Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
New coaches work to establish winning culture
Basketball coaches (clockwise) Eric Musselman of Arkansas, Buzz Williams of Texas A&M, Nate Oats of Alabama and Jerry Stackhouse of Vanderbilt are in their first year at SEC programs.
FAYETTEVILLE — Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats, hired March 27 to lead the Crimson Tide, has not yet established firm roots in Tuscaloosa.
Thursday morning, Oats called in to the SEC Men's Basketball Summer Teleconference from Buffalo, N.Y., where he spent the previous four seasons in charge of the Bulls and led the program to 96 wins and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
He was finishing up loading items from his home into a moving truck, which is Alabama bound this weekend.
Oats, though, and the other three new coaches in the Southeastern Conference (Eric Musselman at Arkansas, Buzz Williams at Texas A&M, Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt) are expected to establish winning programs sooner rather than later at their respective schools.
Making a home, Oats said, is one of the first steps in being able to do that.
"Once I’m there permanently we can have the team over to the house and do a lot more (team bonding)," added Oats, who is also planning a team retreat with Crimson Tide players, of which seven are new, in August once his full roster is on campus.
"I think that stuff matters and means a lot."
Musselman, hired April 7 to replace Mike Anderson after eight seasons, and his staff are using a mixture of program-building aspects at Arkansas once used to get Nevada off the ground and on the national scene with a few new tactics, which range from conditioning to advance scouting.
"I think every program is different," Musselman said. "I think some of the things we want to bring from Nevada are ... we’d like to get to the style of play we had there and we’d like to get the same kind of culture there from the way that we practice."
A new and shinier conference with a larger pool of NBA-type prospects also brings its unique challenges. Homework on coaches in the league is underway, too.
"As a staff we’re spending a lot of time watching lots of game tape of last year’s SEC play and trying to learn the other programs’ personnel that is returning," Musselman said, "and obviously there’s new coaches in the league and we’ve tried to watch some of the tape from their past programs to see their style of play and what their team’s identity has been."
Williams, who led Virginia Tech to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in March, said Texas A&M is "a work in progress with a million miles to go" before the 2019-20 season begins. The same could be said - and more appropriately - about Vanderbilt, which hired Stackhouse on April 5.
Stackhouse, formerly an NBA All-Star and G League coach of the year, inherits a program coming off the worst season in its history. The Commodores lost their final 20 games and became the SEC's first team with a winless conference record in 65 years.
Being able to sit down with his players this summer, Stackhouse feels they are excited to put 2018-19 behind them and get started on a new year. Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin, who guided the Commodores to their second national championship on Wednesday, has been a mentor to Stackhouse early in his tenure as well.
He likened Corbin to Dean Smith, his former coach at North Carolina, in that he is a pillar of consistency in his sport.
"He’s a great example to follow, and their success is some momentum that we want to ride," Stackhouse said. "We want to try to inspire our guys to push for those same goals.
"We feel it’s attainable."
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