Alabama: Clouds darken over Brandon Miller, Crimson Tide


A couple of yr in the past, with Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski about to trip off into the sundown, I wrote a column questioning who would change into school basketball’s subsequent nice villain. Such a determine would wish to mix vanity with victory, infusing a gifted workforce with an infuriating they-hate-us-’cause-they-ain’t-us perspective.‌

I didn’t point out Alabama and Nate Oats in that column, however the Crimson Tide and their head coach at the moment are deep in severe villain territory, not the sports-talk Coach Okay model, barreling into the 2023 NCAA match with the wagons circled and the sports activities bar arguments able to go. The heel flip of the 2023 Tide, the most effective groups within the nation, could be a variety of enjoyable if there weren’t a tragedy on the coronary heart of it.

To recap: Jamea Jonae Harris, 23, was killed by gunfire on The Strip in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 15. The preliminary investigation centered on two males, certainly one of whom was a Tide participant, Darius Miles, who had confronted Harris and her boyfriend earlier than the argument erupted into gunfire. (Right here’s a radical rundown of the occasions of the tragedy.)

Early final week, a detective investigating the case disclosed that Alabama’s Brandon Miller, the most effective gamers within the nation, introduced the gun, at Miles’ request, to the scene of what would change into against the law. Whereas the 2 different people concerned within the crime had been charged with capital homicide, regulation enforcement officers in Tuscaloosa decided that there was not sufficient proof to cost Miller or Jaden Bradley, one other Tide participant allegedly current on the scene. Shortly after the gun disclosure, Miller performed in Wednesday night time’s street sport in opposition to South Carolina, scoring 41 factors at the same time as the gang chanted “Lock him up!”

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

Then got here Saturday afternoon’s sport in opposition to Arkansas, the primary one at residence since Miller’s involvement was disclosed. Throughout workforce introductions, with the house crowd cheering, Miller ran onto the ground … the place a teammate waited and mimed a safety pat-down, as if looking for a weapon.

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A pat-down efficiency. Of a participant simply concerned, even peripherally, in a gun-related killing. Critically?

After the sport, Alabama sports activities data officers tried to confine reporters to basketball-related questions only, one more self-inflicted PR mistake. The media masking the sport didn’t simply keep on with sports activities, and Oats acknowledged that the frisking act — which apparently has been carried out all season, together with after Harris’ taking pictures dying — would now not happen. It’s, at this writing, the strongest motion Alabama has publicly taken concerning Miller.

Oats indicated that he didn’t watch the Tide’s pregame rituals and didn’t know in regards to the pat-down act, and that’s plausible; coaches are sometimes monomaniacally centered on their sport plans within the seconds earlier than sport time. However any person within the Alabama program did, beginning with Miller himself. And no one thought, hey, perhaps now isn’t the time for this bit?

Look, school sports activities are constructed on a basis of speaking trash, reveling within the pleasure of being younger and a part of a wild and chaotic establishment. However this isn’t the Bryant-Denny public deal with system trolling former Auburn QB Cam Newton, accused of accepting money to play for the Tigers, with “Take the Cash and Run,” or Auburn followers taunting Bama and Nick Saban with Kick Six T-shirts that learn, “Hey Nick, acquired a second?”

That is indifference within the face of a tragedy. Miller’s pregame stunt was small however emblematic of a a lot bigger downside. Nothing that Alabama as an establishment has completed publicly means that it’s any extra centered on the gravity of the scenario than Miller himself.

Alabama officers have stated they’ve stayed out of the way in which of the police’s investigation, which is the suitable step from a due course of perspective. Nonetheless, Miller continues to play … and he continues to attract cheers, for the reason that group takes its cues from the college.

Miller has rights, just like the presumption of innocence and the suitable to privateness, and if Tuscaloosa regulation enforcement didn’t see match to arrest or cost him, it’s not the place of the Tide’s critics to step in and play choose, jury or district lawyer. Dangerous selections aren’t essentially prison ones, and second-guessing Tuscaloosa regulation enforcement with out all of the details is each pointless and counterproductive.

Miller doesn’t have a proper to play school basketball, although, and that’s the place the legitimate questions and the second-guessing come up. Sleeping in and lacking observe, skipping curfew, mouthing off to your coach — these aren’t prison acts both, however any athlete who makes an attempt them will discover themselves out of the beginning lineup pronto. Even “unsuitable place, unsuitable time,” in Oats’ tone-deaf and regrettable phrases, is greater than sufficient of a justification to droop a participant for just a few video games … and but, Miller retains proper on beginning, with two essential regular-season video games and the SEC match straight forward.

Alabama has had the chance for weeks now to sit down Miller as punishment for his galactically dangerous judgment. As an alternative, it’s chosen to maintain Miller on the workforce, within the lineup, on the prime of the field rating. The general look right here is that Alabama is doing all it may well to guard its once-in-a-generation basketball run, regardless of the short-term public relations price.

Alabama officers might be playing that this can all blow over quickly sufficient, that one other controversy will erupt to catch the eyes and outrage of microscopic-attention-span America. They’re in all probability proper. Assuming nothing modifications to implicate Miller, assuming he stays “witness” and never “individual of curiosity,” as soon as the NCAA match begins, there will probably be occasional transient compulsory on-air mentions of the story, after which it’ll be all basketball. Sure, what occurred on The Strip in Tuscaloosa was a tragedy, however Alabama’s actually going to assist my bracket

Basketball is a sport of runs. We’ll see it all through the subsequent six weeks: a workforce up double digits loses that complete lead in minutes by self-inflicted errors. And when a giant lead vanishes that rapidly, it’s borderline inconceivable to regain the mojo and momentum that created it.

Alabama has had the prospect to alter the narrative round Miller and this system as a complete, many times, and opted not to take action. And now the most effective groups within the nation is watching its status vaporize in actual time.

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