Tony Mitchell’s suspension much needed

As the Crimson Tide takes the floor tonight in basketball’s version of the Iron Bowl (part one, anyway), it’ll do so without one of its leading scorers.

And I for one am elated.

Alabama head basketball coach Anthony Grant announced yesterday that Tony Mitchell had been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. Grant said the suspension wasn’t over one specific incident, but instead was due to an accumulation of several things.

Mitchell is the Tide’s second leading scorer, (averaging 13.1 points a game), and second on the team in rebounds.

But Mitchell leads the team and possibly the SEC in several other undesirable categories.

• Like pouting when something doesn’t go his way.

• Playing soft defense, if he plays it at all.

• Flailing around on the floor like a soccer player after receiving just a bump or scratch.

• And in making a jackass of himself in front of thousands of onlookers.

I will forever have the vision of Mitchell burned in my mind as he made a fool of himself after fouling out at Kentucky this season, chastising his teammates for not immediately jumping up to give him the seat he wanted on the bench. The lethargy in his teammates’ faces as he pitched his fit was a shot I would love to have as my screen saver.

Word was the “injury” he sustained against Ole Miss last Saturday wasn’t bad until Grant refused to put him back into the game, at which point he marched himself to the lockeroom for “medical attention.”

By comparison, if he were a child exhibiting that kind of ridiculous behavior in my house growing up, he’d have an upcoming date with a wooden spoon.

Basically, Mitchell’s story reminds me of the stories we heard of other prima donnas that Alabama head coach Nick Saban had to weed out during the 2007 football season. People with incredible talent but even more incredible “entitlement.”

Personally, my hat’s off to Anthony Grant for the move, and the timing of it in particular. Auburn is no Kentucky…or Western Kentucky…but Grant sends a message to his team in suspending his second leading scorer on the eve of the game at Auburn.

And I hope for Tony Mitchell’s sake this message settles in with him. He has a long life ahead of him, on or off the basketball court, and the issues I’ve seen on full display in him are troubling to say the least.

One of the greater values in sports is the self-realization that you are PART of a team, NOT the team itself. But somehow, this message ain’t quite making it to No. 5’s frontal lobe.

How his absence affects the team will be interesting to watch. When a cancer is removed, usually the body heals. But consider that the body we’re talking about struggles to score the basketball…or perhaps more accurately, to throw it in the ocean.

Can Bama make up for Mitchell’s 13.1 points a game? We’ll see beginning tonight.

But like Saban had to do, suffering a 7-6 first season with a senior core who “didn’t get it,” what came afterward was something special. Here’s hoping the same for Anthony Grant.

And here’s hoping Tony Mitchell turns a corner in his life, regardless of whether or not he ever wears another Alabama basketball uniform.


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