Alabama: The clouds have darkened over Brandon Miller, Crimson Tide

About a year ago, with former Duke player Mike Krzyzewski about to ride off into the sunset, I wrote a column wondering who would be the next great baseball player. Such a figure would need to combine pride with success, giving the best of the best. Professionalism will also provoke the anger of those who hate us.

I didn’t mention Alabama and Nate Oats in this column, but the Crimson Tide and their head coach are now deep in offensive territory, not Coach K’s type of game, entering the 2023 NCAA tournament with bikes around and debate sports bar ready to go. The 2023 turnaround for the Tide, one of the best teams in the country, would be a lot more fun if it didn’t have disaster on its mind.

To recap: Jamea Jonae Harris, 23, was killed by gunfire on The Strip in Tuscaloosa on January 15th. The initial investigation focused on two men, one of whom was Tide player Darius Miles, who confronted Harris and her boyfriend in the past. The argument broke out with gunshots. (Here are the details of the events of the disaster.)

Earlier last week, a detective investigating the case revealed that Alabama’s Brandon Miller, one of the best players in the country, brought the gun, at Miles’ request, to the scene of the shooting. be a crime. While two other men involved in the crime are being charged with murder, law enforcement officials in Tuscaloosa have confirmed there is not enough evidence to charge Miller or Jaden Bradley, another Tide player who was allegedly present. there. Shortly after the gun was revealed, Miller played Wednesday night’s road game against South Carolina, scoring 41 points despite the crowd chanting “Lock him up!”

Alabama’s Brandon Miller on Saturday against Arkansas. (Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

Then there’s Saturday’s game against Arkansas, which is the first at home since Miller’s appearance. During the introduction of the team, with the home crowd cheering, Miller ran down the field… where a teammate waited and simulated defense, as if looking for a weapon.

A pat-down. Of a player who is involved, even marginally, in a gun-related murder. Really?

After the game, Alabama’s sports media officials tried to limit the press to only basketball-related questions, however a PR misstep resulted. The media covering the game didn’t just stick to the games, and Oats admitted that the act of anger — which has apparently been done all season, including after Harris’ murder — won’t happen again. It is, at this writing, the strongest public action Alabama has taken regarding Miller.

Oats pointed out that he didn’t watch the Tide’s first practice and didn’t know about the pat-down practice, and that’s acceptable; Coaches often focus on their game plans in the seconds leading up to game time. But someone in the Alabama program did, starting with Miller himself. And no one thought, hey, maybe now is not the time for that bit?

Look, college sports are built on a foundation of trash talking, reveling in the joy of being young and part of a wild and chaotic institution. But this isn’t the Bryant-Denny public address system trolling former Auburn QB Cam Newton, who is accused of taking money to play with the Tigers, with “Take the Money and Run,” or what Auburn fans call it. ‘a Bama and Nick Saban with Kick six t. – a shirt that read, “Hey Nick, got a second one?”

This is indifference in the face of disaster. Miller’s first thought was small but the sign was a big problem. Nothing that Alabama as an institution has done publicly suggests that it is more focused on the magnitude of the issue than Miller himself.

Alabama officials said they sidestepped the police investigation, which is the proper course of action. However, Miller continued to play… and continues to draw attention, since the public took their cue from the university.

Miller has rights, such as the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy, and if Tuscaloosa law enforcement doesn’t see fit to arrest or charge him, it’s not the place for Tide critics to step in and hit a judge, jury or district attorney. . Bad decisions are not necessarily criminals, and second guessing Tuscaloosa law enforcement without all the facts is both pointless and useless.

Miller doesn’t have the right to play college basketball, though, and that’s where valid questions and second-guessing arise. Sleeping and not working, skipping curfew, talking to your coach – these are not criminal activities, but any athlete who tries them will find himself in the first row. Even “wrong place, wrong time,” in tone deaf and sorry words, is more than enough to justify suspending a player for certain games… games and straight SEC tournaments.

Alabama has had the opportunity for weeks now to sit Miller as punishment for his bad judgment. Instead, they elected to keep Miller on the team, in the lineup, on top of the box score. The overall view here is that Alabama is doing everything it can to protect its once-in-a-century basketball game, no matter what the short-term public relations cost.

Alabama officials can bet that this will all blow over soon, that an argument will break out to catch the eye and anger of America. Maybe they are right. Assuming that nothing has changed to include Miller, assuming that he was a “witness” and not a “fan,” once the NCAA tournament begins, there will be a brief summary of the story on air, and then it will be all basket. Yes, what happened on Tuscaloosa Road is unfortunate, but Alabama is really going to help me.

Basketball is a game of running. We’ll see it in the next six weeks: the number two team loses that entire lead in minutes through a self-inflicted mistake. And when a great lead is quickly lost, it’s impossible to regain the mojo and energy that created it.

Alabama had the opportunity to change the story about Miller and the program as a whole, over and over again, and chose to do so. And now one of the best teams in the country is watching its name rise in real time.

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