Kines said he hadn't had much time to sit down and reflect on the events of the past month since Mike Shula was fired, but it was clear that he had been thinking a lot about the University of Alabama football programs means to himself. On the final question of the press conference, Kines launched into an eloquent monologue about the program when asked if a win Thursday would be a mark of survival.
"I've heard this statement several times this last month, that at Alabama the expectations are too high," Kines said. "That's not true. These guys came to Alabama to win a national championship. They walk out there every day expecting to play with the very best. It's a way of life at Alabama. It's one of those schools where that's a fact. They come there for that reason, to do that."
Kines said he came to Alabama for an opportunity to win a national championship.
"I came back for that reason," he said. "If you're going to get up every morning and go to work, why not get up every morning wanting to be the very best? Why go to work to be average? The world's full of average folks. It takes a group of guys who are willing to go a little further, work a little harder, do a little more."
"I'll tell you what's going to happen to these guys," Kines said of the players he will lead into their final game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. "One day, about 25 years from now, when they go home and their wife's sick, their two kids are screaming, and something bad has happened, they're not going to buckle. They're not going to buckle. They've been through this stuff a bunch of times. That's an old corny thing, but that's as true as it gets. That's the reason 105,000 show up to watch the game. It's the greatest thing going. We're not going to try to be average, not just tomorrow but today.
"The tradition at Alabama is a tradition of excellence. Excellence. I don't think you can separate any one game out. Obviously it's an important game. You don't play non-important games."
Kines feels he and his staff have already effectively seen the squad through yet another period of transition.
"What we tried to do is put Alabama in a position where it can move forward when they get back to Tuscaloosa," he said. "We helped this team for next year. We just had us a little spring practice. The NCAA has watered spring practice down so much, it's worse than my wife's tea, almost not worth having. If we had to quit today we feel like Alabama is in good shape."
Kines credited the coaching staff, which has remained in tact even with an uncertain future, with the exception of defensive tackles coach Buddy Wyatt, who has already accepted and begun a job at Nebraska (and will have another shot to beat Auburn in the Cotton Bowl next week.)
"There is no way to explain the gratitude toward this staff," Kines said. "They don't know where their kids are going to school next year, yet they come to work every day and coach like we are going to play for a national championship, and go on the road and tell these kids about Alabama and what kind of place it is.
"You ever try to explain to little kids, ‘How is Santa Claus going to find the hotel?' My hat's off to those guys. They have done a fine job."
"You asked about the offensive package, but it really wasn't that," Darby said. "I think I was more excited about the intensity we had in practicing for a bowl game. I just love it because Coach Kines came over and brought an intensity on that side of the ball that we needed.
"Five years ago the only thing I thought about was coming here and starting as a freshman," he said. "I wouldn't take nothing back or replace anything because it helped us grow up as men."
Castille said Kines brought a difference to the offense, too. When asked about the worst part of the whole thing, he talked about instability and used an example Alabama's three different strength and conditioning coaches over the past four years: Ben Pollard, Kent Johnston and Rocky Colburn.
"Different guys have different philosophies," he said. "If you are under one guy for a year, a different guy another year and a different one another year, when you're not in that same program for four years, mentally and physically, you don't know how to grow."