BUFFALO, NY – The worst nightmare of UB basketball fans has come true.
The Bulls savior, Nate Oats is leaving Buffalo to become the next head coach at Alabama.
The move in itself, isn’t a surprise. The fact that he didn’t leave for a better program is.
I don’t even mean that as a slight against the Crimson Tide. They’re a big-time athletic department, competing in the SEC with unlimited resources.
But they’re a football school.
Alabama has one less Final Four appearance than St. Bonaventure which has only been to one in 1970.
The Crimson Tide have only advanced to the Elite Eight once during their entire history (2004).
Nate Oats must believe he can change that.
He has many reasons to be confident in himself.
He led Buffalo to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons coaching the Bulls, guiding UB to their first tourney victories (2018, 2019) and first appearance in the top 25 during this past season.
With that level of success at a MAC program, Oats must believe he can accomplish even more with the resources of a P5 school.
He’s most likely right and the pay doesn’t hurt much either.
Oats will most likely turn Alabama into a winner but it’s far from a guarantee. They’ve only advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice during the past 13 years with former NBA head coach Avery Johnson serving as the latest high profile hire to fall short with the Crimson Tide.
Oats is already hitting the recruiting trail at Alabama, offering UB recruit Raymond Hawkins a scholarship within hours of starting his new position.
Hawkins previously announced on Twitter that Buffalo, Arkansas and Arizona State were his top three schools with him set to announce his decision on March 30th.
You can now add Alabama to that list.
So, how will Oats departure impact the Bulls program?
It’s too early to tell.
Buffalo was already primed to take a step back with five seniors graduating but they still had enough talent to be a 20-25 win team.
The question now is what their roster look like heading into next season?
The Bulls are obviously hoping to retain their high profile players including Jayvon Graves, Davonta Jordan, Jeenathan Williams and Rondo Segu.
However, it’s too early to know what’s going through their minds as they try to process the news that their coach is leaving.
Then there’s the Bulls four incoming recruits. It’s normal for players to reverse their commitments after a head coach bolts and I wouldn’t doubt that thought going through their minds.
Buffalo has three JUCO’s and a talented three star guard in Noah Williams set to arrive. It’s crucial for UB to try their best to keep them committed to the program.
In order to do so, I believe UB needs to hire current assistant Bryan Hodgson as their next head coach.
He’s the man responsible for the majority of the Bulls roster, recruiting all four of UB’s current commits.
I have no doubt that he’ll be highly regarded for the position. He enters their coaching search as the current frontrunner.
If the Buffalo administration is smart, they won’t waste much time naming him as their next head coach.
And by soon, I mean right now!
UB needs to send a message to their players, the university and the city of Buffalo that they’re committed to sustaining their recent success.
The best way to do that is by naming Bryan Hodgson as their next head coach before the week is through.