first among coaching hires, his greatest victory has been in the four days after the press conference. He has been in nonstop motion, landing one recruit and making an all-out effort for another. He has said the right things. Importantly, it doesn’t seem to be a case of reading an audience and saying what the audience members want to hear, then hoping that a new set of answers six months from now will maintain the buzz. Oats is shooting straight, from all appearances. But he seems to be taking things in the direction that his (admittedly partisan) radio show audience wants to go.
He also had some news items and inside tidbits to share.
On Monday, the team had a practice (or, in official NCAA-ese, a “skills-related instruction opportunity”) that lasted for an hour.
“Things are definitely a lot different for them,” Oats said. “The pace of play is nothing like they have been accustomed to. They were a little gassed and we’re not doing any conditioning. The drills are at a little bit different pace than they’re used to doing.
“You’ve got to push them hard. They want to be pushed, deep down, but you’ve got to push them in the right manner.”
His impressions of the workout seemed consistent with what Alabama fans were saying during the season, and at least raised a question or two on just what the roster will ultimately look like when recruiting-and-portal season (the portal swings both ways, as noted in “Ghostbusters”) come to a close.
“We’ve got some athletes,” Oats said. “We’re going to do a lot of work on their skill development, because we’re going to play four out (on the perimeter) and one in. Our centers (at Buffalo) could shoot threes. We’ve got a lot of work if we’re going to get to that level.”
Moving on to personnel, Oats noted that Kira Lewis Jr. “is at a high level and I think he’s perfect (for the offense.) I just went through an hour of video with him this morning before he went to class. I showed him how he would fit in our system, how we open the floor up and give you a lot of space to get downhill.
It’s going to be open for him to make plays, so we’ve got to put shooting around him.
″(John) Petty is a great shooter. We’ve got to get him better going off the dribble. I think Herb (Jones) is unbelievable going downhill at the rim. We play with a lot of space. He’s going to be great with that. We’ve got to develop his shooting. We want guys that can pass, shoot and handle at all four positions on the perimeter.
“This is not 1980s basketball. We’re not going to have a four man and a five man on the block.”
On staff changes, Oats had one announcement:
“We’ve got the strength coach from Buffalo (Mike Snowden). He was unbelievable. I (hired) a new assistant two years ago that will be coming down, but in a different role. We’ll figure the rest of staff out as we go through the next couple of weeks.”
There was even a little recruiting talk, which required a bit of dancing around the obvious due to NCAA rules.
“I’m not supposed to talk about recruits, but we went somewhere the other day to see someone who is pretty good,” Oats said. There were no giant message boards in Baumhower’s that started playing Trendon Watford highlights but the audience got the picture.
They also got exactly what they wanted, as far as the big picture was concerned — something to cheer about, for a little while.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.