LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats said Thursday that he was not offended by comments Nick Saban made regarding Saban’s handling of a football player’s arrest, in contrast to how the top-ranked Crimson Tide have dealt with the controversy surrounding All-American freshman Brandon Miller.
Saban on Monday suspended freshman defensive back Tony Mitchell after his arrest on a drug charge.
In handing down the punishment, Saban said, “Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions.” He added, “There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The “no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time” comment was perceived by many to be directed at Oats, who hasn’t disciplined Miller for being at the scene of a Jan. 15 fatal shooting involving a former teammate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Oats initially said Miller was “in the wrong spot at the wrong time” during the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris. Darius Miles and another man have been charged with capital murder in Harris’ death, and police reports state that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun ahead of the shooting.
Miller has not been charged with any crime. Miller’s attorney said the forward never handled the gun and didn’t know it was going to be used for a crime. Miller, who has a security guard with him at the NCAA tournament because of threats he’s received, is cooperating in the investigation.
Oats said he spoke with Saban on Monday night, adding that he did not take Saban’s remark as direct criticism.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for him,” Oats said during a Thursday news conference. “He has been tremendously supportive of our program since he got here. He says it all the time. He wants the entire athletic department to do well. He has been at multiple games this year.”
Saban, asked Thursday at Alabama’s pro day if he wanted to clarify his comments, said: “There’s nothing to clarify. I don’t watch basketball coaches’ press conferences. How many years have I been coaching? Never watched one. Never listened to what other people say. That was strictly about our program and what we do and had nothing to do with anybody else. I don’t make any comments about anybody else. And we hope the basketball team does really, really well.”
Saban attended Alabama’s practice Wednesday. The Crimson Tide face No. 5 seed San Diego State in a South Region semifinal in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday night, and Miller, who has been dealing with a groin injury, is expected to be in the lineup.
Miller did not address Saban’s remarks.
“It was a great experience in practice for me,” Miller said of Saban’s presence. “I always grew up being an Alabama football fan, so Coach Saban has always been a great role model for me. It was just great just seeing him an arm’s length away from me.”
Oats has apologized for both his comments and for allowing a pregame introduction in which Miller was patted down by another teammate. The fourth-year coach and the top team in the country have been scrutinized for allowing Miller to continue to play. Miller is the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
The Associated Press and ESPN’s Alex Scarborough contributed to this report.