Inside Nick Saban and the Process

T here are many myths that have grown up around Alabama football coach Nick Saban and the Process. He is a micromanager. He demands too much work of his assistants. He works harder than everyone else. While there are elements of truth in many of the things said about Nick Saban, he and his process are not the caricature as often portrayed. Providing some important details about Nick Saban and how he operates the Alabama program is Colorado State Coach Jim McElwain. McElwain answered some interesting questions from Colin Cowherd. You should listen to the audio, but here are a few gems that will no doubt help fans better understand The Process (and see why you should listen to Colin Cowherd in Birmingham over the local alternatives.)

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is known for the Process. Coach Jim McElwain puts this into perspective.

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is known for the Process. Coach Jim McElwain puts this into perspective.

Inside Nick Saban and the Process

Q from Colin Cowherd: Does Nick really work harder, or does he work smarter than the other guys?

A from Jim McElwain: “I think that is really the misconception. The one thing that he does because of the attention to detail and how he sets his calendar, there is no wasted time.

“What I loved in working for Nick Saban was that all he did was ask you to work hard, be detailed and be complete in what you do. The last time I checked, that is really what all of us should do in life.”

McElwain went on to describe the work as not a “grinding” or there “until 2:30 in the morning” type situations. But the efficiency of the work was stressed.

Colin Cowherd’s next question provided some important insights into Saban’s quality control over subordinates. Colin asked, “Was Nick Saban a micromanager?”

A: “Another misconception there. He has a vision. He has a plan. And yet, I think the thing that keeps him consistent and ahead of the curve and not just football wise, but everything within the organization is that there is a follow-up as far as what can we do better? What is new out there? What can we do to move things forward whether it is offense, defense, special teams, recruiting, academics, training room, it doesn’t matter. …

McElwain goes on to explain how Saban’s management style influences the organization.
“What he does is set the vision and gets great people around him and lets them be creative,” McElwain said on the Cowherd show. “He really has set the standard.”

Cowherd asked about Saban’s recruiting success. This provided a glimpse into Saban’s recruiting system. Previously, we wrote about how Nick Saban handles personnel evaluations, so check that out if you want a bit more detail from Saban. However, the information McElwain delivers provides additional context.

McElwain said Saban attempts to create a set of criteria that “tries to take the subjectivity out of it.”

“Before a guy ever gets an offer, and it absolutely means nothing how many stars they have, because his deal is that make sure you recruit to the position. He has a specific set of guidelines that helps you be efficient and a good player at that position and help eliminate the critical flaws. …

“In recruiting you are going to miss on some. The key is, not to miss on too many.

“He has the final say. He evaluates every single one of them, as does a position coach, a coordinator, a staff then he looks at it, and then it will go back to the staff and then it will come back to him. So, one one particular player, there may be a total of seven to nine evaluations.”

Again, there is much more in the audio of the interview, and you really should listen to it.

McElwain said Saban knows his flaws and hires good people to help in those deficient areas. Ultimately, Saban does not “micromanage, but sets the vision” for his staff to move forward. This is a great glimpse into Nick Saban and the Process.

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2 Responses to “Inside Nick Saban and the Process” Subscribe

  1. pete4tide September 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Great article. I love reading anything that reflects on Nick Saban and the “process” – McElwain is right: so much of the way CNS does things apply to so much more than football. I’ve tried to set up my department at work the same way Saban has modeled with the football program. I think the real key here, though, is his system of accountability. That may be the reason for so many of the criticisms you hear about how he works with players and coaches. No one in this day and age likes being held accountable. But you hear it over and over that the people most successful in their careers have someone who is always watching and making sure that their subordinates are accountable for their duties, and to a standard that is outside of their subjective opinion of you as a person. CNS’s work that he puts in with personnel development and the characteristics he looks for in players and coaches very nearly ensure that the team as a whole will be successful no matter the individuals that make up the team.
    And anyone who thinks this is easy on the one making the decisions and holding people accountable to their duties has never been a supervisor or boss. It’s the hardest part of my job.

  2. Davis October 7, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Not sure who the author is of this particular piece but it is so poorly written…..seriously, if you are going to represent Bama football or Saban, take the time to re-read what’s been written…read it out loud even, and listen to how it sounds. This is disjointed, incomplete and barely insightful….above all, it is poorly written – from sentence construction to word usage…

    I plan to listen to the audio – as a mental conditioning coach I am intrigued by Saban’s process, and am sure I will learn something.

    Follow Saban’s process with your own reporting – write, share with others, re -read, share again and get the process right…..

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