Other Thoughts From Nick Saban

Everything that can be said, it would seem, is said by Southeastern Conference coaches when they are on the podium in what is known as the "Main Room" – the room where print reporters meet the coaches – at SEC Media Days. Not so fast, ink-stained wretch.



For instance, Alabama Coach Nick Saban did not reveal the dates that Crimson Tide football players will officially report and when practice will begin. That's partly because all players (except incoming freshman Robert Foster, who must still pass an on-line course to be eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse) are already on campus, working out with strength and conditioning coaches and on their own in special drills.

Tide players, who have been picked to win the SEC Championship, will officially report August 1 and begin practice August 2. Saban will have another duty – a very pleasant one – on August 1 when he hosts the annual Nick's Kids luncheon as the charity named for his father continues to do great works in the state.

Saban and his coaches have spent much of the summer conducting football camps, which works into the recruiting process. But he also had some vacation time.

Sort of.

Asked if he is "obsessive, and do you have to be?" the coach wanted a specific. "When you are on vacation, do you turn off the phone?' the reporter said.

"Not much," Saban said.

The coach explained that he is constantly thinking about "the process."

He said, "I don't think you can be a coach and not accept the fact that it's a way of life. You can only minimize when you go on vacation…only minimize the obligation and responsibility you have, but you can't leave it.

"They call me in the morning and I know exactly what's happening. If we have an academic meeting, I know what's happening. They call me every morning and I know what recruits are going to call in that day and I'm going to talk to them. Maybe 90 percent of the day I can do what I want to do, but I'm going to do what I have to do that 10 percent of the day to keep things going in the right direction."

Saban also revealed that going on vacation doesn't mean staying on vacation. "I always come back," he said. "I'll go (on vacation), then come back for a couple of days, then go back (on vacation), and then come back for a couple of days. I don't want to be gone too long."

Saban also discussed his policy of giving the players only a day or two after the final game, and then beginning to think about the next season. And he said he doesn't give himself even that much time.

Perhaps because he's worried about complacency. "That's the challenge," he said. "Complacency is always an issue when you have success. I think it's part of the human condition. It's something we have to always fight to overcome. You always have to re-invent your team and you're always tyrying to build team chemistry, and even in this year I've watched this team progress from maybe that being a bit of an issue in the off-season program and a bit of an issue in spring practice and we had kind of a sloppy spring game to where I see I see a lot more maturity in the way they go about their work in the summer. So it's evolving and it has been in a positive way in these last six months."

Saban often talks about his organization, and a reporter noted that most teams talk in terms of a "program." Has Saban built Alabama in the model of a pro organization?

Saban said, "I think a lot of the things I learned in pro ball maybe enhanced the organization we have in college by using some of those things to benefit the players, and our ability to organizationally help the players. I think it's probably a cumulative effect of both college and pro and fitting it together, but I do think the experience I have in pro ball has been very helpful in improving the program -- the organization -- that we have."

Saban discussed the extreme measures Alabama takes to educate players about things other than football – being responsible citizens, good students, etc. He said he doesn't "quantify it, whether it is more or less." Rather, he said, it is everything he can think of.

Even so, he said, "We don't bat 1.000." Sometimes players have to go, but he doesn't get rid of a player until the leadership group of players agrees.

The coach said he talks to his players "about being a blinking light. You look at a Christmas tree and all the lights are on, it's beautiful. But if one light's going like this (flicking his fingers), your attention is going to be just on that light.

"Nobody should be a blinking light."

Does this team have a blinking light?

"You always have them," Saban said. "If you ask the players, they'd probably say I'm the blinking light."

Alabama will be playing for an unprecedented third consecutive national championship this year, but he said he never thinks about it that way.

"I think the most important thing for me to do is to get our staff, the people in our organization, our players to be as good as this team can be. Can we get them to make a commitment to a standard that is going to let them play at a high level on a consistent basis that they are capable of. And if we do that maybe we'll give ourselves a chance, and I think that's the goal. That's what I think about, that's what we focus on, that's hat we try to get accomplished with the players.

"You have to try to think about and focus on the things you can affect."

He said he is concerned about leadership and team chemistry every year. This year, he said he thinks about "how the players who are not as experienced continue to develop, how they accept the roles they have, how efficient and effective they can be in taking advantage of the opportunities they have.

"And then you want the players who are supposed to be the best players to be the best players. It's always important that your best players play good."

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