Alabama Week continues with a look toward the hardcourt.
Living in the mammoth shadow that Alabama football casts simply can’t be easy. Football season arguably never ends in the SEC, and basketball is at best a second fiddle into January until after the bowl games are over and honestly for probably another month until after National Signing Day. But for those who have paid attention, there’s a well-kept secret in Tuscaloosa in the Crimson Tide basketball team.
A Short History
Alabama began playing basketball 1912, some 20 years after the football program began and 20 years prior the formation of the SEC. Alabama’s first long-tenured, successful coach was Hank Crisp from Crisp, NC. After lettering in football, basketball, baseball and track at Hampden-Sydney and VPI as a college athlete, Crisp coached the Tide beginning in 1924 and would coach there until 1942, and then again from 1945-1946. He amassed a sterling record of 264-133 in his coaching career, winning the Southern Conference championship in the 1929-30 season going 20-0 overall for the season. Crisp would then lead Alabama to SEC titles in 1934, 1939 and 1940. But even basketball success at Alabama wasn’t enough, as Hank Crisp was also Alabama’s offensive line coach from 1921-1941, head baseball coach in 1928 and head track coach from 1921-1927.
After Crisp’s departure, Alabama basketball disappeared into mediocrity. From 1946-1973, Alabama would win just 1 SEC title (1956) and finished ranked in the AP Top 25 only twice (12th in 1955, 5th in 1956). Once again, it was up to football to bring out the best in Alabama basketball and this time it was with the assist of a man named Paul William "Bear" Bryant.
In 1968, Bryant called Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp looking for someone to turn around Alabama’s basketball program. Rupp recommended C. M. Newton, a former backup player at Kentucky who had been at Transylvania University for 12 years. Over the next 12 seasons, Newton would lead Alabama to a 211-123 record and would win 3 consecutive SEC titles (1974, 1975, 1976) making them the only program besides Kentucky to accomplish this feat. Between 1971 and Newton’s final season in 1979-80, Alabama finished no worse than 4th in the SEC and finished in the AP Top 25 four times. They also would appear in four NIT tournaments and two NCAA tournaments under Newton. Newton resigned as head coach in 1980 to become assistant commissioner of the SEC and was succeeded by his top assistant, Wimp Sanderson. Sanderson, who had been at Alabama since 1960 as a graduate assistant and full-fledged assistant, would continue the winning tradition by leading the Crimson Tide to 267 wins in 12 years, winning the SEC title in 1987 and also winning five SEC tournaments (1982, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991). Sanderson’s squads played in one NIT and nine NCAA Tournaments making the Sweet 16 five times (Alabama made the NCAA tourney field 6 straight years, though their 1987 appearance has since been vacated). Sanderson is the only coach in Alabama history to win 200 games or more in his first 10 years, and he was SEC Coach of the Year in 1987, 1989 and 1990 along with being National Coach of the Year in 1987.
In the years since, Alabama has found their place mainly in the 2nd tier of SEC basketball. They’ve won just one SEC regular season title since Wimp Sanderson’s tenure, and that was in 2002 under former Tide standout Mark Gottfried. Their last SEC Tournament title was in 1991. Gottfried led the Crimson Tide to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2002-2006. In 2002, Alabama reached the #1 spot in the nation in the AP Poll and then in 2004, Alabama advanced to the Elite Eight. Both of these events occurred under Mark Gottfried and both mark the highest pinnacle ever achieved by Crimson Tide basketball.
Current head coach Anthony Grant has been at the head of the Alabama program since the start of the 2009 season. In his 3 seasons the Tide are 63-39. They reached the NIT Final in 2011 and were back in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, suffering a first round loss to Creighton.
Overall, Alabama holds winning records against every SEC basketball team except for Arkansas (23-27) and Kentucky (36-101). It trails only Kentucky in basketball wins, SEC tournament titles, and SEC regular season titles. In 99 seasons, Alabama is 1543-935, a .622 winning percentage. In 5 all-time games against Mizzou, Alabama is 4-1 with their only loss coming in the 2001 Guardians Classic with the #5 Tigers defeating the #22 Crimson Tide 75-68.
The current Crimson Tide basketball team appears poised for continued success. After finishing the 2011-12 season at 21-12 (9-7) and making the NCAA Tournament, Alabama loses just one departing Senior in leading scorer JaMychal Green. Though his 14.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg will certainly be missed, Tony Mitchell (not that Tony Mitchell) was right behind him about 13.1ppg and 7.0 rpg. Former Mizzou-recruit and Kansas City metro area native Trevor Releford also returns as the Tide’s other double-digit scorer at 11.9 ppg on 48.2% FG shooting and 2.8 assists to 2.0 turnovers per game. On June 1, Alabama secured a huge commitment, and their only commitment for the 2012 class, in Devonta Pollard from Porterville, MS. Pollard, the #7 SF in the 2012 class and #22 player overall, is a 5-star player that had also been heavily considering Missouri. They have already secured a pair of big commits for the 2013 class in 6’9” 4-star PF Jimmie Taylor from Greensboro, AL, and 6’8” 3-star PF Shannon Hale of Johnson City, NC. In 2011, Alabama signed one of the top classes in the country gaining commits from 5-star SG Trevor Lacey, and a quartet of 4-star players in SG Rodney Cooper, C Moussa Gueye, C Nick Jacob and SG Levi Randolph.
Tide In The NBA
Alabama has put more than its fair share of players into the NBA in their history. 42 former Crimson Tide players have been selected in the NBA draft, 14 of which have been first-round picks. Robert Horry played at Alabama from 1988-1992 and was selected 11th overall by the Houston Rockets. He would go on to play 16 seasons in the NBA and is one of only two players to have won NBA Championships with three different teams. He has won the most NBA Championships (7) of any player in history to have not played on the 1960s Boston Celtics. Latrell Sprewell, who played at Alabama from 1990-1992, was selected 24th overall by the Golden State Warriors. Sprewell played in the NBA All-Star Game four times and was named to the All-NBA Team in 1994. He scored 16,712 points in his career, adding 3,664 assists and 1,294 steals.
Despite his accomplishments, Sprewell's career was overshadowed by a 1997 incident in which he choked coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice which eventually resulted in a 68-game suspension. Antonio McDyess, a member of the 1993-1995 Alabama teams, was selected 2nd overall by the Los Angeles Clippers and would play for 5 different teams in his career. He was a NBA All-Star in 2001. Mo Williams was a 2009 NBA All-Star and played for Alabama from 2001-2003. He currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. Gerald Wallace, himself a 2010 NBA All-Star, is a current member of the New Jersey Nets and played for Alabama 2000-2001.
Best Of The Best
Among Alabama’s history you will find 132 All-SEC selections, 39 All-Tournament selections, 18 All-Americans, 14 All-Freshman Selections (9 since 2000), 5 SEC Coaches of the Year, 5 SEC Players of the Year, 2 SEC Tournament MVPs and 1 SEC Freshman of the Year. Reggie King holds both the single-season record for points scored with 747 in 1978-79 as well as the career mark with 2,168 from 1976-79. Jerry Harper tops the list for rebounds in a season with 517 in 1955-56 and career with 1688 from 1953-56. Terry Coner holds the single-season record for assists with 241 in 1985-86 as well as the career mark with 664 from 1983-86. Roy Rogers set the record for blocks in a season with 156 in 1995-96 while the career mark is held by Robert Horry with 285 from 1989-1992. Anthony Murray’s 79 steals in 1977-78 still stands as the single-season mark with Senario Hillman holding the career record at 176 which was set from 2007-10.
The Crimson Tide play their home games at Coleman Coliseum which seats 15,383 and was opened in 1968. The arena was named for Jefferson Jackson Coleman, a prominent alumnus that until his death in 1995 was known as the only person that had attended every Alabama bowl game starting with the Rose Bowl game in 1926. Yes, even the arena itself simply must have a football tie.
Missouri's All-Time Series Versus Alabama
- December 10, 1977: Alabama 75, Missouri 71 (in Tuscaloosa)
- December 18, 1978: Alabama 65, Missouri 58 (in Columbia)
- December 30, 1986: Alabama 91, Missouri 82 (in Kansas City at the BMA Holiday Classic)
- March 18, 1996: Alabama 72, Missouri 49 (in Tuscaloosa in the NIT)
Only one of Missouri's towering twins saw action, and he was a non-factor as 6-foot-10 center Roy Rogers led Alabama to a 72-49 victory and into National Invitation Tournament's third round.
Rogers finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks as the Crimson Tide (18-11) advanced to tomorrow's game against South Carolina, with the winner heading to the tournament semifinals in New York.
Missouri's 7-foot center Sammie Haley finished with just two points. His twin brother, 7-1 Simeon Haley, was suspended for the game by coach Norm Stewart. No reason was given.
November 20, 2001: Mizzou 75, Alabama 68 (in Kansas City at the Guardians Classic)
Fifth-ranked Missouri lost Kareem Rush midway through the second half. Then the Tigers lost the lead - but only for a short time.
Clarence Gilbert scored 18 points and Missouri beat No. 22 Alabama 75-68 Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Guardians Classic.
Rush, a preseason All-America pick, missed the final 7:50 after being hit in the face by an inadvertent elbow from Alabama's Demetrius Smith.
Rush, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, was helped from the Kemper Arena court and to the dressing room. He returned to the bench for the final minutes, holding an ice pack over his left eye.
"It swelled up really fast," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "He was a little dizzy. He was scared. He took a shot. It wasn't an intentional thing."
That's right, Missouri has a better all-time win percentage versus Alabama on the football field than on the basketball court.