How Alabama's Adam Cottrell became the March Madness king of corny dad jokes | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

BIRMINGHAM − Gas prices are crazy, but chimney prices are through the roof.

Adam Cottrell can't say exactly how many dad jokes he's committed to memory, but he summoned that one instantly on request. He's got dozens, for sure. Maybe close to 100. But it's not about how many for the Alabama basketball walk-on. It's about having the right one ready for the right moment, so he doesn't necessarily have to maintain a huge bank of them.

"I try to time it where it's not too serious of a moment, but sometimes I pick the wrong time, too," Cottrell said. "Usually after a win is a good time."

That's opened the door for a lot of material, as Alabama has notched 30 victories on the way to top-seeded status in the NCAA Tournament as it enters second-round play Saturday against Maryland.

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The senior from Flowery Branch, Georgia, finds it hard to believe that his comedic contribution to the Crimson Tide has drawn so much attention. After all, he's played only about half a game − 21 total minutes − over 35 games to date. But when SEC Network's Alyssa Lang mentioned Cottrell's dad jokes to ESPN's Jay Bilas, the veteran analyst ended up taking Cottrell on one of his 94-foot-walk features to hear some of his best stuff. It was a moment more special for Cottrell than most knew, because he grew up a Duke fan, where Bilas played in the mid-1980s.

Cottrell comes from a competitive basketball family, the son and grandson of basketball coaches, but also a family that's always liked to have fun off the court. When he was a small child, his parents gave him a toy called Hulk Hands − massive green fists in the image of the Marvel character -- only for Adam to complete the likeness by painting himself green. His father, Todd, coached him at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, but takes little if any credit for his son's goofy humor. For that, Todd points to his own father, the late Steve Cottrell, who coached 10 seasons at Western Carolina from 1977 to 1987.

"They got close and did this all the time," Todd said. "Telling jokes and funny stories. I think that's where a lot of it comes from."

Cracking dad jokes was easy enough for Cottrell in high school, where he first employed the tactic as a way to keep the mood light in class. One of his science teachers, in particular, didn't like the act a bit at first, but eventually came to appreciate it. It wasn't nearly as easy when he arrived at Alabama in 2019; freshman walk-ons don't exactly have the status to command locker room attention.

"I didn't start right off the bat because you've got to work your way in," Cottrell said.

Four years later, however, his teammates are all in on dad jokes. In particular, center Nick Pringle, Cottrell's roommate when the Crimson Tide travels, and point guard Jahvon Quinerly can't get enough of them.

Can anyone?

"Last night we were at the hotel and I wanted to watch this doc on making index cards," Cottrell offered, "but it was paper view only."

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Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.