Tide players pleased with choice

If there were any lingering doubts about how new Tide Head Coach Mike Price would relate to the athletes, he put them to rest quickly. In quick meetings before and after yesterday's press conference--and via television and radio--the Bama players all came away impressed.

One scene illustrates the point. After holding court in the jam-packed room with the assembled Alabama media, Price made his way to an even more crowded hallway, greeting and talking with fans and reporters along the way. Once in the hallway and out of the klieg lights, Mike Price almost literally ran into Wesley Britt.

Without missing a beat, Price looked up at the massive offensive tackle and quipped, "Ah, a wide receiver."

Britt--all 6-8, 305 pounds of him--grinned broadly as he greeted his new head coach. "I'm very excited the way the search was handled and the way that everything went," Britt said afterwards. "I liked the things Coach Price had to say."

For two weeks the Tide players had been left leaderless, but Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore had promised the team he would hire the best man for the job. And Wednesday he delivered. "They told us they were going to hire the best guy," said safety Roman Harper. "Coach Price seems like a good coach. I'm just happy that we got all this settled and we can move on."

All-SEC offensive tackle Wesley Britt is happy with his new head coach.

Finals ended last Saturday, so the players are all home for the holidays. But tight end Clint Johnston drove back to Tuscaloosa with his girlfriend to meet Coach Price. "I went by and met him yesterday morning before his press conference," Johnston related. "I also watched the press conference on television. He's a very nice guy. I was impressed.

"He came off as a guy that wants to get to know you and is ready to go to work. I was very pleased with Coach Moore's decision."

Sophomore defensive lineman Todd Bates described his impression. "I listened to the press conference at work. I'm working a part-time job over Christmas, and I heard it on the radio. I'm glad to have him. He's the PAC-10 champion. He fits the idea of a Crimson Tide coach."

With every coaching change there is a transition period, but Price begins with instant credibility. "I'm sure he's a good coach," Harper said. "Two ten-win seasons in a row is pretty good. I'm happy he chose to be with us. I just wanted a coach that wanted to be here. We're going to play hard for him. He'll help us be the best we can."

Along with Britt, senior guard Dennis Alexander was on hand to talk to the media afterwards about Bama's new coach. "I've seen some of Washington State on TV," he related. "They're going to the Rose Bowl. That's a BCS bowl, so whatever he's been doing over there has to be good. He'll bring that to this program, and I believe it'll work with us, too."

Freshman quarterback Brandon Avalos agreed. "He knows how to win. Obviously he's won championships and knows how to get it done. That experience and being at Alabama will make it that much easier for him."

Surprising to some, Price announced that he intended to coach Washington State through their Rose Bowl match-up with Oklahoma. But the decision actually impressed the current Tide players. "I was glad to see that he plans to coach them in the Rose Bowl," Bates said. "He's actually doing exactly what Coach Fran didn't do. At least he told his players. I respect him a lot for that."

Quarterback Brandon Avalos is excited about having a proven winner at Alabama.

Unlike Alabama's previous coach, Price made sure that he could break the news to his former players personally. He described the meeting as very emotional with a lot of tears, but when it was finished Price received a standing ovation from the Cougar team. Britt commented, "His team is close, like a family. When you put a team together like that, 11 people on offense and 11 people on defense and 85 scholarshipped athletes working for one cause, you can do incredible things."

"As players you like to think a coach cares about us," Johnston added. "I could tell from our meeting that's true. I talked to him before he was going to his press conference and he acted like he had been here five years. He cares about you as a player and a person. When you get somebody like that, it's easier to play for them--be in meetings with them and travel with them."

A Tuscaloosa resident, Avalos was at the Football Complex early to meet personally with Coach Price. "I think he's a nice guy," Avalos said of his new coach. "We just had a brief conversation. He told me how excited he was to be here. He is real down-to-earth, very nice, very straight forward. He'll tell you what he wants to do and what he doesn't want to do.

"They call him a ‘player's coach,' and he's a guy that can obviously develop a good relationship with his team."

Santa Claus won't actually arrive until next Wednesday, but Avalos is happy already. "Getting a championship coach--that's a pretty good early Christmas present."

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