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Local Sports Stories Archives for 2023-04

Head Coach Nate Oats Announces Hiring of Austin Claunch as Men's Basketball Assistant Coach

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama men’s basketball head coach Nate Oats announced Tuesday the hiring of Austin Claunch as the newest men’s basketball assistant coach.


Claunch comes to Tuscaloosa after spending seven seasons at Nicholls State and the last five seasons as head coach. During his tenure, he compiled 90 wins, leading the Colonels to back-to-back Southland Regular Season titles and was named the 2021 Southland Conference Coach of the Year.

“Austin is one of the hardest working guys in the business,” Oats said. “His work as a head coach at Nicholls was unbelievable with one of the lowest budgets in the country. He has won two out of the last three regular season championships in the Southland Conference and that is a credit to his hard work and his energy. Austin has a bright young mind and will help out our program in many ways. Not only is he a tireless recruiter and will help us with game planning but he is also a great person who will develop great relationships with our players and have a positive impact in our community.”

A rising star in the coaching ranks, Claunch was named to the ESPN 40 Under 40 in 2020 as he led Nicholls to unprecedented success in his five years at the helm. Promoted to head coach in 2018, Claunch served as the youngest coach in Division I men’s basketball from 2018-21 and was the second youngest head coach in the country this previous season. Claunch led Nicholls to its first win over a Power 5 team (Nov. 9, 2019 at Pitt) and guided the Colonels to a 21-win season in 2019-20 after being picked to finish 11th in the Southland Preseason Poll.

The Houston native accumulated a 90-61 overall record along with a 58-28 mark in Southland Conference play. Claunch led the Colonels from a ninth-place finish in his first year to being tied for second in the next season, claiming the Southland Conference Regular Season title in back-to-back seasons in 2020-21 and '21-22.

In only his third season, Claunch coached Nicholls to an outright SLC title after going 14-2 in league play and 18-7 overall. Claunch's squad reeled off two eight-game winning streaks in the championship campaign, capped with a win in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament. In addition to having three All-Southland honorees, highlighted by first-team selection and newcomer of the year Ty Gordon, Claunch received Southland Coach of the Year.

“I am extremely excited and thankful for the opportunity to join Coach Oats’ staff,” said Claunch. “Over the past few seasons, Alabama has proven itself to be one of the premier basketball programs not only in the SEC, but also in the country. The max effort, continuous growth and selfless love established here is evident, even from afar, and I look forward to being a part of this team. I am eager to add value any way I can and learn from one of the brightest and most innovative minds in the game in Nate Oats. It’s a thrill to be joining the Tuscaloosa community, and I’m excited to see everyone soon. Roll Tide!”

Austin Claunch Bio

  • 2020-21 Southland Conference Coach of the Year
  • Back-to-back Southland Regular Season Champions (2020-21 and 2021-22)
  • Served as the youngest head coach in Division I Men’s basketball for three seasons (2018-21)
  • The second youngest head coach during the 2022-23 season
  • Named to ESPN 40 Under 40 in 2020
  • Coaching Experience:
    • 2018-23: Nicholls State (Head Coach)
    • 2016-18: Nicholls State (Assistant Coach)
    • 2015-16: Clemson (Assistant Coach)
    • 2013-15: Clemson (Graduate Manager)
    • 2012-13: George Mason (Assistant Coach)
  • Education:
    • Clemson University (Master of Human Resource – 2015)
    • Emory University (Bachelor of Science, Political Science – 2012) 

For all the latest information on the team, follow AlabamaMBB on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. General athletic news can be found @UA_Athletics on Twitter and Instagram and Alabama Athletics on Facebook.


Hall Of Fame Head Coach Ronnie Stapler set to Retire

MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2023
Coach Ronnie Stapler is announcing his retirement. He closes his AHSAA Hall of Fame career
after 53 seasons at 4 different schools. He finishes as the 3rd All-time winningest coach in
AHSAA history with 868 wins at Grissom, Guntersville, Randolph, and Westminster Christian.
“I’m thankful for all the great players, loyal assistant coaches, supportive administrators,
parents, and fans that have made coaching a pleasure for me. Being a basketball coach is all
that I ever wanted to do, and I hope that my enthusiasm and passion have helped people along
the way. I’m also thankful that I am still in very good health. I look forward to spending more
time with my wife and family. I have 5 grandchildren that are all very good athletes and will all
be playing sports in middle or high school. It’s important to me that I am able to spend time
helping them and watching them compete. I also plan to stay involved helping coaches and
programs grow the game that I love through the Alabama Basketball Academy.
“I am proud of what we accomplished on the court with the wins and Championships, but I
cherish the friendships that I have today as a result of coaching. It has truly been a blessing
and I am humbled and grateful.”

23 Area Championships
3X AHSAA State Coach of the Year
2X Coach of the Alabama State All-Star Team (1999 & 2016)
Coached 2 Alabama Mr. Basketball winners (Marvin Stone & Chris White)
Coached 4 AHSAA Players of the Year (Jay Scherer (6A), Marvin Stone (6A), Chris White (6A),
Trey Petty (4A), Auston Leslie (4A),

Auburn Spring Game Quotes

Auburn Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Opening statement…

“Thanks to our fans and the band and everyone that weathered the conditions to come out and support our players today. We appreciate that very much. It was my first spring game to have those types of conditions. I certainly appreciate you guys for being here to cover it all. We got through it without anybody getting injured, which is always a plus. I thought it was a solid day. There were some good things and some not-so-good things, of course. Overall, I think our first spring and the 15 days that our kids gave us had some great energy and effort. We took the right step toward building some foundational things that we’re going to have to lean on to compete next year in this league. I’m pleased with our staff and there is a lot of good we can take from the 15 days.”


On the game ending in a tie...

"Everybody can get steaks. Ms. Danielle (Gillan) can feed them all everything she had planned. I told them it's our first trip into Jordan-Hare and both sides are undefeated. I like the way it ended. I did give the option to the coordinators on headset. I said, 'Look, our ones, twos and threes got the same amount of possessions. Do y'all want to go ones right here from the three-yard line for the win or loss, one play?' They were quiet for a long time on that. They didn't give me an answer for a while and I said, 'Are you going to answer?' and they said, 'Let's leave it a tie,' so I'm happy with the way it ended. It really is good seeing them kick that thing through under those conditions. It was really, really soggy and wet and the snap was really slow. It was good that we got some of that experience."


On the development of the quarterback position...

"I feel better than I did 15 practices ago. I think from this point, now until the end of fall camp, there's so much that needs to happen for somebody to solidify being 'the guy.' I think all have improved. I think all are still inconsistent with some things. We really wanted to throw that ball around and it would've been really ugly and probably a lot of three-and-outs had we tried to do that. I think Robby (Ashford) got better. He's really been fun to coach. I think he's trying to change some of the things that may have caused me concern about him being the quarterback leader, whether it be body language or ball security or just your demeanor in general — the way you talk, the way you talk to your teammates. I don't know that anybody has really challenged him the way I did this spring with that. I thought all three of them responded to our challenges and were like, 'please coach us.' I think you saw today that he's got the capability of making some plays. I thought he threw a really good seam ball in those conditions. I thought Holden (Geriner) threw some good balls. He missed a couple reads on some RPOs I think. T.J. (Finley) did too. It's kind of been that way all spring. Some really positives one day and some inconsistencies the next day. We've still got some time to help them improve, hopefully."


Holden Geriner, QB

On his A-Day experience…

“It was, as I’m sure you all saw out there, not the best weather, but it was still awesome to be out there with all the guys and compete and have some fun. It was a lot of fun just getting out there with all the guys. It was really a great experience and super appreciative of all the fans that came out there and supported. So, it was a great experience.”


On his 2-point conversion
That’s been something that I’ve been trying to implement recently, just being able to run a lot more. I think I’ve definitely improved on that a lot and it’s something I like to show.”


Avery Jones, OL

About the rain and chaos…

“I think it’s good because of course you’re going to have games where it’s going to rain a lot and we’ve got to play through that and not let that affect us. At the end of the day, we’re still trying to get the win, so I think today was a good way to practice that.”


On the style of game for the offensive line…

“Games like this you can’t focus on passing, so you really got to focus on running the ball and moving.”


Robby Ashford, QB

On being out there today…

“It felt good. The conditions weren’t ideal, but just going out there with guys, having fun. Credit to those fans who showed up. It was pouring out here but showing up and showing their support. We appreciate that. To go out there and end the spring strong with the guys, it was fun. These 15 practices have been fun. It was good to be back in the crib, back in the most beautiful stadium in the world. You can’t beat it.”


On being challenged in practice…

“I feel like every single day I found something to get better at. Coach (Hugh) Freeze definitely challenged me, and I appreciate that because he has taught me so much already in such a short amount of time. Being able to go out there and have him challenge me has been really good. Just from our talks, he is a coach who really cares and really wants to see me succeed. Him, Coach (Philip) Montgomery, Coach (Kent) Austin, and Coach (Jesse) Stone have all just helped me tremendously and have gotten me so much better from day one of spring ball to practice No. 15.”


Robert Woodyard Jr., LB

On his progress…

“I feel like I’ve come a long way mentally, just coming off injury. It was kind of a setback coming in. Being able to know the defense more and my teammates have really pushed me. I really feel like I fit the defense well and I feel like I know the ins and outs of it, and I really know the guys around me.”


On the weather conditions…

“You have to love it to play in the rain. For me I don’t really care, but it was pretty fun playing in the rain with my brothers.”


T.J. Finley, QB

On the quarterback competition… 

“It’s about competing and bettering ourselves in each aspect of the game – mentally and physically. Anywhere in the country, guys are competing, at each and every school. It’s always good to compete. You need competition to bring the best out of you each and every day, and I think we’re all responding to it well.”


On how the offense has adapted and grown under Coach Freeze …

“We’ve grown tremendously. Today was kind of vanilla just because of the weather and things like that. During practices and all that, the stuff that we’ve put in – everybody is grasping onto the concept of what we’re trying to get done here as an offense. I think we’re all doing well with it and we’ll continue to grow throughout the summer on our own and then once we transfer over to fall camp.”


Jarquez Hunter, RB

On how the spring has gone for the running backs…

“I think it's been great the whole spring. We all went out there and competed well. Coach (Carnell) Williams did well installing the new plays. All of us are trying to get the new plays down pat, but I think we all did have a good spring.”


On being ready to be the top running back…

“All the running backs had a pretty good run and at least one explosive run today. Anybody can go in there and contribute. I think Coach Williams can put anybody in and we can do the job and get the job done. It was great to see everybody just go out there and compete.”


Nehemiah Pritchett, CB

On conditions today with fans and rain…

“It was good getting the fans back out here to watch us practice. The weather was unfortunate.

but we got in and got some things done.”


Jayson Jones, DL

On the defense’s performance today…

“I think our effort was there. We just have to keep on getting down on the technique, play

with our hands, play fast, play physical and most importantly, play together.”


On adjusting to the weather…

“Yeah, because no matter where we are, you always have to adjust to the climate. For

example, when we go out to Berkeley it is not going to be humid, it is a dry heat and that’s

totally different.”



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