Nick Saban ~ College Football’s Best Coach. PERIOD!

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Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:21 pm

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit explains who Nick Saban is away from football, how he's evolved

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Kirk Herbstreit (right) gets a laugh out of Lee Corso (Big Al) on the ESPN College GameDay set in College Station, Texas last September. (Vasha Hunt/vhunt@al.com)

Michael Casagrande | mcasagrande@al.com
on August 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

"He's a very deep thinker when it comes to things outside of just football — when it comes to life."

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Nick Saban and Kirk Herbstreit go way back.

The veteran ESPN analyst was a quarterback in the early 1990s when Saban was the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. A decade before that, he was a young coach in Columbus.

"The fact that he was an assistant coach at Ohio State, I think he always, for whatever reason, befriended me," Herbstreit said in an interview with AL.com, "even when he was at Michigan State."

They remained friends over the years as Herbstreit's fame grew on ESPN's College GameDay and Saban won a few national titles. The two talk mostly about football, but Herbstreit said he gets to see the side of Saban that's rarely spotlighted.

"I've just always had a very candid, real relationship with him," Herbstreit said. "Gosh, it's been a long time now. He and I talk about other stuff besides football and a lot time in any relationship, that's where you can draw closer to a person."

So what's Saban like?

"He's has a great personality," Herbstreit said. "He's a very deep thinker when it comes to things outside of just football — when it comes to life. I talk to him about things like the challenges of being a dad and being on the road and being away from my kids."

Herbstreit also helps Saban with his occasional broadcasting cameos that he's done in recent years.

In terms of the football, Herbstreit said the Xs and Os haven't changed with Saban over the years. But there's certainly been an evolution to his approach to the bigger picture. He sees Saban trusting his staff more these days.

"I think he appreciates, the way we all do, today's generation of kids I think he's had to adjust to bringing in almost life coaches where people come in and talk about the mind," Herbstreit said.

The culture has changed quite a bit since his playing days.

"I think in the 70s and 80s and 90s, it was like 'You have a problem kid? Get in there and lift some weights. You'll be fine,'" Herbstreit said. "And now I think he's proactive with the mindset of his football team. I think that's the biggest area that I've seen him change."

Herbstreit also watched Saban deal with the success. He had winning programs at Michigan State and got his first title at LSU, but the three championships in four years at Alabama creates a whole different beast.

"I think people do not understand how taxing and how difficult it is to maintain 12 or 13 or 14 wins a year or be on the verge of getting it," Herbstreit said. "Once you win it like they did in '09, it's just something that happens to you innately where it's easy to lose your edge, it's easy to lose your fastball."

Herbstreit saw a few slip ups, the way Alabama closed last season for instance.

"But, for the most part, his teams are very, very consistent in their mindset and mental approach.," he said. "That's not by accident."
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:48 pm

Here are a couple of observations from someone who has followed Nick Saban and read his book, multiple times.

#1 Being a Div 1 college football coach is very difficult, especially today with the money tied up in programs, donations, TV, etc. The drive and need to win is non-stop and then you add the element of an SEC team and moreover, the legacy of an Alabama and pressure of that, well...it can be nothing but stressful. Then on top of that, once you produce for a Texas or Alabama or USC or Notre Dame, then the pressure is only ratcheted up several notches.

#2 I think there is probably a lot of jealousy among coaches, not dissimilar to other relationships out there. There are a bunch of people probably jealous of Nick Saban's success.

#3 Tell me what you would feel like if you had to face the same questions, many of them stupid questions from the same media and outlets/writers. That has to be tiring, answering the same things over and over again.

#4 He is a very driven person and you know this when reading his history. Most people are not driven period and much less to the degree he is driven. People don't, can't or won't understand that and thus, they read into him things that perhaps are not so.

I respect Nick Saban and have said that it is virtually impossible to out coach him. Virtually is the key word.

If more people had some of his qualities this country would be the better for it.

I think if a tragedy happened in Auburn the way it did in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban would be the first one on the first bus (with his team) to go to Auburn to help.
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:11 pm

Read an excerpt from Lars Anderson's new book 'The Storm and the Tide'

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Lars Anderson's "The Storm and the Tide" re-creates the April 27, 2011, tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa and details how it impacted the lives of those who survived the storm.

By AL.com
on August 19, 2014 at 8:25 AM

The following is an excerpt from Lars Anderson's new book The Storm and the Tide, available in bookstores and online today. The book chronicles the catastrophic storm in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2011 and how the University of Alabama football team became a rallying point for the devastated town as it worked to recover. Read Bob Carlton's interview with Anderson about the book here.


It was just after daybreak on April 28, the Day After. Nick Saban had spent the dark early hours in his home with his daughter and her sorority sisters, who were desperately trying to contact Ashley Harrison. At first light Saban drove to the football offices to meet with Thad Turnipseed, director of external affairs. Standing in his office at 7:00, he told Turnipseed, "We've got to do something. I'm going to change clothes and get a chain saw, and then we're going out there to do whatever we can."

The two men filled the back of Turnipseed's white pickup truck with 20 cases of Gatorade and bottled water that had been left over from the spring game. With Saban riding shotgun, Turnipseed first drove to the Ferguson Center, located in the center of campus and the hub of student activity. More than 300 students had gathered outside the brick building, scared, confused, wondering what to do. Upon seeing their anxious faces, Saban stepped out of the truck and climbed to the top of a small brick wall. The students fell silent, stunned by the sudden appearance of their famous--and beloved--coach.

"Your time will come," Saban began, "when you will be able to help and volunteer. We're going to need everybody's effort for a long time to get our city back on its feet. Life is all about challenges, and now we're facing a really big one. But working together, we will get through this. Remember, we have to do this together as one team."

Turnipseed and Saban continued to drive through the wasteland. Nearing 15th and McFarland, the truck rolled close to the home of Saban's son. He could see now, in the daylight, that it remained intact; just one short block away, however, every structure on the street had been obliterated. Saban didn't utter a word as he gazed down the street at Nicholas's still-standing house and had the chilling realization that death had blown past here, just around the corner from his son. It was then--on this soft, blue-sky morning--that Saban fully comprehended the terrible capriciousness of the Tuscaloosa tornado.

Saban was now more than a football coach. He was the person in this town who others looked to for assurance. He was the one these people wanted to tell their story to. His wife said that the hours and days after the tornado were the first time in his professional life that he stopped thinking about football.

Yes, Nick Saban, suddenly, was a changed man--all of his friends would later attest to that.

Saban stood in front of his team in the large Alabama recruiting room at Bryant-Denny, the only space with electricity where the coaches and players could meet. It was two days after the storm and the first time the team had been together since the tornado. As the players ate a catered meal, Saban's voice was emphatic: "I know you all have seen a lot of things in the last few days, and if you have any issues, come see us. I've found through the years that professional help can get you through major things. But we've also got a community to support. We can't just be a team for them on Saturdays. The fans are with us in the best times, and we have to be with them in the worst of times. Just by your presence and being with them, you can help people."

After the team meeting, Saban went to the hospital, DCH, to visit Carson Tinker. Lying in his bed, Tinker could only remember being in the closet with Ashley in the terrifying moments before the tornado hit. Everything after was a blur. But he knew the worst, and he was unbearably sad.

Saban tried to comfort his player. Sitting at Tinker's bedside,
he had no magic words--they simply didn't exist--but he emphasized
to Tinker that he wasn't alone. "You have to have gratitude for being alive," the coach said, gathering Tinker's hand in his. "We are here for you, all of us, everyone on the team and the entire university." More than 50 of Tinker's teammates and coaches would visit him at the hospital.

Barrett Jones was out on the streets of Tuscaloosa at the first blush of sunlight, some 36 hours after the tornado had struck. He was riding shotgun in a souped-up golf cart known as a Gator, with a chain saw lying across his big thighs. Joined by his younger brother Harrison, they drove block to block; wherever they found a downed tree that had barricaded a street or cleaved a house, the 6' 5", 305-pound Barrett would yank the chain saw to life and go to work, slicing the trunks and branches into movable pieces. As the Jones brothers moved through the destruction, a steady flow of ambulances rolled by them, carrying the dead away.

Jones soon organized a group of football players to take chain saws around town and cut trees. For three straight 12-hour days Jones and his teammates were fixtures in the hardest-hit areas, attacking the downed trees like a pack of Paul Bunyans. Jones cut and cut and cut some more, until he could barely lift his arms. "It was not the textbook, safest thing to do with the chain saws, but we really felt like we had to do something meaningful to help," Jones said a few days later. "Alabama football is just so big here. Next season we're not going to play for ourselves, I promise you; we're going to play for Tuscaloosa. That will be the biggest motivation we've ever had, to do something special on the field for this town." Saban's mandate had become a mantra.
---
The Storm and the Tide is available now in stores and online. Read more of Lars Anderson's work on AL.com this season as he joins the Alabama Media Group team as a Special Contributor covering Alabama and Auburn football and more.
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:20 pm

April 27 tornado 'softened' Nick Saban, ensured 'he would never leave,' author Lars Anderson says

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Following the April 27, 2011, tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama football coach Nick Saban speaks with Teddy Rowe and his daughter Helen Sims at the site of Rowe's home in the Holt community. Nick and Terry Saban pledged $50,000 to Proeject Team Up to help rebuild Teddy and Rosie Rowe's home, which was destroyed in the storm. (AP Photo/Dusty Compton)

Bob Carlton | bcarlton@al.com

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The April 27, 2011, tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa had an immediate and lasting impact on Alabama coach Nick Saban, creating a bond with the community that ensured he would finish his coaching career with the Crimson Tide, the author of the new book "The Storm and The Tide" says.

"I thought that he would never leave Tuscaloosa because of the storm and because of how it knitted him and (his wife) Terry into the community," Lars Anderson, whose book comes out Tuesday, said in an interview with AL.com. "If not for the storm, he may have left already. But he's going to retire there. . .

"For the first time in his career, it made him feel like he's a member of a community," Anderson added. "He's been sort of a mercenary coach throughout his career, jumping around from job to job, always in search of something better. And he finally realized everything he wants is right here."

Anderson, who lives in Cahaba Heights and is a journalism professor at UA, will sign copies of "The Storm and the Tide" at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Books-A-Million in Brookwood Village in Homewood.

In the weeks following the storm, Anderson wrote an eight-page cover story for Sports Illustrated, "Terror, Tragedy and Hope in Tuscaloosa," that became the genesis for his book, which chronicles what it was like for those who were in the tornado's path, how they grieved the loss of loved ones, and how they began to rebuild the city.

The first time Saban was able to gather his players together after the storm, Anderson writes in the book, he told them they had to support the community that had always supported them.

"In many ways," Anderson writes, "the effort was much like Saban's coaching philosophy: Tackle one task at a time -- remove a tree, console a broken survivor, bring food to a victim -- and then take one step forward and confront the next job. And the next. And the next."

The tornado, Anderson said in his interview with AL.com, brought out a compassionate side in Saban that few people get to see.

"I think it softened his harder edges," Anderson said. "Immediately after the storm, he started talking with increasing eloquence about the importance of relationships, of being of service to others, and in a 48-hour period after the storm, I would venture to guess that he hugged more people than anyone ever has in the history of this state.

"He is a guy who is usually achingly ill-at-ease in small groups, really bad. So this forced him out of his comfort zone. And Terry Saban has said several times that in the wake of the storm was the first time he quit thinking about football since he started playing when he was 11 years old. . . .

"Also, it expanded his circle of friends from five to 10," Anderson added. "It doesn't sound like a lot, but he let more people into his life. And it made him realize the power that he wields in this state and really just how he can comfort people in a way that no one else can, as the head coach at Alabama."
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:35 pm

11 more days to kick-off

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Can I get a ROLL TIDE?
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:38 pm

I'll give ya a BIIIIIIIG.....WAR EAGLE and GIG'EM AGGIES!!!!

I will be rooting for the Tide when they do not play these two games.
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:07 pm

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Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:11 pm

Ya know....two of the several games Bama has lost in the past 72 games!!!! :o :o :o :shock: :shock: :shock: :wink: :wink: :wink:
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Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:16 pm

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Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:36 pm

Not dishing Saban. Look at the quote receiving in my email today. From Thought of the Day email service.

“Individual commitment to a group effort that is what makes a team work, a company work,
a society work, a civilization work.”

~ Vince Lombardi

Vincent Thomas Lombardi (June 11, 1913-September 3, 1970) is considered by many to be the greatest football coach of all time. His ability to teach, motivate and inspire players helped turn the Green Bay Packers into the most dominating NFL team in the 1960s. Source
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Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:43 am

GREATEST TWO FOOTBALL COACHES OF ALL TIME. PERIOD!

Bear Byant ~ University of Alabama
Nick Saban ~ University of Alabama
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Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:46 am

Nick Saban, Tide football team accept ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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Alabama coach Nick Saban has had his fair share of Gatorade baths since coming to Tuscaloosa, but none have been as cold as the one he experienced Tuesday following the Crimson Tide's afternoon practice.

Saban and the entire Alabama football team accepted a challenge from The Band Perry and took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge is to raise awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

"It was really good that our team had enough interest to want to do that, to raise awareness for ALS," Saban said. "I'm sure most of you have seen the ESPN deal, and I'm really excited that so many people have taken such an interest in this. It's raised quite a bit of money and awareness to maybe affect this disease that has affected a lot of people, including our Kevin Turner, who was a great player here and a great player in the NFL."

Saban said he challenged West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, former Alabama star Mark Ingram, radio personality Paul Finebaum and Florida head coach Will Muschamp to take the challenge.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 19, The ALS Association has raised $22.9 million in donations.
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