If there is any truth to the idea that one game can save a coach’s job, then last night Mark Gottfried was handed a gift.
I’m honestly not even super excited that Alabama beat Florida in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. In the last couple of years, this would have thrilled me beyond compare, but Florida’s back to being what they were before the turn of the century. I am, however, ridiculously ecstatic that Alabama won a game…and won it the way that they did. Alabama went on a 14-0 run to start the first 5 minutes of the game. The halftime score was 46-23. It got a little sketchy for a period of time in the second half, but I think we all knew that Florida was not going to go quietly. In the end, Alabama came away with the victory 80-69. What happened? What clicked? I don’t know. All I know is that Alabama has struggled all year, and still has to win the entire SEC tournament in order to get a bid in the Big Dance. We’re 17-15 overall and 5-11 in conference play. We’re 102 in the RPI ratings with a 49th ranked strength of schedule. To say this was an off year would usually be right, if it wasn’t what we’ve pretty much seen for the last couple of years.
Coach Gottfried has had it rough. And honestly, it’s not entirely his fault. The team has been riddled with injuries and though that’s never an excuse, it still hurts a team when both their most talented and most influential leaders can’t play. Still, it all comes back to the coach, and Mark was on the hot seat this season, which hurts me greatly.
I was in college when Mark was hired as the men’s basketball coach. Before he arrived, the team had been in a great slump that included low attendance because, well, no one was interested in watching the basketball games. I went to one game my freshman year (the season before Mark came) and that was the Kentucky game. And to tell you the truth, I went because I wanted to see Rick Pitino (he was Kentucky’s coach at the time). If you’re wondering, yes he is as arrogant as he seems. He had bodyguards for crying out loud and I don’t mean the standard state police assigned to you for the game…actual black suit wearing bodyguards. But, I digress. Anyway, Mark was hired the next year and immediately made it cool to go to the basketball games, again. It was an exciting time and hope for their success was reborn.
This is now Mark’s 11th season as our coach, and those 11 seasons are defined with a lot of ups and downs. Mark still gets me excited about Alabama basketball. He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and he cares SO much about his players and the University. I’ve been pretty sad this season for one reason only because I knew that if we didn’t look good, he was probably out of a job. I still don’t know that he’s not, but I can tell you that if anything can save Mark’s job, last night’s game was a good start.
ROLL TIDE ROLL!