Conversation with Fran: A no-surprises coach

Every successful leader has a unique personality. So during his more than 25 years as a coach, it's natural that Dennis Franchione has developed his own distinctive organizational style. <br><br>And surprises are definitely not part of the mix.

Describing himself as "detail-oriented," Bama's Head Coach believes in leaving no stone unturned. "I tell our coaches, ‘I don't like surprises. So don't surprise me."

Colleagues relate that Franchione can be almost compulsive in his attention to detail, but he sees it as a simple matter of being prepared. "I probably spend 90 percent of my time preparing for 10 percent of the things that actually happen," he said. "But we're prepared. You don't just have something happen and then say ‘Now, what do we do?'

Taking his first college head coaching job in 1981, Franchione brings years of experience to the task of leading the Tide. (AllSport)

"If there is one thing I try to do, it's be visionary and explore all the potential problems that might occur."

As Franchione told his players before the season, each year will inevitably bring with it several crises. And a team's character isn't judged by whether or not problems occur--but rather in how they collectively respond.

Successful crisis management requires not only a calm head but also the ability to anticipate problems. And Franchione always wants to be the man with the plan. "If you've done your work, then you're prepared for those things," he explained. "If you're visionary, you plan for everything."

Franchione doesn't discount the possibility that during a given year his team could lead a charmed life, somehow avoiding major injuries and other problems. But hard experience has taught him the value of planning for the worst.

He explained; "I've had people tell me that ‘You're not positive.' I think I'm positive, but I've got to see both sides. I've got to be prepared to react if we're behind by 30 (points) or ahead by 30. You can't just be positive. That's not what the real world is.

"I'm an optimistic, positive guy, but I know that things aren't always going to be that way."

Of course for a head coach, being "prepared to react" doesn't just involve developing a list of likely plays for various situations in a football game. Injuries, discipline and academics are also issues that must be dealt with.

Franchione signs a young fan's hat after practice at last December's Independence Bowl. (Associated Press)

For example academic problems forced several Tide players to miss the Independence Bowl. But Franchione was prepared. "Don't walk in on December first and tell me (a player) is in grade trouble," he said. "I don't like that. If I know in advance, then I can make a plan for those things, should they occur."

Obviously knowing about a problem before it happens can be crucial to a head coach. But not every staff enjoys that requisite level of trust. When an assistant coach fears the consequences of delivering a particular message, communication can break down.

That's one reason Franchione has worked so hard to assemble a cohesive staff. He explained; "If you don't tell me about something, then I have to react. But if I know, then we can make a plan. We can work accordingly. We can get somebody else ready. We can recruit differently. If I know, then I can try to cut those things off.

"The difficulties are the surprises."

EDITOR'S NOTE: will continue it's series of 'Conversations with Fran.' Future topics include Player Accountability and Just who is in Charge?

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