WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Nick Saban might never have walked out on the Miami Dolphins to become coach at Alabama in 2007 if not for a series of events that began, oddly enough, with the remodeling of his lake home in Georgia years ago.
The home builder Saban hired was Chuck Moore, whose uncle, Mal Moore, was the Crimson Tide athletic director whose dogged pursuit eventually succeeded -- with an assist from Saban's wife, Terry.
Details of one of the infamous chapters in Dolphins history are outlined in "Saban: The Making of a Coach," an unauthorized biography of the coach by Monte Burke, senior editor at ForbesLife and staff writer at Forbes. Simon & Schuster plans to publish the book in August.
Dolphins fans hardly need reminding that as Saban's second season in Miami wound down, with the team going a disheartening 15-17 under his leadership, Saban sought to end constant speculation of his possible departure with what became famous last words: "I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." Behind the scenes, it was an entirely different story -- with Chuck Moore acting as a key intermediary as he received just enough prodding from Saban himself, Burke writes.
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"During the last few weeks of the 2006 Dolphins season, despite his very public denials, Saban had called Chuck a few times to tell him that he was possibly interested in the Alabama job, knowing full well whom Chuck would call the minute they hung up the phone," Burke writes.
Mal Moore, who died in 2013, had been under intense pressure to turn around the Tide's fortunes after firing Mike Shula, son of Don Shula. Moore's overtures to Steve Spurrier and Rich Rodriguez proved to be dead ends, so Moore zeroed in on Saban, one of the hottest names in football despite mediocrity in Miami.
The heat surrounding Moore was of a different nature -- he knew his job probably rode in the balance on this hiring, with critics calling him "Malfunction Moore" as he hopped on a flight to South Florida.
"I told the pilots when they dropped me off in Miami that if I didn't come back to this plane with Nick Saban, they should go on and take me to Cuba," Burke quotes Moore as saying.
Mal Moore had hope but no appointment to meet with Saban. In fact, for much of this period, Saban refused to take his calls. But Moore quickly hit it off with Terry Saban and was told by Jimmy Sexton, Saban's agent, that if Saban ever wanted to return to coaching college football, Alabama would be a choice destination.
As Moore and Terry Saban talked at Saban's home in Fort Lauderdale, Nick Saban met with then-Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga in Davie. There, an apparent decision was reached: Saban wasn't going anywhere. But when he called Terry and said he still had no desire to meet with Moore, it was Terry who informed her husband that she'd already invited Moore over for dinner that night.
"She made it clear to Moore that Saban was miserable in the NFL and dearly missed coaching in college," Burke writes. "She also made it clear that she wanted out."
The next day, when Huizenga checked in with Saban, the tone he heard had changed. That's when Huizenga told Saban to follow his heart, even though the owner knew Saban's heart no longer was in Miami.
The time Saban spent in South Florida fell far short of expectations created when Huizenga lured him from LSU with a splashy annual salary of nearly $5 million. Burke cites many incidents, including Saban getting angry because the wrong kind of Little Debbie cakes were stocked in his office as well as shouting matches with defensive players Keith Traylor and Zach Thomas.
Worse was the time Saban stepped over offensive lineman Jeno James, who had collapsed into convulsions and needed to be airlifted to a nearby hospital. Although it might be a stretch to say Saban lost the team over that incident, he clearly earned no points with James' teammates.
"What about natural human compassion?" former fullback Heath Evans told Burke.
Burke covers Saban's time with the Dolphins in his introduction and in a chapter entitled "Miami Vice," although the bulk of the book outlines Saban's ride to the top of college football and chronicles his time in Tuscaloosa. Burke conducted interviews including those with 250 friends, coworkers, rivals and former players.
-- Hal Habib writes for The Palm Beach Post.