Remembering Alabama Basketball Manager Charlie Wilson

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Charlie Pierce WilsonThe interview was to take place in a hidden location, somewhere Alabama basketball officials knew no one else would go.

Normally they hold interviews in the Coleman Coliseum office. But if assistants Bryan Hodgson and Antoine Pettway, who had known Wilson for years, saw him, managers thought the coaches would distract them.

So the managers interviewed Wilson downstairs in the CM Newton room.

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“We were afraid someone would come in,” said general manager Perkins Carden, “because they all loved him so much.”

That’s why when Wilson died at age 20 on Monday, it sparked an outpouring of support from the Alabama basketball team, including coach Nate Oats and past players. and present. Wilson died after falling during a seizure.

He faced seizures at different times in his life, so his father, Charles Wilson, usually kept track of his location. Often his son was at his apartment. Sometimes classy. Most of the time, however, he was at the Coleman Coliseum.

“He was living the dream, being part of Alabama basketball,” Charles Wilson said.

It started in third grade when Wilson first attended a basketball camp in Alabama. There he met Pettway.

After attending these camps for years, he worked one in the summer of 2021. Then Wilson became a manager. Immediately, Carden knew managers needed to find a role for Wilson on game days. That’s not a given for first-year managers. They have to move up the ladder. However, Wilson was given a game day role earlier.

Why him?

“Just his energy, man,” Carden said. “Everyone felt better when Charlie was around. He had a way of improving the mood no matter what.

He was even better known for his passion.

Take on his role as Alabama’s coach in the managers’ games held each night before official regular-season competitions. Instead of performing, Wilson wore a full suit and tie, holding a clipboard and flipping a towel over his shoulder.

And he was never passive.

“At least once a game he would get in there with someone from the other team,” Carden said. “If someone shouted a foul they didn’t like, they would go after them.”

This fiery spirit was nothing new. Since growing up in Aliceville, Wilson has never been afraid to voice his sporting opinions and discuss them with all willing participants. Among the tributes his father has seen this week are those wishing he could argue with Wilson once again.

Wilson was still on the fun talk. So much so that he printed and posted manager rankings on the bulletin board each week, based on how he thought each had performed in their duties the previous week.

“I’m just starting a discussion,” Carden said. “Everyone was looking forward to it on Monday.”

Wilson rarely kept quiet at any sporting event he attended. His father said fans love to sit around his son at high school games, given his appetite for loudly voicing his opinion to officials. Wilson also spoke his mind at basketball games, but he usually knew what he was talking about when he noticed a bad call.

When his high school coach, Jeremy Pate, was without an assistant during Wilson’s senior year, he served as the de facto assistant that Pate could bounce ideas off of.

“You don’t see a lot of people that have the passion and the competitiveness and the general love of the game that (Wilson) had,” Pate said.

In the same Pickens Academy gymnasium where Wilson lashed out at officials and could always be heard, he also accepted Jesus as his savior. One night at an evangelistic event, when Wilson was about 7 or 8 years old, he professed his faith.

“The place that got him into heaven,” his father said, “is the place he gave everyone else hell.”

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men’s basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Contact him at nkelly@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly