Alabama Coach Nick Saban
Saban's sermon to coaches goes beyond X's and O's
Published: Friday, July 16, 2010, 4:27 AM
Mark McCarter, The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, AL -- Nick Saban was truly in his element. He was in an enormous room with hundreds of people who speak his language, who share his passion. He was with coaches. Fraternity brothers, of a sort.
One thing to remember about the Alabama coach, he's something of a football nerd. That's meant in nothing but the most positive manner.
When Saban stood in front of an overhead projector, with something like "Base Under 06 Auto Tilt Zombie 'Play It'" on the screen, he was doing what he loves best. He was coaching, bringing a preacher's passion to the moment. He was coaching the coaches. He was neck deep in a soup of X's and O's and absolutely reveling in it.
Why, he even admitted at the All-Star Sports Week coaching clinic Thursday morning if he had his druthers he'd be the defensive secondary coach at the University of Alabama.
It's just that, well, the head coaching job at the University of Alabama pays better.
It was a refreshing, different insight into Saban, to watch him in front of mesmerized coaches.
"You listen and hang on every word he says," Grissom High football coach Keith Henderson said. "He is who is he is. Those are the type of people you learn from."
There were some moments of self-effacing humor.
For instance, he recalled his cameo role in the movie "The Blind Side," in which actress Sandra Bullock famously noted on screen that she found Saban attractive.
When Bullock recently had her much publicized marital woes, Saban joked that he came home and mentioned it to wife Terry, and wondered whether Bullock might still have some interest.
"I'll be glad to call her and give her your number," Terry said.
There was the instruction on various defensive schemes, of different coverages and of strategy against the new fad, the "Wildcat" offense.
There was a much broader message, though.
Saban talked about the challenges of coaching the modern athlete, some of whom "are self-absorbed" and "don't understand the team concept," he said.
"He talked about doing everything right, and everything else will fall into place," Henderson said. "X's and O's are secondary. You can be the smartest coach in the world, but if you don't teach kids accountability and how to be good young people, X's and O's don't matter."
Saban's appearance drew many non-football coaches into the room.
Andy Blackston, who has led Madison Academy to a pair of state basketball titles, was scribbling Saban quotes on notebook paper.
"At the end of the day you're dealing with people, right. Whether you're in business, whether you coach basketball, football, baseball, it doesn't matter," Blackston said. "It's the guys that have the ability to get the most out of people that are successful. How do I get the most out off what I've been given? Ultimately, that's what coaching is all about."
"There's a technical part of it," Saban said, "but the whole personal development side of it, the character side, the competitive side, the character and attitude to develop the right habits to be a good competitor is the same in all sports."
Saban relishes the grand chess game of football. He gets nerdy over game films. He loves strategic nuance.
But that's not Saban's coaching-clinic sermon.
Simply put, it is this:
"Base Under 06 Auto Tilt Zombie 'Play It'" wins in-game matchups.
The people who play it, empowered with the right attitude and discipline, win championships.
Contact Mark McCarter at email@example.com
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