Moody Hopes To Get Tide Back On Track

FAYETTEVILLE -- Alabama played in the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament eight straight seasons (1992-99), including a Final Four, before missing out the past five years.

Thus, Crimson Tide coach Rick Moody, who is in his 16th season, thanked his athletic director, Mal Moore, this week at Southeastern Conference Media Days for not pulling the plug on him.

"We've had hard times lately," Moody said. "But I grew up knowing nothing but Crimson Tide, and nobody anywhere cares more about this program than I do. I'm as committed and passionate as ever about getting it back where it was and where it deserves to be."

Moody, one of just two men left in the SEC women's coaching ranks along with Andy Landers of Georgia, knows improvement starts with recruiting.

So he outworked Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to land Chanel Johnson of Tulsa, Okla., a 6-foot-3 freshman prize.

Moody also benefited from the transfer of Hoover, Ala., native Krystle Johnson from UCLA. Johnson is a 6-4 center who will complement 6-4 Tide junior center Dee Merriweather.

"I haven't seen many college post players who can pass as well as Krystle Johnson," Moody raved. "She grew up in the Birmingham area, playing against good players in AAU ball her whole life."

Alabama already had good guards in seniors Katie Sipe and Monique Bivens and sophomore point guard Katie Mastin, an All-SEC Freshman Team member last season.

Now Moody has added Lateefah Joye, a 5-11 freshman guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is pushing Mastin hard for playing time.

Navonda Moore and Natasha Gamble, second and fourth in scoring for Alabama last season, return as solid forwards.

Moody added two other freshmen plus sophomore transfer guard Marverly Nettles of Chicago State, another Birmingham native.

So all of a sudden, Alabama seems rated way too low at a tie for ninth with Arkansas in the preseason SEC media survey.

That's probably because the Tide finished 10th last season at 4-10, staying home for the second year in a row following three straight visits to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

"We were close last year," Moody insisted. "I actually enjoyed coaching, even though we lost five road games in the last 30 seconds."

Now, he says boldy, "This is our most talented team in the last four or five years."

Alabama went 19-12 in 2000-01 and 2001-02, before dipping to 13-15 and 12-16 the past two seasons. The Tide lost two heartbreakers to Arkansas at home during that time, including a 59-58 jolt on a 30-foot buzzer shot by India Lewis in 2003.

But Alabama took revenge last season, beating Arkansas 68-65 in Tuscaloosa.

If the Lady'Backs cost Moody an NCAA Tournament appearance or two earlier, maybe they helped him keep his job last season.

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