Hodgson Says Tide Is ‘Built To Win’

To say that Bryan Hodgson has had a whirlwind couple of weeks would be like saying Zion Williamson knows a thing or two about dunking a basketball.

There’s no debating it.

Nevertheless, the Jamestown native carved out a few minutes in his busy schedule late last Saturday night to talk about his basketball coaching future at the University of Alabama, his successful four-year run at the University at Buffalo and the appreciation he has for those who have helped him along the way.

“I was in Tuscaloosa since last Wednesday, then went to the Final Four (in Minneapolis) for two days,” he said in a cellphone conversation. “Then I flew in (Sunday) to kind of pack some stuff up, small things that will get me through for a month or two, and then head back (to Tuscaloosa) starting on Monday.”

To suggest that Hodgson, who will be an assistant for former UB coach Nate Oats at Alabama, is excited about about moving from the Mid-American Conference to the Southeast Conference is an understatement.

“That’s a whole other level down there,” Hodgson said. “The level of athletics and level of basketball in the SEC is as good as it gets in the country. I was walking around the National Association of Basketball Coaches Convention (Saturday morning) and I heard (South Carolina coach) Frank Martin say something along the lines that over the last five or 10 years there’s been more No. 1 draft draft picks from the SEC than any other league in the country.”

The Crimson Tide are coming off a 18-16 season under Avery Johnson, who was dismissed last month. Oats, who guided the Bulls to a 32-4 record this season and another berth in the NCAA Tournament, was hired to point Alabama in that direction, too.

“Everything is built to win,” Hodgson said. “Those kids want to be coached, want to compete and so we’re really walking into a sleeping giant. To go there with Coach Oats, who I trust my future and my career with, is exciting.

“Coach took the job and I took the job, because we believe we can win right away.”

As proof, Hodgson noted how Texas Tech, which lost to Virginia in last night’s NCAA Tournament championship game after beating UB in the second round, has found its way to the top of the basketball world.

“We had taken a lead there and made a strong run in the second half against them, and we may have played the worst game of the year offensively,” Hodgson said. “We had it at Buffalo where we could compete with pretty much anybody in the country. You add in the resources we have down there in Alabama and Tuscaloosa and that’s a whole new ballgame.”

Calling the Crimson Tide’s roster “stacked,” Hodgson said he “wouldn’t call it a rebuild,” adding, “I think we can be an NCAA Tournament team next year.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Hodgson has felt “the love and support every day from people all over the Western New York.”

“I’ve been getting messages from people that live in Florida and California,” he said. “It’s great to have that support system.”

Hodgson was quick to support Jim Whitesell, who was hired last week to succeed Oats at UB.

“Jim’s a great coach, he’s got a ton of experience, he’s coached at every level of college basketball and he’s just a good all-around guy,” Hodgson said.

Among Whitesell’s first challenges will be convincing four new incoming players to honor their scholarship offers.

“Hopefully those guys will give him a chance so he can retain that group,” Hodgson said.