Avery Johnson will have a few key holdovers on his inaugural Alabama men’s basketball team next season, but perhaps the most important one won’t be taking the floor.

In his first big decision as Alabama’s new head coach, Johnson confirmed at his introductory press conference last Wednesday that Antoine Pettway will be retained as an assistant coach from former head coach Anthony Grant’s staff.

“When I first took over, Coach (athletic director Bill) Battle talked to me about Pett,” Johnson said. “When he left my home in Dallas, or Plano, I started asking around about Pett and for the most part out of every 10 people I asked about him, all 10 people gave him rave reviews. And then when I had a chance to meet him, we talked on the phone a lot, but when I had a chance to meet him and meet his wife, that secured his situation.”

Pettway, a former Alabama point guard who helped guide the Crimson Tide to an Elite Eight berth as a senior in 2004, is known for his recruiting prowess, particularly with prospective recruits in the state of Alabama. He is the primary recruiter for Alabama’s three 2015 fall signees – Theodore point guard Dazon Ingram, Luverne forward Donta’ Hall and Carver-Montgomery guard Brandon Austin. Ingram de-committed after Grant’s firing in mid-March but has maintained interest, especially after it was revealed that Pettway was returning.

Johnson said his recruiting focus will be on players within the Yellowhammer State, a goal that may have proven a more difficult task without Pettway’s aid. Since Wednesday, Johnson and Pettway have already visited Ingram, Hall and Austin and attended showcase tournaments in Dallas and Virginia.

“To every recruit in the state of Alabama, to every high-level recruit in this state, you’re our first target. We want to put a fence around the state of Alabama,” Johnson said. “Yes, we would love to go and recruit some of the high-level, blue-chip players outside of this state, but the state of Alabama and its high school players and AAU players, you are our priority. To every high school coach and every AAU coach in the state of Alabama, you are our priority. You are our first priority, and I want to get to know you.

“To all of the moms and dads, and uncles and aunts, that represent these student-athletes in the state of Alabama, we want to get to know you. You are our first priority. For all of the recruits outside of the state of Alabama, you’re also on our radar. We’re taking this program to places it has never been before. But you are our priority, the young people that are student-athletes in the state of Alabama.”

An Alabama native, Pettway has been on staff at Alabama since he was named an assistant coach under Mark Gottfried in 2008. He was the men’s basketball program’s director of operations from 2010-13, before returning to the sidelines as an assistant in 2013.

As a player, Pettway won two high school basketball state championships – Keith in 1998 and Wilcox Central in 2000 – and was named to the 2000 Birmingham News Super 5 team. He walked on at Alabama as a freshman in 2000 before earning a scholarship ahead of the following season. In 2002, his buzzer-beating layup against No. 8 Florida at Coleman Coliseum gave the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide the SEC regular-season title that season.

Pettway’s familiarity in recruiting circles and with the program as its longest-serving member should make him a key cog next season, especially after veteran guard Ricky Tarrant’s announced departure last Friday leaves just nine players (eight on scholarship) currently on the Alabama roster.

Pettway won’t be the team’s only assistant coach, however. Alabama still has two more assistant coaches’ spots to fill, including an associate head coach position. It also must find a director of operations and a strength and conditioning coach.

Of last season’s staff, John Brannen, the team’s associate head coach and interim head coach after Grant was fired, is the only one who has already taken a new job. (Brannen was announced as Northern Kentucky’s new men’s basketball coach on Tuesday.)

“I’m in the process of talking to a few assistant coaches,” Johnson said. “And I just want to say to all of those guys that have called or texted or emailed, thank you for your interest. It’s been a little bit overwhelming and it’s a humbling experience to get so many calls from guys who want to be a part of our staff. Unfortunately, we only have a few spots, and I know how it is to be out of work or have gotten fired and you’re looking for a job, and I empathize with that.”

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