April 15, 2024

Final Four 2024: Alabama’s Nate Oats credits advice from Nick Saban, inspirational quotes in team’s run


Nate Oats has led Alabama basketball into uncharted waters. With an Elite Eight win over Clemson in the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide secured a spot in the Final Four for the first time in program history, and they’re just two wins away from claiming an unprecedented national championship. 

It hasn’t been an easy road for Oats, who inherited a team that won 20 games just once in seven years prior to his arrival. He failed to reach that mark in two out of his first three years, though that was offset by an SEC championship and a run to the Sweet 16 in Year 2. Through all the highs and lows, Oats has been able to lean on one constant: former Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who retired in January after 17 illustrious years with the university. 

Though Oats initially “didn’t want to bother” Saban, he still found ways to pick the longtime coach’s brain. 

“I went and watched practices, I sat in on staff meetings, I shadowed him for a day, I went on road trips with him to see how they operated,” Oats said following the Tide’s Elite Eight win. “I tried to learn as much as I could. It never nagged me or bothered me that football was huge at Alabama. I loved it. It’s better for recruiting, it’s better for everything for us. I tried to learn from it.

“I love the fact that he’s still got an office at Bryant-Denny [Stadium],” Oats continued. “I love the fact he’s willing to talk to me. He talked to me before this run. He texted me during the run.”

Oats’ admiration of Saban began long before Alabama. As the coach at Romulus High School in Detroit, Oats created an Excel document containing tabs for, among other things, inspirational quotes broken down into two subcategories: “regular quotes” and “Saban quotes.” 

“Every Saban quote I had, it was lined with them,” Oats said. “And then I got here, I’m like, ‘Should I use them as much as I used to use them?’ Cause he’s actually coaching next door. Is it going to bother our basketball players that I keep using the football coach’s quotes? Well, I still use them. They’re pretty good. I’m still getting more of them and adding them to the list.”    

Alabama’s last roadblock to the national title game is top-seeded UConn, the reigning national champions. The Huskies have won each of their last 10 NCAA Tournament games, dating back to last season’s run, by double digits. Tipoff for Saturday’s Final Four game is scheduled for 8:49 p.m. ET. 





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