What Nate Oats said about new Alabama basketball assistant Austin Claunch

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats has officially added his first new assistant coach for the 2023-24 season.

Nicholls coach Austin Claunch has been hired to the staff, the program announced Tuesday.

"Austin has a bright young mind and will help out our program in many ways,” Oats said in a statement. "Not only is he a tireless recruiter and will help us with game planning but he is also a great person who will develop great relationships with our players and have a positive impact in our community.”

Claunch, 33, had served as head coach of Nicholls since March 29, 2018, and he had been on the staff there since June 2016. He was one of the youngest head coaches in Division I men's basketball during his tenure, and his squad won back-to-back Southland regular-season championships for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. He finished with a 90-61 record over five seasons.

When he was an assistant, Claunch worked with the guards. It's likely he fills a similar role at Alabama.

“I am extremely excited and thankful for the opportunity to join Coach Oats’ staff,” Claunch said in a statement. “Over the past few seasons, Alabama has proven itself to be one of the premier basketball programs not only in the SEC, but also in the country. The max effort, continuous growth and selfless love established here is evident, even from afar, and I look forward to being a part of this team. I am eager to add value any way I can and learn from one of the brightest and most innovative minds in the game in Nate Oats. It’s a thrill to be joining the Tuscaloosa community, and I’m excited to see everyone soon. Roll Tide!”

New Orleans Pelicans assistant Ryan Pannone has also accepted an assistant coaching job with the Crimson Tide, sources with direct knowledge told The Tuscaloosa News, but it hasn't been announced by the university.

Oats has a unique challenge, in that he has to replace all three assistants this offseason because each one left for head coaching jobs elsewhere. Georgia Southern hired Charlie Henry, Arkansas State hired Bryan Hodgson and Kennesaw State hired Antoine Pettway.

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The three assistants helped coach a team that went to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. Each was also part of the staff that helped the Crimson Tide win the SEC regular-season championship and the SEC Tournament in two of the past three seasons.

This past season, Oats' squad earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and was the top overall seed.

Prior to joining the Colonels, Claunch served as Clemson's assistant video services director. Before that, he worked as a graduate manager for Clemson from 2013-15. He got his start in the profession when he worked as an assistant coach at George Mason from 2012-13.

Claunch is a Houston native who attended Emory University and played basketball for the Division III school from 2008-12. He started for four years and was a captain for two.

He got his bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in religion. Then he received his master's degree from Clemson in 2015 in human resource development.