LOUISVILLE, KY (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
The lump in his throat came about thirty minutes after his team was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament. As the clock had struck midnight on the UAB Blazer's Cinderella season, Coach Jerod Haase stood outside his locker room talking X's and O's. He told us how superb offensive rebounding by the UCLA Bruins was the key factor in his team losing to the Bruins 92-75. Said Haase, "The loss wasn't because of a lack of effort, but a lack of execution."
Despite hitting twelve three-pointers, the Bruins had their way with a group of Blazers that had exhilerated their fan base. UCLA shot 60 percent from the field, outrebounded UAB 41-26, and received a combined 50 points from Tony Parker and Bryce Alford. But while the Blazers were outnumbered, they were not outclassed, as the players met face-to-face with the media after the loss.
Back to the lump in Haase's throat: It came as I asked the coach if he could describe the feelings he had for his players. As his eyes welled, Haase could only muster, "It's a neat group" before stopping to catch his breath, his eyes looking downward. His heart wouldn't allow him to speak another word.
What does Jerod Haase mean to this team? Robert Brown told me after the game, "He's a family-first coach. He lives by that and will do anything for us. He can get riled up, but he's an emotional man- he cares, he's passionate."
The good news for Haase and the Blazers? The team now loses only two seniors that amount to eight points a game. Adds Brown, "We have a very bright future, and I will do everything in my power to make sure we go deeper into the tournament next year." Guard Denzell Watts tells me, "We're just going to learn from our mistakes and come back stronger next year." And William Lee? He tells me, "We will be back stronger next year, hopefully headed to the Sweet Sixteen."
So there you have it: The Blazer''s basketball season is over, but not before the guys re-energized a fan base aching for good news. Not before they reminded their fans how hard work can pay off. Not before the players sent a reminder to the nation that Birmingham's team is the best college team in our state.
The prediction for 2015-2016? The Blazers will advance to the Sweet Sixteen, and it's not only Saturday's loss that will serve as a motivator. Words from Jerod Haase will stay with the players, as the coach's post-game advice to his players sounded like this: "Remember how you felt when you won the CUSA Tourney and then beat Iowa State, but also remember how you feel right now." Coach Haase motivated his players with words of success and failure.