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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It's been a roller-coaster week for newly-hired Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon. After being introduced as the Crimson Tide's 32nd baseball coach Monday, the former Auburn assistant immediately flew back to Tallahassee, Fla., to help coach the Tigers in their season-ending loss to Florida State in the Tallahassee Regional. Tuesday, he arrived back in Tuscaloosa for good as he looks to begin finding ways to turn around an Alabama program which finished 19-34-1 last season.
Bohannon sat down with BamaInsider on Friday for an exclusive interview discussing his coaching style and what to expect from Alabama baseball moving forward.
It's been a busy week, has everything set in yet?
It has, but it’s been awesome. There are times where it can be overwhelming. You have all the emotions from when you get the job to when you first move here. You’re excited, you’re nervous, but everybody has been so helpful and so positive. It’s been awesome talking with the kids and the recruits because that’s what I’ve always done. It’s been a busy week, but it’s been good.
Was it hard to break the news to the Auburn players?
It was awesome because I cried like a baby, and the kids on the team are laughing at me. They are like "Bo, why are you crying, man? This is a head coaching job in the SEC, what are you doing?" That was awesome, but yeah it was emotional. I give them everything I have and I had a relationship with all those kids. It’s supposed to hurt when you care.
You talked about meeting recruits this week. Give me your biggest recruiting pitch.
It’s going to be more than one thing, but it’s been really neat the fact I haven’t been here a bunch. I’ve been in the visiting dugout when we’ve played here. I haven’t been on campus, so when I got hired I thought I was a recruit for a day. It was really the first time I’d been around campus. It was the first time I’ve seen the inside of the ballpark. It was the first time I’d seen the weight room. The feelings and emotions I felt were awesome, and I can’t wait to share them with our prospective baseball players.
You've mentioned modeling your coaching style after Gary Henderson who you worked under at Kentucky. What are some of his qualities you want to carry over?
Gary did a great job of a lot of things. He’s very intelligent, organized and plans for every aspect of the program. You take things from everybody you work with, and I was with Gary for 14 years. (Mississippi State athletic director) John Cohen has had a huge impact on me, and I was with him for five years. (Auburn head coach) Butch Thompson has a huge impact on me, and I was with him for 20 months. I was with Gary for 14 years, that’s probably why I say that.
Alabama historically has more baseball tradition than Kentucky. Will that make a turnaround easier?
Nothing’s easy in the league. This league is an absolute bear. Florida’s not getting any worse. So we have to come up there, they’re not going to lower their bar. That being said, I’ve never had a ballpark like this to sell. I’ve never had a product like Alabama football to sell that’s a national brand.
Being at a football school, how do you generate excitement around baseball?
It’s awesome. That’s a huge positive. Alabama football is arguably the most impressive program in modern college athletics history. There are a lot of young college baseball players that love college football as fans. I’m excited myself to go to my first Alabama football game. I can’t imagine being a 16-year-old kid getting a free ticket and seeing that. That’s part of the college experience.
You met with Nick Saban. We've seen coaches take things from him, do you plan on doing that?
You know, I really like his ideas on some RPOs and red-zone defense, so we’ll use some of that. In all seriousness, Coach Saban is arguably the best coach in college football history. He was very gracious with his time. Certainly, I’ll be all ears when I talk with him.
You have a good relationship with your players. How do you balance that while also laying down the law?
You have to. Here’s the thing, when you are a young athlete, deep down whether you know it or not you want to be pushed as hard as you can. Kids want to be great, and they don’t always know the path and you have to share it with them. The most important thing is they know that you’re in it with them. It’s not ‘I’m good and you’re bad.' We’re in this together, and you have to trust me that what I’m asking you to do, that my motivation in doing that is to help you be the absolute best player you can be. As a coach, you have to earn that trust, but that’s essential in getting the most out of your players.
Without discussing the past regime too much, there were some stricter rules, no facial hair, no drinking, stuff like that. Do you have any of those?
I wasn’t here, so it’s not fair for me to speak to that. It’s really important to me that our kids enjoy their experience in our time together. With that being said, I’m going to run a tight ship, and I want our kids to have high character and integrity and conduct themselves in a mature way because they are a part of something bigger than even Alabama baseball. They are an Alabama athlete, and they are part of this school. Yeah, we’ll run a tight ship, but we’ll do it and still have a great experience.
So facial hair for example, would that be a problem?
When it comes to facial hair, I just don’t want anything to be crazy. I’m not sure that I want to be the facial-hair police. I want to spend my time forcing our kids to concentrate at a really high level when they have an at bat with a runner at third and one out. It’s like being a parent, you have to pick your battles. If they go three days without shaving, I think it’ll be OK.
Describe your ideal baseball player.
I think from a skill perspective, you have to have a certain level of skill to be in this league. Everybody loves guys that are big, strong and fast. From an intangible piece, you have to have high character, integrity. I love guys that play with energy, and that’s something I’m going to try and lead by example. I want kids that love to play and bring a lot of positive energy to the field who are great teammates and who are really competitive and gritty.
Flipping the tables, what would you want players to say about you after they play for you?
Really, twofold. One, that they know that I care on a personal level. That’s something really important to me, that I connect to the kids and that they know that I really care about them as people. The other thing is that I want them to have fun. We work really, really hard, but we spend so much time together on the bus on the field. I’m going to spend more time with these kids than I am with my wife.
How close are you to making some hires, and can you confirm that some have already been made?
Getting really, really close on one spot. Hopefully, in the next 24 hours, we’ll be able to announce one. Another couple of spots, I’m hoping late next week. So that’s a huge priority for me is filling out the staff. I’m not in a hurry to get it done, what’s most important for me is getting it right.
What are you looking for in assistants?
I think the most important things are that they are good people, really good at recruiting and really good at coaching. We’re going to do a lot of things as a coaching staff and leading the program, but at the end of the day, it’s about recruiting, player development and team culture. I’m going to need people around me that are really strong in those areas.
What have you seen from this team, and how hard will it be to trim the roster down to 35 players?
I’ve been in the other dugout of watching this group play four times. You look at the stats, and some of the kids I have evaluated the recruiting process, so I do have some information. I think it’s important to not form any concrete opinions based on such a small sample size. It’s going to be easier and more accurate for me to make a decision with the kids once I’m on the field with them for an extended period of time. That being said, I have NCAA rules that without a doubt I have to adhere to. I can only have so many kids on the team, and I can only have so many kids on scholarship. Regardless of what all the variables are, I have a job mandated by the NCAA to adhere 11.7 scholarships and 27 scholarship roster players. All I can do is be honest and to communicate and do everything I can to make good decisions that adhere to those rules. It’s going to be a challenge.
Down a run at home going to the bottom of the ninth, the leadoff man walks. What do you do?
It depends on who’s pitching, who’s on deck, the splits and all that. I think what you’re getting at... Gosh, I’m kind of middle of the road on a lot of things. I’m not going to be bunting the three-hole hitter in the first inning. I’m not a huge fan of giving away outs, but there are times where you are at certain parts of the order and you really want to make sure your best hitter gets up to bat with a chance to drive in the tying run. So in that scenario, there are going to be a time where we are going to sac bunt and there will be times where we let that dude up to bat have the opportunity to ram one in the gap.
What skills did carry over from your time as a financial analyst at Intel?
I had no idea at that point in my life how much I was learning. When you're young and you are in a professional environment, you grow up in a hurry. I learned that I better be skilled on a laptop, I better learn to have difficult conversations with superiors and people with more experience than me. I really learned to multitask and manage my time. Those are essential skills in any field, and even at this level, being a head coach in the SEC, I’m so thankful for that experience. I had no idea at the time, sitting in a cubical in Portland, Oregon that I was getting prepared to be a head coach in this league.
Apparently, you picked up some PowerPoint skills, too. It seemed to impress Greg Byrne.
Well, I am going to admit, my wife helped me a little bit. She’s a bit better than I am. But when you’re an assistant coach and your dream is to be a head coach, you’re formulating a plan all the time. You’re forming an opinion on every aspect of a program, you’re paying attention to who you’re working for, working with. You’re paying attention to other teams in the league or on your schedule and you’re constantly forming an opinion. So, yes that was a culmination of putting on paper so to speak, but in an indirect way, I’ve been formulating that powerpoint for the last 16 years.
What’s something the average person wouldn’t know about you?
Gosh, I don’t want to sound boring, but I’m a pretty normal guy. I ran a couple marathons at a young age, but I’m retired from running. I won’t be doing that anymore unless someone is chasing me. I’m kind of like my long-haired Labradoodle right now, I like that AC this time of year. I like to fish, so if there are any ponds in the area, I’ll be tracking them down.
What message would you send to Alabama baseball fans?
It all starts for me with putting a good product on the field. I learned a lot when I got married. My life likes sports, but she wasn’t a huge baseball fan. What I got learned over time is that the more she got to learn the kids on the team, the more they came over to the house and she got to know their personalities, the more she enjoyed watching them play and the more frequently she came to the games. I’d like to build off of that. I think it’s really important that our players get connected with the community and build a relationship because it’s more fun to cheer and follow people you have a connection with. So we’ll work really hard over that over time.