Let me start out by thanking former UAB Head Basketball Coach Jerrod Haase. I’m truly grateful for how he represented our university both on and off the court.
Haase’s tenure ended up being during a very tumultuous era of the Blazer athletic department. He dealt with everything thrown at him, both what he signed up for and what he didn’t. Haase handled it all with class and I wish him the best at Stanford.
With that stated, let’s backtrack a little. While Jerod Haase is being introduced as the new coach at Stanford I’ve re-examined his introductory press conference here. I’ve learned to accept coach speak for what it is. Most all coaches say what needs to be heard. That way a fan base embraces them and the program can move forward. However, one of Coach Haase’s statements still stings when hearing it again.
“This a destination job for me, this isn’t something that I am thinking, ‘boy if I do well for a little bit, maybe I can move on somewhere. I want to be here.’”
Things like that hurt on a day like today. I realize Coach Haase ended up with a football debacle that threatened our conference membership, a jaded fan base that affected attendance, and conference realignment that severely hurt Conference USA basketball. No doubt the current one bid of Conference USA is enough to drive any coach insane.
I know those factors played a role, but I also know Haase left here at one of the first real opportunity’s he got. Last year an underwhelming regular season didn’t leave him many other offers. This year’s regular season success, combined with last year’s tournament run, is what got him the Stanford offer – along with his great basketball pedigree. So considering this was a destination job for him, it’s tough to swallow that he took the first road out.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with Coach Haase. I’m very thankful he came here and placed our basketball program back on the map. He’s leaving it in great shape too, so I’m over looking his previous comments and decision to leave UAB so quickly. Haase is a good man, and UAB is in a better place for him being a part of it.
There is one question that Haase still needs to answer for me though. Haase stated how he wanted to see the program continue to grow, how he loved being here, and how his family loved UAB. I can believe all of that, but I want to see physical proof from Coach Haase.
In what appears to be his last acts as coach at UAB, Haase was turned down by multiple power conference schools to come to Bartow. The task of getting decent teams to come to Bartow and even allow UAB on their schedule is getting harder. Mid-majors struggle for any sort of RPI-strengthening games.
Nobody knows this better than Haase. It kept his Blazers from any at-large NCAA Tournament consideration, and it really led to a horrid NIT seed and travel situation. All mid-major coaches who run successful programs know this struggle.
So how could Haase prove he cares about UAB? How about giving the Blazers a home-and-home with his new team? Don’t wait until the players you recruited are gone (A Mike Anderson move), they understand what’s at stake. It may not be easy to face them, but it probably wasn’t easy for Roy Williams to bring his UNC team to Bartow to face Haase’s Blazers either.
That was the first signature victory of the Haase era at UAB. Without that game, I’m not sure UAB reaches the heights it has the last two years. That was the kind of game that influences recruits to come to your school.
I know Haase’s first priority is to Stanford now, yet we all know a trip to Birmingham wouldn’t make or break the Cardinals. The Tar Heels recovered nicely from their loss in Bartow and still went dancing. Actually, a game in Birmingham makes sense for Haase as he just offered Isaac Chatman from Cordova, Ala. to come to Stanford. Haase could stay visible in Alabama and offer his former school the olive branch it so desperately needs.
Most mid-major coaches that leave for greener pastures forget the places they came from. I don’t expect Florida head coach Mike White to remember La Tech anytime soon, or Shaka Smart to schedule VCU and Texas.
I am personally intrigued to see if Haase loves UAB enough to make this happen. No matter who the next coach is, I want to see Haase back at Bartow one more time. To send a message to other mid-major coaches that you can remember where you came from.
I’d like to think UAB was more than a stepping stone for Jerod Haase. I want to believe all the things he has said. Here is a way he can prove it. Scheduling this home-and-home would not only strengthen the program and legacy he left behind in Birmingham, but send a message that needs to be sent for the betterment of the sport. A message to play these mid-majors and not forget where you came from.
This last part is addressed to Coach Haase directly. Coach Haase, I ask you to walk the sidelines of Bartow one more time. For old times sake. Maybe next year’s Bartow Classic could have a meaningful power conference opponent. Just think, you could honor the program that helped you rise in the ranks, and help with cancer research again. You could even honor Gene Bartow one more time. This time, you wouldn’t even have to toss your coat in the stands