If you believe the pundits—especially in his first year at Alabama—Nick Saban is the devil. He works coaches into the ground. He runs them off. He makes secretaries cry when they ask about his haircut. And in general, he cares nothing about people. Probably kicks their puppy dogs when he has the chance too.
THAT’S why Lance Thompson bolted for Tennessee, right? He was tired of working for a dictator. He was tired of being denied the spotlight, tired of being constrained by Saban’s media gag for assistants. He wanted to spread his wings, do things his own way…be his own man.
No, actually we learned Monday that there’s another reason. Thanks to the gift of public records—and the Birmingham News covering it—Mrs. Thompson wanted out. Not out of Tuscaloosa. Out of their marriage. I’ve heard the speculation of who was cheating on who, and I’ll leave that to the speculators. Divorce is a nasty, dreadful thing, so I wouldn’t want to trivialize what their three kids are about to go through in this space. My prayers are with them as their parents muck up their lives for them.
But the fact is, time proved that the quick answer wasn’t the right answer. Sure the Vols are doubling his salary, but turns out he is going to need it. And anyone worried that he is going to do damage to Alabama’s 2009 class has never watched a friend go through a divorce, let alone go through one themselves. That cat won’t have time to do anything else but circle the wagons and hang on for dear life. And that’s the next 12 months, let alone the next three weeks. Truth be known, I’m not sure how productive he could have been working for Saban. Under Spurrier, working from 10-3 every day, it might work. But not under the Nicktator.
Then there’s the notion that Saban just isn’t a family man. It’s all business. Again, his coaches are robots that he disposes of when they run out of gas. But I have it from a solid source that this fiery, mean-spirited general sank about $300K in video equipment for his coaches to have in their own homes, so they could do film study when necessary after tucking their children into bed. In fact, I know of one coach who does just that—every night.
Let’s face it; when you sign up to be a coach in a conference like the SEC, there are a few givens you’re going to take on. Long hours are one of them, with periods of the year where this is more true than others. But to whom much is given, much is required…and if you’ll check the salary of assistants in this league, much is given. But it just strikes me as funny the perception Saban is given when he is simply misunderstood through the lenses and pens of the media parasites he so appropriately doesn’t trust.
Is he a deacon in his local church? No. Do I wish he’d taper off the obsenities when his little Saban head turns red from anger on the sidelines? Yes. But does he care enough about what anybody thinks to make sure the truth is heard when the public and/or media runs with a perception or initial reaction when the whole thing is bogus? No. And that’s the mark of a good leader. Because time has a way of putting the truth in everybody’s laps.