The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
Let me get this straight: He's a man who is small in stature but owns a big heart. He is a man who spent years in Louisiana, owns a championship, and is seldom outworked. He was nabbed from the pro ranks and is nicknamed by many "The Little General". Where have we seen this before?
Some eight years ago the late Mal Moore waited patiently on a south Florida tarmac and reeled in his big fish. While Bill Battle may not have hired the next Nick Saban of basketball, he did reel in a good man with a big dream. Fifty-year-old Avery Johnson has never coached a college basketball team. He has never recruited a college athlete. Suffice it to say that Johnson will soon bury his face in NCAA rule books to assure that he does it the right way at the Capstone. But why is the hiring of former NBA player and coach such a good move?
While Nick Saban had won a national championship at LSU before taking the Bama job, Avery Johnson will start his college coaching career in the one-and-only SEC. Now remember, as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks, Johnson has coached great young players in the past (don't most of the great ones turn pro at age nineteen anyway?). Certainly Johnson has shown that he can coach, as with the Mavs he became the youngest coach in NBA history to reach 50 wins, and later the youngest ever to reach 100. Bottom line? The man can coach.
Personality? Be on your toes Bruce Pearl, because the Bama basketball program has landed a coach that will actually press the flesh, talk up his team, promote his product, something that has been lacking in Tuscaloosa over the last six years. Avery Johnson is a grinder. He was a grinder as a player and a grinder as an NBA head coach. He played sixteen years in the NBA and won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 (he even hit the game-winning shot in game five of that championship series). Johnson is a blue collar coach who is a player and media favorite. Yes, personality has returned to the Alabama men's basketball program.
Three years from now I may be writing a column with a different tone, but from what I see, AD Bill Battle did a great job reaching outside the box to hire an energetic fifty year old with a big-time motor.
Johnson has tasted SEC basketball as his son Avery, Jr, plays for Texas A&M. He now gets to taste what college coaching is all about. College basketball is full of suits such as Gregg Marshall, John Calipari and Rick Barnes. With all due respect to those fine coaches, Crimson Tide fans are getting a man who has never (whether it be during his playing or coaching days) shied away from a challenge. It will be a challenge to take Bama basketball back to the elite level, but why not allow "The Little General" to give it a try? It worked in that other sport.