College Hoops

Nate Oats uses advice from Nick Saban to get Alabama to its first Final Four

Nate Oats uses advice from Nick Saban to get Alabama to its first Final Four

Nate Oats has Nick Saban on speed dial.

Yet the Alabama men’s basketball coach knew he needed as much input as possible as his team was reeling heading into the NCAA Tournament.

The result? The Crimson Tide are making their first appearance in the Final Four. They have won four straight, including an 89-82 victory over Clemson in the West Regional final.

“The best team doesn’t always win because it’s a one-game elimination tournament. You’ve got to be hot at the right time. And we looked like we were not hot at the right time,” Oats said.

Alabama entered March Madness with four losses in six games, three of which were by 14 points or more. After their loss to Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, Oats spent the weekend before the selection show picking the brains of former Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and UMass’ Frank Martin, who led South Carolina to the Final Four in 2017.

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Both coaches took their teams on deep tournament runs after struggling late in the regular season. Oats also got advice from Saban and used that to his advantage.

“He kind of gave me the ‘next’ idea — next, next, next,” Oats said. “So guys bought in. We can make this run. Other teams have done it. We have the capability to do it. … We can have the No. 1 offense in the country; we had it for the majority of the year. Let’s put a top-20 defense together and we can make a Final Four.”

Since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2019, Oats hasn’t been afraid or concerned about being shadowed by Saban and the football program.

Oats also asked Patrick Murphy, who has led the softball program to four national championships, to speak to his team in January. Murphy’s hour-long talk was about “Mudita” — which means having vicarious joy in someone else’s success.

The only thing Oats is worried about in relation to Saban is that he uses too many of his quotes.

“I’m going to pick the brains of all the ultra-successful coaches throughout the department. We’ve got multiple coaches, current coaches, that have won national championships, whether it’s men’s golf, women’s golf, softball,” Oats said. “But Coach Saban — I’m a big football fan. I came to Alabama loving the fact that I was going to be able to work in the same athletic department as arguably the best — maybe not even the best football…

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