Kines can't wait

It's been three long months since Alabama finished the 2002 season with a 21-16 win over Hawaii, and Crimson Tide supporters are understandably anxious for spring practice to begin. But even the most rabid Bama fan has nothing on Joe Kines. <br><br>"I cannot tell you how excited I am to be back," the Tide's new Defensive Coordinator said Thursday. "My vocabulary is simply not that good.

"I am thrilled to death to be back and to have a chance to work with Coach Mike Price and this new staff. It's like a new beginning."

Fans recall that Kines coached once before at The Capstone, serving Ray Perkins as Defensive Coordinator in 1985 and 1986. But probably few fathom how deeply his Crimson roots run. "I grew up in Piedmont, Alabama sitting on the back porch listening to Coach Bryant and Crimson Tide football," Kines said. "I've coached at some great schools, but my father has always been an Alabama fan. It didn't matter where I was working, if Alabama was playing he was pulling for them."

Kines makes his point with Bama's defensive players after conditioning drills earlier this winter.

After entering college coaching at his alma mater, Jacksonville State, Kines has worked at some of the premier football programs in the South. His coaching resume' includes stops at Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Arkansas, Georgia and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Tide has never been far from Kines' heart. "In every job I've ever had God's been great to me," he said. "I've been fortunate to be at some good places. It isn't like I've moved around in the bush leagues. I've really been at some good schools.

"But the place I loved the most was right here in Tuscaloosa."

As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." But Kines and his wife Rubye had an even stronger reason to return to Tuscaloosa. He explained, "Now I've got two little grandsons living right across the street."

When Ray Perkins left Alabama for the NFL in 1987, Kines and his wife also made the move to Tampa Bay. "When we left here my whole family was sad," Kines recalled. "We left to go to the NFL, and I wouldn't take anything for that experience. As far as learning football, that's the ultimate."

At the time job security and the necessity of providing for his family made Kines' decision basically a "no brainer." But daughter Susan, then a student at The University and a Bama Belle, put her foot down. Kines told the story. "When we went to Tampa Bay, we said ‘Susan, you can transfer.' She said, ‘Daddy, I'm getting off the boat. I've found what I want.' She stayed and married a young man that graduated from Alabama. They're going to be lifers here."

Together, a daughter and son-in-law (Keith Langston) constitute a powerful draw. But it's Matthew (age 7) and Joshua (one month) that own their grandfather's heart. "Before, we traveled back and forth to see those grand kids," Kines explained. "Then all of a sudden we've got a chance to move back.

"The other day at lunch I ran over to see Matthew play a basketball game. The score at the half was 1-0. But that's okay."

Coach Kines was all smiles when he and the rest of the new Tide staff were introduced to the crowd at halftime of a recent basketball game.

Kines laughed recalling the "high-scoring" game, but the truth is he would have jumped at a second chance to coach at Alabama even if his daughter's family lived elsewhere.

"There has always been something about Alabama to me," Kines revealed. "I grew up with Coach Bryant and Coach Ken Donahue (long-time Tide defensive coordinator in the 60s, 70s and early 80s) and those guys. That's what football was about in those days. Just to get to be a part of it…

"When I walk down the halls here it makes my heart beat fast. That may sound a little hokey, but there has always been a great love for this school in my heart."

Tide fans that appreciate passion and commitment in their football coaches will love Joe Kines. But right now, all he's thinking about is next Monday and the start of spring practice.

"It's a brand new beginning," Kines said. "Our hearts are beating fast, and our blood is running hot. That's a good sign. We're very excited about getting started.

"Until now we haven't been able to do anything football-wise. That's the reason we're sitting here pumping, because Monday we can get out of that weight room and get out there on the practice field."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check back next Monday for part two of our interview with Coach Kines, dealing specifically with spring practice and the challenges he and his fellow defensive coaches will face in installing a new system.

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