Compliment Back: Saban To Calipari

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is considered to be somewhat focused, and on a day when his Crimson Tide had its first football scrimmage of the spring, it was a bit of a surprise that Saban acknowledged NCAA basketball has reached the Final Four.

Following the Alabama scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban went to the media room to discuss football developments. "Not many folks here today," he said. He made the conjecture that it was because "there's a big basketball game going on."

And he lavished reporters with praise. "You guys are really committed," he said. "I've got to take Miss Terry out to eat tonight, and I can't watch the game either."

A few weeks ago, Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari talked about how he uses Alabama football as a model for his team insofar as toughness and intensity are concerned. He was particularly impressed that Bama could perform at such a high level in the BCS National Championship Game just under three months ago at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Saban was asked if it is a mutal admiration society.

He proceded slowly for what he would explain is a good reason, but he was quite complimentary of the Wildcats and Calipari as Kentucky was preparing to meet Louisville and Coach Rick Pitino in the semifinals of the Final Four at that same Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Saban said, "I like their team. I really do. If I had to pick a team and I had to be a basketball coach, that's the team I'd pick from all the ones I've seen. I think he does a great job. The biggest thing that impresses me about their team, which is what we always try to get on our team, is for as talented as they are, they play hard and compete -- and that is challenging.

"When you have high-profile guys who have high expectations for what they want to do, they play well together as a team. And they'e pretty resilient and very competitive all the time.

"Not that they don't make mistakes, but I think they play hard, and that's really what I respect about the whole thing.

And you've got to give John Calipari a lot of credit for that. He's had a tremendous amount of success.

There was, however, a "but."

Saban said, "But I'm a big Pitino fan, too, so I don't want to act like I'm choosing sides. We were young upstarts -- I don't know how old he is, but I was about 25 years old when I coached at Syracuse -- and he was there coaching at the same time with (Jim) Boeheim. I don't know him that well, but I've always followed him, read his books, and have had a tremendous amount of respect for him, too."

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