Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Nick Saban: Finder of lost coaching souls

TUSCALOOSA, ALA. – If you are a college coach who has gone astray, one whose obvious talents have been sabotaged by any item or two on the long menu of human failings, this is the place to land.

It will not be a soft landing, because as a boss, Nick Saban has to be all flint and hardpan, less yielding than the bed of a coal car. Tough love – or just plain tough – is the presumptive operating rule around the Alabama coaching office.

But it will be a place where certainly you can mend a broken reputation and make yourself hirable once more. After all, what trouble could you possibly find in this college town with the 18 minutes or so a day of free time you are allowed under Saban? It’s all about the football and the flattering light of the annual championship chase. If you can’t turn it around at Alabama, just go ahead and get your real estate license and be done with it.

If Charlie Sheen coached, Nick Saban could fix him.

After all, he took in the toxically glib Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator, and cleaned him up enough to get a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.

And Friday evening, word came out that Steve Sarkisian – who like Kiffin was fired at mid-season by Southern Cal (for different reasons) – would be Kiffin’s replacement once 'Bama's playoff run is done.

Saban had brought Sarkisian aboard this season as something called an “offensive analyst,” one of many non-coaching support positions that have bloomed on this staff. Let go by USC in 2015 amid erratic behavior traced to alcoholism, Sarkisian was making $35,000 as an Alabama analyst in an effort to make himself useful again as a coach. He came to the right place, where the man in charge believes in hiring from within.

“(Sarkisian) has got a great track record, he’s done a really, really good job wherever he’s been. He has a history of developing quarterbacks as well as being a very good play-caller, a well-organized good designer of offense,” Saban said Friday.

Nick Saban, as you may have heard, runs a darn successful college football program.

And one wing here seems to be devoted to a burgeoning coaching rehab program, a department of second chances where a fellow can prove himself fit for a new assignment if only he'll work for it.

“This guy’s a part of our family now, we’re going to support and help him be successful every way we can, that’s in his life as well as a coach,” Saban said.

“We want to be supportive. A lot of us have had issues somewhere in our life or in our family and we want to be very supportive and he has been very diligent about what he's trying to do the right things in term of his life. We’re going to continue to support him and help him. He wants to do it and we want to help him do it.”

All very good and very human coming from a head coach who doesn’t often show that side.

Still, there is one very pragmatic demand placed upon those who enter this program under Saban. He better perform.

“I wouldn’t have anybody in this organization that I didn’t have total faith, trust and confidence in that they would do a good job with our players,” Saban said.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.