Alabama head coach Nick Saban has become a go-to guy for all topics college football. When people talk Saban, the questions often go well past simple X’s and O’s. After winning five national titles in his career, it’s safe to say the head coach knows what he’s doing.
When asked if he realized his impact on the game during his weekly radio show Thursday night, Saban was taken back, saying he never thought of it that way. The head coach took some time to reflect on his philosophy on the sidelines.
“We just think of things in a little different way,” Saban said. “Look, I’m coaching a team for 60 minutes in a game, and I believe that you should do what you should do in the last two minutes of the game if you're ahead 35 points or if you're ahead five points. That’s what you should be doing in a game because that’s what’s preparing your team to do it when the time comes later on.”
Saban credits his several mentors for his success as a coach including his high school coach Earl Keener, his college coach Don James and current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. However, the first person to shape Saban’s character was his father during Pop Warner football growing up.
“It started in Pop Warner football in West Virginia, I played for him,” Saban said. “He coached American Legion baseball, and I played for him. He was a very demanding coach. He didn’t ask you to do anything that wasn’t in your best interest to do it the right way. He didn’t accept much less than your best.”
Getting ready for the Rebels
In Alabama’s last two losses to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide has given up the ball seven times while only forcing one turnover itself. Saban said the team is constantly working to get better at turnovers in practice and implemented a drill it picked up from the Patriots a few years ago.
“We have about seven or eight drills that we do that are all very realistic that you can actually put game tape on and see it happening in the game,” Saban said. “We do ‘stumble fumble,’ which means one guy is carrying the ball and he’s got to put his hand down to touch the ground, which is usually when a ball carrier will lift his elbow to keep the balance a little bit. Well, that’s when you can punch the ball out or you can pull the nose of the ball to get the ball to flip out.
Saban says his offensive players will compete against his defensive players, and the defender who gets the most “ball disruptions” earns a belt.
Saban was brought back to his childhood days serval times during the show, with one caller even asking him what his favorite meal was growing up.
“My favorite meal growing up as a kid was just having a hamburger or a hot dog, either one, and baked beans,” Saban said. “Now, Terry (Saban’s wife) can make the best baked beans you’ve ever had in your life... she puts hamburger and all kind of stuff, I can’t tell you.”
While a basic burger and beans might have been the coach’s favorite, the Saban’s did have another tradition when he was growing up.
“Grandma Saban made soup every Sunday, and you had to be there at 12 o’clock for grandma’s soup,” Saban said. “Now, since grandma passed away, nobody can make that soup. There were homemade noodles, everything was homemade about this. She looked in the pot, and just about everything in the kitchen was in the pot.”
Later, after being praised for his charity work, Saban said he didn’t have the same things today’s kids have when he was growing up.
“When I grew up, we had to play kick the can and hot beans and butter,” Saban said. “Not many know what that was.”
For those wondering, “hot beans and butter” is a game where one person hides a belt and asks a group of people to find it. The person who hid it then gives clues as to how hot or cold the group is to finding it. After a person finds the belt, the finder yells “hot beans and butter” in which everyone runs to base before being whipped with the belt.”
That might explain some of those heated exchanges with offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin on the sideline.
Tony Tsoukalas writes for the Anniston Star. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org