Bama/LSU: just another game?

It's a common phrase in sport. Referring to the importance of focusing on what's ahead rather than obsessing over past mistakes, coaches often talk about having a short memory. <br><br>Of course the advice is normally directed at athletes.

But during this morning's SEC Basketball Coaches teleconference, LSU Head Coach John Brady displayed a conveniently selective memory of his own.

Asked whether or not he believed last year's controversy surrounding the LSU/Alabama basketball game would carry over, he had an interesting reply. "I don't really know what you're talking about, except that every team we play in the league we try to do the best we can against and try to win the game."

Given the events of last season, it's easy to suspect that Brady may have been shading the truth a bit.

You remember what happened, don't you? Alabama and LSU play each other in Baton Rouge in the conference-opener for both teams. Before the game, the Tide players take offense at what could kindly be described as racial taunts from the LSU student body. It's a hard-fought contest. But Bama star Rod Grizzard, motivated by the hostile crowd, scores 23 points in leading his team to an 82-73 victory.

Grizzard admits that he was wrong in taunting the LSU crowd, following last year's game in Baton Rouge.

Then the trouble began.

Immediately following the game, Grizzard and fellow guard Doc Martin approached the Bengal Tiger student section, giving back some of what they had endured before and during the game. By itself, their action could be chalked up to bad judgement. But then Grizzard briefly hopped up on the media table, prompting some LSU players to get involved.

"I guess from my standpoint it was wrong to get up on the table," Grizzard said earlier this week. "But the LSU fans were also upset because they lost at home, and teams get upset about that. They didn't appreciate the way we reacted. But then it escalated."

Escalated indeed.

Players jawing back and forth at each other was bad enough, but instead of restraining his own athletes, Brady responded by getting in Grizzard's face. And by the time that incident was finished, Brady and two Tide assistant coaches had to be restrained and escorted off the floor by security.

But the LSU coach didn't stop there. In Brady's post-game comments on the radio, he inflamed the situation even further by basically accusing Mark Gottfried and his coaching staff of condoning Grizzard's behavior. Then he finished by praising his own athletes for "protecting their turf."

It was an embarrassing scene all around. And predictably the SEC Commissioner's office sent letters of reprimand to Grizzard for his behavior and to Brady for his comments.

The Alabama response was to accept the reprimand.

Brady on the other hand--in an action that he surely lived to regret--told a local Baton Rouge reporter that he had "thrown the (Commissioner's) letter in the trash can," prompting a second more scathing letter from Roy Kramer, which was also released simultaneously to the press by the SEC office.

8 Mar 2001: Head Coach John Brady of the Louisiana State Tigers reacts to a play during the Southeastern Conference Tournament Game against the Georgia Bulldogs. (Andy Lyons /Allsport)
When LSU last played in Tuscaloosa, the Tide student section sported T-shirts that read "Brady is an idiot."

That one, Brady did not ignore.

So again, coach, do you remember last year's incidents? "People have made a bigger issue out of this than it is to me," Brady said this morning. "That's life in the SEC. Sometimes players will disagree with one another. Sometimes coaches may disagree with one another. You forget. Go on. Move on, and learn from it. That means nothing to me now."

On that point at least, Brady and his Alabama counterpart agree. "I think it's done, it's over," said Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried. "I don't think there is anything left. From our perspective, last year has nothing to do with this year. We're preparing for a tough, SEC basketball game.

"I'm sure the fans that want to have fun can grab ahold of something like that, and that's OK. But from our perspective that's not an issue with us."

Brady went on to emphasize that he believed last year's dustup was overblown, and that fans from any other school would likely have reacted in a similar situation. "It's just fans being fans and them supporting their team," is how he put it. "That's the way it ought to be. That's over with. It's gone, and it's done. But if it creates some interest and sells some more tickets, that's great."

Given the animosity that still lingers between the two teams, Brady is to be commended for downplaying the situation.

But whether or not he would act any differently under similar circumstances is another subject entirely. "Early on I stood up for what I believed in," Brady said. "Then, as it went along there wasn't any use creating a problem any longer. I handled it in a way that I thought was right for our institution and the league in general. Certainly our team and our coaching staff and myself in particular, I hope will react in the appropriate way, regardless of what comes up."

"How I react is the way I react in the right way," were his exact words this morning.

Thanks for clearing that up, coach.

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