…And we all cross our fingers
The latest news out of Tuscaloosa reports that another favorite in the Alabama family is coming home to roost. Antoine Pettway, forever remembered for his relentless heart…if not his red shoes…is coming home to join Mark Gottfried’s staff. Memories like the layup to sink the Gators and clinch the 2002 SEC regular season title, or the running jumper to extend Bama’s run in the 2004 NCAA tournament come to mind. But it’s Pettway’s energy, stamina and persistence in general that represented what we all wanted to see at Alabama: the notion that if you want to beat us, you’re going to have to man up for 40 minutes…or 60, depending on the sport.
Of course, Pettway joins a list of other notables who have come home to coach. The latest list includes names like Ray Perkins, Gene Stallings, Mike Dubose, Mike Shula, and of course, Mark Gottfried, all serving as head men, taking the helm where they once donned the crimson jersey. The list of assistant coaches is too long to mention, but anyone from Sly Croom to Dabo Sweeney have come through the football program, and now Pettway joins Gottfried in an attempt to revive some semblance of life in a dying basketball program.
There are some players who come along that are just special. What you don’t want to see is their names tarnished in the quagmire that is college coaching. Can anyone argue that Mike Dubose won’t be remembered for the “pluck and grit” Coach Bryant loved in him as a player? When you think of Perkins, what comes to mind? Determination and spirit in the 60’s, or peculiar decisions that divided the Alabama family? And Shula? I wish it were the heroic scoring drives as a player, but instead it’s likely the decisions that drove us all nuts as a coach.
Then there is Gottfried. Master of the jump shot under Wimp, and three point shooter in a day when the three point line was introduced in college. Now he’s known for lame performances, long periods in games without points, an inability to win on the road, an inability to know when to call a time out to stop an opponent’s run, .500 production and just “being excited about this team” when no one else on the planet is remotely the same.
In Pettway, what we don’t want to see is the heroism and folklore we came to appreciate be tarnished. Of the five head men mentioned, only one left a winner. Perkins is on the line, but even 2 out of 5 isn’t the best of odds. Fortunately, assistant coaches have a little more of a buffer. But can you imagine in a few years Tyrone Prothro coming home to coach receivers, and all that he became to us being swept away under the spotlight of the here and now? Or Auburn fans, if Carnell Williams came home to coach running backs and failing miserably?
It’s almost like we just want to say, “Please, just stay where you are.” It seems like as long as they’re somewhere else, the mojo doesn’t get on them. Sweeney will bring his game to Atlanta next month when Bama plays Clemson. A solid recruiter, and an even better person, one would have to search far and wide to find a better representative for the University. But if he came home to Tuscaloosa, what would happen?
We all wish the best of success for Pettway, and secretly, even the harshest Gottfried critic wants the same for him. Everyone loves the story when Coach (enter name here) comes home and makes good. But when he doesn’t, the vivid colors we remember of him in years past somehow fade to gray. And those shoes were just too red to see that happen.