, Alabama (PressExposure) May 05, 2009 -- The University of Alabama more so known for its football program also has a rich history for their basketball program. It can be argued that it is the second best team in the SEC conference, trailing only the University of Kentucky for wins and conference championships. The University of Alabama has seen resurgence in recent years under head coach Mark Gottfried; however Gottfried resigned from his position at Alabama in early 2009.
The success of Alabama basketball can be attributed to the success of their football program, more specifically their legendary head coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant. Bryant who was head football coach at the University of Kentucky recruited C.M Newton, who coached at nearby Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Newton was able to lead Alabama to a very impressive 211-123 record during his twelve seasons at Alabama including three straight SEC Championships from 1974-1976. In fact, they are the only other school besides Kentucky to win three straight SEC titles. Besides the success that Newton had as its basketball coach, he also accomplished a feat that helped to break the color barrier of college basketball. He was instrumental in bringing the first black player to play at Alabama, Wendell Hudson.
Newton would retire and to make the departure easier on the program, his assistant coach of 20 years Wimp Sanderson took the reins of the program. Sanderson was able to continue the success that Newton was able to have and improved on it as well. Sanderson coached the team for 10 years and compiled a record of 267-119 including 4 SEC championships and making it to the NCAA tournament 8 times, including 5 trips to the Sweet 16. He was also awarded NCAA coach of the year in 1987, as well as SEC coach of the year in 1987, 1989, and 1990. Sanderson would leave the team in 1991 and the team struggled to build on the momentum that had been established over the past 25 years.
The team was taken over by Mark Gottfried, who played for the University of Alabama under Wimp Sanderson and was a member of two sweet sixteen teams during his playing time at Alabama. Gottfried would return the school to national prominence compiling a 210-130 record during his 10 seasons and also was able to accomplish something that no other Alabama team had been able to. He led the team to a number one ranking during the 2003 season and also led the team to their first elite eight appearances as well. Gottfried set the bar so high for himself that expectations were unworldly and he was forced to resign in 2009 due to not meeting these high expectations.
The Alabama basketball program, while not as rich as their football program is often overlooked considering the success that they have enjoyed over history. The team is always a force to reckon with in conference play and will continue to be as they move into a new era with a new coach to lead the way.