Alabama's historic basketball season forever altered by a tragic death
How did they do it? That's what I kept wondering Tuesday night. How did one of the best basketball teams in Alabama history continue to play like it? How did one of the best teams in the country provide additional validation for that opinion? How did this Crimson Tide team take an early lead, expand the lead, hold onto the lead and secure the win at Vanderbilt despite a lull at the end?
On this night of all nights. In that gym of all gyms. In this game of all games. In what may have been the most unimportant game in school history. And the most important. I know. It doesn't make sense. Nothing about this tragic story does since the achingly senseless death of Jamea Jonae Harris.
According to police, a 23-year-old woman with a 5-year-old son is gone because Darius Miles, a member of the Alabama basketball team at the time, provided the gun that Michael Lynn Davis soon fired, one of the bullets ending Jamea's life. All because of an argument between strangers that meant nothing. Until it meant everything. Until a night of partying went horribly wrong and set a course for a lifetime of mourning.
Miles has been dismissed from the team and the university. He and Davis have been charged with capital murder. The courts will do their best to deliver some manner of justice, but Nate Oats couldn't wait for the legal system to run its course. He had to provide answers where there are few and make decisions with no precedent as a guide. He had to comfort players and families that are hurting while finding a way to help everyone in his care get from day to day.
You could hear the burden in his voice Tuesday night. The SEC Network asked Oats to do a postgame interview live from courtside, which is standard operating procedure, and any degree of normalcy right now has to feel like therapy. So Oats put on a headset and searched for answers.
There is a one-minute-and-48-second video clip from that interview available on social media. You should watch it. Every coach, parent, Alabama basketball fan, sports fan and human being should watch it. It's real and raw and honest and painful and vulnerable, things you don't always see from people in leadership positions live on TV.
Oats did not pretend to have answers he didn't have. He did not try to mask feelings a coach wouldn't otherwise show. He did the best he could to process one of the worst experiences a coach and a team can face, to convey that their burden is a real thing but a small thing next to the pain the Harris family will carry the rest of their days.
Read the rest of Kevin's look at this tragic situation. Only in The Lede.