Camp Saban

Like dog years, years spent working for Nick Saban are equivalent to seven calendar years ... or at least they FEEL like seven calendar years. Most assistants get their fill in a season or two, then move on. That's why Saban's staff tends to be in a constant state of flux.

There are exceptions, of course. One is first-year Tennessee head man Derek Dooley. Counting five years at LSU (2000-2004) and two with the Miami Dolphins (2005-06), Dooley spent seven years serving under Saban ... which might be some sort of record.

Speaking with Dooley, however, you get the idea that an aide serving at Camp Saban gets a similar experience to a marine serving at Camp Pendleton: It's not going to be a whole lot of fun but it's probably going to make you a better man.

That's why Dooley is grateful for the time he spent as an aide to Saban, whose demanding, perfectionist ways earned him two national titles - 2003 at LSU and 2009 at Alabama - during the past seven years.

"I think he pushed you and drove you to reach your capacity as an assistant coach," Dooley said in a recent exclusive interview with "It was a very tough and demanding environment but he pushed you."

Saban's leadership style is a bit too demanding for many assistants. Several of them in recent years elected to make parallel moves in order to escape his icy glare and sharp tongue. Clearly, his system is not for everyone.

"The ones that couldn't keep up perished and the ones that could thrived," Dooley recalled. "I thrived in it. I really enjoyed being in his system. That's not to say I was happy all the time. I wasn't. It was tough.

"But I knew two things: One, I was going to be a better coach and, two, we were going to win. Because of that, I stayed with him for a long time."

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