Dear Coach Gottfried:
I have long been one of your most faithful and devoted fans. All Alabama Basketball fans (what few of us there are) are truly grateful for everything you have done with and for our young people and our program.
You restored the atmosphere and tradition of winning that we enjoyed in the seventies and eighties. (I'm too young to remember any farther back than that.) You pushed to have all our basketball facilities improved, especially Coleman Coliseum. You have recruited student athletes who represent our university with dignity and character, both on and off the court. You have insisted that our players earn degrees that will be valuable to them in their adult lives. Perhaps most importantly, you have served as an able and capable role model to these young men during their remaining formative years spent away from their homes and their families.
Bama Basketball's ambassadors on the court, in the classroom, in professional sports and in "civilian" life have enhanced our university's image and enriched our communities where ever they have gone. You deserve the credit for all that, and we thank you.
According to an old adage, success breeds success. Apparently success tends to breed expectations too, because the devoted fans of our program have come to expect certain results. Not all of those expectations involve winning.
A fan base that appreciates all you've done for our University and for the young men entrusted to your care would not want success at any price. Your program's small but knowledgeable fan base does not want to sell your players' health or any one's integrity just to win basketball games. Therefore we appreciate and respect all the more the way you have achieved these levels of success with our program.
The bulk of the fan base has, however, noticed one fairly consistent problem with our team, particularly this season. We do not think it unreasonable for us to expect to see consistent effort whenever a player is on the court.
I am not talking about final results or wins. We understand that this team is not a likely Final Four candidate while Ron Steele is hampered by injuries and Jermareo Davidson remains understandably emotionally distraught because of all he's suffered this school year. What we do not understand is why you will let young men stay on the court when they obviously are not playing with the type of effort you, they, and we all know they are capable of giving.
I do not say this to be demeaning or insulting. It simply is an observable fact. Joe Dean, Jr., long has been one of your most devoted admirers and he has been forced to comment in recent weeks that your teams' defensive effort has left a good deal to be desired in most of our SEC games. Like you, Joe is too much of a gentleman to single out particular players or to blame the coach for allowing that to happen. But it is fairly obvious from the stands when a player is not working hard, especially on defense. And we all know where the Bama Basketball buck stops.
I respectfully suggest that you are not serving any one's interests by allowing this to happen. The offending players will learn that they can get by in life without really trying; whereas you and I know life really is difficult at best. Their teammates will learn that you will play your favorites and still lose the game, so there is no reason for them to care enough to work hard every day.
Unfortunately many people who buy basketball tickets are fair weather fans. They will show up only when our team is winning. Many of the season ticket holders will show up only when the game is not on television and the weather is not inclement. Only time and consistent winning bear even a remote possibility of curing those problems. (Those and perhaps the proposal that our program endorse some mechanism whereby people who don't want to come to the games can donate their tickets to worthy charities.)
Those of us who understand basketball also understand that losing is a part of the game. In fact, its one of the things that makes college basketball the most exciting spectator sport known to man. What we do not expect, however, is lazy play and a lack of effort from our players.
I drive up from Mobile for almost every home game. That makes Thursdays very difficult for me, but I am glad to do it to support the players and the program I learned to love before you even knew we existed. Let me qualify that. I am glad to do it so long as I can tell that the players on the court are putting at least as much effort and energy into playing the game as I put into attending it.
Please do not do our players the disservice of allowing them to believe that they can coast through life - or a basketball game - without giving everything they have. You never played that way. You don't live your life that way. Please teach them what has worked so well for you and your family. Please insist that our kids play hard or sit on the bench. Lots of your players seldom get off the bench. They might not play well but they probably will play hard, if you give them the chance.
I will be in the stands Wednesday night making as much noise as I can in support of our team.