No coach in all of America gets the attention these days that Nick Saban, the head coach at The University of Alabama, gets in the media. (Readers know I went to Alabama for two years and remain a shameless die-hard Tide fan!)
Saban’s uncompromising commitment to excellence in every phase of the football program is beginning to yield success for the Crimson Tide. The veteran head coach has achieved resounding success on the college level with three different programs. He has justly earned a reputation as an outstanding tactician, leader, organizer and motivator. Those qualities have sparked impressive turnarounds at every stop in his college career. (The one exception, critics will cite, was his two-year stint with the professional Miami Dolphins, where he had a sub-par winning percentage.) Coach Saban’s teams have often overcome adversity to achieve victory and like him or not he is a brilliant coach.
Saban can be abrasive, angry and sometimes cute. He is never dull. He is intensely focused on one primary goal. He is respected by his players, but love might not be the first word they would choose. Saban, as noted on this blog last week, is on the cover of the current issue of Forbes. Now his team is on the cover Sports Illustrated. (The dreaded SI “curse” could rise up to bite them! For you who do not know, every time your team is on the cover they tend to take a dive, or so it seems.)
An Alabama fan, and Birmingham News reader, sent a letter this past week to one of the sports writers who then interviewed Coach Saban and reports the questions and answers that came from reading this letter to the coach. This short interview gives you a feel for Saban, pro and con.
Birmingham News: What do you say to a reader who is scolding you for your salty press conference language?
Saban: That reader is absolutely right. I should never use that kind of language. I shouldn’t do it any time.
Birmingham News: Did you read the recent Forbes magazine article declaring you the most powerful coach in sports?
Saban: No, I didn’t. I shouldn’t say that. I don’t want to make anybody mad. I didn’t read (this week’s)
Sports Illustrated either. … I’d rather read a business report on how the economy’s gonna do for the next two years.
Birmingham News: Do you watch football when you get home from the office?
Saban: I get home at 10 or 10:30 at night. I don’t want to watch a football game. I watched the end of the Tennessee game the other night. Typically, I’m like, `Why am I watching this? I should’ve just stayed at work.’ John McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running mate.
Birmingham News: Would your wife, Terry, make a good political candidate?
Saban: Absolutely. First of all, she’s got tremendous people skills. She doesn’t make everybody mad like I do. She legitimately cares about issues and is willing to go try to do something about them.
Birmingham News: What would be the best office for her – vice president, mayor, governor?
Saban: She’s kinda used to being the boss. She’s the president at our house.
It has been said that behind every great man there is a great woman. The reverse is also true and modern sensibilities have allowed us to see it and embrace it more and more. I would expect Governor Sarah Palin will tell you she is all she can be because of a great husband named Todd.
Saban often says that he could not succeed without his wife Terry. When he accepted the job at Alabama I listened to Terry’s comments with more interest than Nick’s when they first appeared and the media leaked the story. I knew that she wanted back into a college town because she loved kids and family life in a smaller place. She hated South Beach, in Florida, for the same reason. Honestly, she is a Sarah Palin type of woman: comfortable in herself, cheerful, positive and a servant.
I would thus argue that Coach Saban would not even be at Alabama without Terry’s approval. (The administration would be wise to note this carefully if they plan to keep the Saban family, which I think they will.) Nick owes her everything and he says so quite often. I feel the same way about my precious wife Anita. Without her I would amount to nothing. I would have quit long ago and given in to all kinds of distractions. She is my truest friend, often my conscience, and the only person I totally trust. That is what makes a great marriage.