Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

DEAS: Battle Makes Statement with First Coaching Hire

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

DEAS: Battle Makes Statement with First Coaching Hire

Article excerpt

Bill Battle needed to make a statement in his first coaching hire as the University of Alabama's athletics director.

That statement wasn't about whether Battle is qualified to run one of the nation's most successful athletic programs. His credentials speak for themselves: He created and ran a collegiate licensing company that has put untold millions -- probably more like billions -- into athletic budgets, and his background as a football coach gives him an understanding of what he needs to do to give Alabama a chance to win in all sports.

The statement Battle needed to make was that Alabama still cares about women's basketball.

UA certainly had no intention of creating the appearance it didn't care when it hired Wendell Hudson five years ago, nor when it moved women's basketball into a refurbished Foster Auditorium.

But that's exactly the message Alabama sent.

Hudson was well-liked and well-respected, especially by the late Mal Moore, who hired him. He was one of Alabama's all-time greats on the basketball court and had coached women's teams at a lower level, but the women's basketball world regarded him as an outsider and never bought into his credentials.

Alabama once played basketball -- men's and women's -- at Foster Auditorium, and the arena's history, as we all know, is important symbolically at the Capstone. The idea to put a program that was drawing fewer and fewer fans into a smaller, more intimate setting where some sort of home-court advantage could be built wasn't misguided, but the message that move sent was the sport was being pushed to the side.

Battle's hire of Kristy Curry, the former Texas Tech and Purdue coach, makes it clear that Alabama does care.

The process behind her hiring makes an even bolder statement.

Alabama wanted to hire a proven head coach and limited its search to such candidates. Before settling on Curry, UA had discussions with such stalwarts as Gail Goestenkors, who turned Duke into a major power and had successful seasons at Texas, and Jim Foster, who was a big winner at both Vanderbilt and Ohio State (and who, surprisingly, landed at Chattanooga last week). …

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