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Aftermath: Nate Oats faces the toughest challenge of his career

There is a deep irony that Coach Oats’ best team is now one that faces some of the nation’s greatest adversity.

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK


For a recap of the Tide’s 78-66 win in Nashville, check out Roger’s incisive breakdown here. But today, we’re going to discuss the pink elephant in the room.

After the game, it was inevitable that CNO would be asked how the team’s headspace was following Darius Miles’s arrest.

His response was interesting.

He praised his young team’s mental toughness, but did note that they had played “bottled up” throughout the game. It was only after the horn sounded, and everyone had reconvened in the locker room, that the dam burst — emotions poured out, tears flowed in equal measure. The win — the catharsis — was relief. And that’s the best word he used to describe it.

Relief to get on the floor. Relief to pick up the win. Relief to move on.

And a big part of that moving on has been in how Coach Oats and the ‘Bama staff have approached the team following a turbulent 72 hours. In that respect, the staff have looked to usual places for guidance, like religious words of inspiration.

“The situation is just shocking, I have spent a lot of time praying, reading scripture, and conveying that I hope the kids learn to make better choices.” Also “in the scheme of things basketball isn’t important, but it does give them something else to focus on at least for a while.”

Greg Byrne. Nick Saban.

And, then there was a place where Coach Oats drew some unusual inspiration to reach his guys:

Alabama passed its first test on Tuesday night, playing lights-out defense on an evening when the shots weren’t falling. But what happened in that locker room from Sunday until this moment was perhaps the far better coaching effort. And one gets the impression that this will not be something so readily moved on from — be that letting it fester or in allowing it to inspire.

At least until March, Nate Oats has a task that is taller off the court than he does on it.