Alabama basketball: Underappreciated Alabama legend named to Hall of Fame

Welcome to The Rammer Jammer, SEC Country’s daily Alabama athletics recap. Today, we look at an Alabama legend that every fan should know. 

Alabama places a premium on its sporting history. The stern faces of the bronze monuments to national champion football coaches are the first features at the main entrance to campus. The streets are literally paved with the names of star athletes. In the non-football arena, a celebration of all the school’s championships bears the name of six-time national champion gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson, and rightly so.

The entirety of Alabama’s campus and sporting identity is dedicated to celebrating its proud history across all sports. But one coach — possibly the most influential of them all — goes largely unrecognized on campus.

C.M. Newton was Alabama’s basketball coach from 1968-80, during which time he built Alabama into a national contender, won three straight SEC titles and came within a few free throws from beating the undefeated Indiana team in 1977.

He went on to serve as Vanderbilt’s coach, Kentucky’s athletic director and the director of USA Basketball. It was under Newton’s leadership that The Dream Team came into being.

He also helped break the color barrier at Alabama, recruiting Wendell Hudson to play basketball for him in 1969, years before the football team was integrated. For 50 years, Newton worked in the SEC and remade much of it in his likeness.

For this, and much more, he is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and now, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame. He is greeted and honored by every opposing coach to come into Coleman Coliseum, from John Calipari to the in-state Tuesday night nonconference coaches.

“C.M. Newton was a good man who treated everyone with respect, which is why people still gravitate to him after all these years,” Calipari once told me. “Bigger than that was the respect his players had for him. I talked to some former players who played for him at Vanderbilt who came back to see him not more than a month ago. Those relationships — and I imagine it happens every day from his Alabama players — are the ones he had the most impact on. For me, that means even more than the respect he gets from all of us coaches, which is a lot.”

And yet, on campus, to students, he is nearly unknown. While Patterson, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Frank Thomas, Gene Stallings and Wallace Wade adorn monuments, Newton’s name adorns one meeting room in the front of Coleman Coliseum — a nice room, with two TVs and a nice place for a buffet, but that’s it. His legacy of groundbreaking open-mindedness, hard work, loyalty and bravery in the face of vitriol is underappreciated by the Alabama powers that be. AD Greg Byrne, president Stuart Bell and the trustees should change that as soon as possible.

ICYMI

Built by Bama

• Four Alabama golfers will start the U.S. Open on Thursday at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Bud Cauley has been steadily rising up the ranks and will compete in his second U.S. Open. Trey Mullinax will compete in his first Open. Dru Love has been earning some attention because of his caddy, namesake and father — Davis Love III. But the golfer to watch, as usual, is Justin Thomas. Thomas hasn’t thrived at majors, but this course is wide open and made for bombers like him. If he plays to his standard, it could be a very special week for the former national champion.

• ArDarius Stewart is recovering from two surgeries, and Eddie Jackson is steadily recovering from his own. 

Around the Capstone

Read all about Brad Bohannon’s year at Intel, from AL.com’s Rainer Sabin.

In other baseball news, five players with Alabama ties were selected on the final day of the MLB draft:

  • LHP Dylan Cyphert — a signee from Gulf Coast Community College who was selected in the 17th round by the Miami Marlins.
  • RHP Alex Valverde — an Alabama signee from Miami-Dade Community College, where he posted a 1.80 ERA, was chosen in the 22nd round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • RHP Garrett Suchey — Alabama’s long reliever was drafted in the 26th round by Kansas City.
  • OF Chandler Taylor — A current Alabama star who made the All-SEC team, Taylor was drafted in the 27th round by the Twins.
  • OF Josiah Breaux — Another community college commit, Breaux was chosen in the 36th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. 

One player went notably, and purposefully, undrafted:

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