Take two (cont.)
Posted: Friday April 13, 2007 12:48AM; Updated: Friday April 13, 2007 3:22PM
SI.com: You mentioned the lack of depth on defense. Will you be able to run the same type of defense you've been able to at LSU and with the Dolphins or will there be limitations?
Saban: We'll try to do what we've always done, at least the best we can. Right now, the multiple [schemes], it's something new for them. It has been a full plate for most of the defense to try to digest. I've been pleased with their willingness to try something new. We're making more mental errors than we should, but we're not at all disappointed with where they're at.
SI.com: [Former Texas QB] Major Applewhite is a young guy  who I'm sure most college football fans still remember as a player. Now he's an offensive coordinator in the SEC. Can you talk about what went into your decision to hire him?
Saban: Well, it's a little bit two-fold. We also hired Joe Pendry [from the Houston Texans] as the offensive line coach. He's got 36 years of experience. I really like Major Applewhite, because he's a bright guy and a very good quarterback coach. Maybe he doesn't have the experience as a coordinator, though he did a fantastic job [at Rice last year]. I think if you can take a guy like that, and pair him with a guy like Joe, it can really help his development as a coach. [Applewhite] is a great person, and fits all the criteria of what you look for in a coach.
[Saban's LSU offensive coordinator] Jimbo Fisher was a little bit like that. He'd been a coordinator for one year at Cincinnati, though he'd spent some time in our league before that [as quarterbacks coach at Auburn]. He did a great job for us at LSU. I like those kind of guys. I think they make great play-callers. Major has been and will continue to be a great play-caller. The planning part, working with Joe, can prepare him so much better. It's worked out beautifully so far.
SI.com: At your press conference [in January], you said that a major reason you took the Alabama job was because you and your family missed the college environment. To that end, what has your experience at Alabama been like so far?
Saban: We're pleased and happy with everything at Alabama to this point. The people have been great, my family's very pleased and happy with this environment. Not that Miami wasn't a great environment - I worked with a lot of great people there. I just like having a greater impact on the players and other people around me. That's important to me -- even though some people don't think that's how I am, it is important to me to be able to make an impact on young people. I think you have a little more opportunity for that at the college level.
I did it for so long and did it so much, I didn't realize I'd miss it if I left it. But I did miss it.
SI.com: You indicated that you think some people have a certain perception of you -- a negative perception -- that you don't think is right. Maybe [you think] the column I wrote [falls into that category]. Why do you think that is, and what is the biggest thing about you that you feel is misunderstood?
Saban: First of all, any perception that anybody has, I take responsibility for. I, myself, in trying to be a good person who goes about his work, and has a lot of compassion for the people I work with, that's how I'd like to be perceived -- as someone who cares about his players and wants to benefit them in every way. This game is about the players, and to see them do well in their character, attitude and development, their competitive spirit, how they go about what they do in representing their organization and institution, the fact that I care about them doing it the right way - that's more how I'd like to be perceived.
Quite frankly, I feel like I was perceived that way for a long time. I think that's who I am.
SI.com: You hit on an important point there. I don't remember seeing or hearing so many negative stories about you, certainly when you were at Michigan State, but even at LSU. It seemed to start when you got to Miami. What changed?
Saban: I didn't change. I know that. Things changed. I don't know if it has to do with winning and losing, more media coverage in the NFL -- I don't know what changed it. But I'm going to continue to do what I do.
SI.com: Some of that scrutiny undoubtedly comes from the fact your salary is making headlines itself. Have you felt any added pressure because of that?
Saban: I don't do things any differently because of it. I made $8,000 when I first started doing this, and I don't do things any differently now than I did then. Money is important, obviously, but it's not really a motivating factor for me.
SI.com: Finally, one of the things I talked about in that article is that you're walking into a state where things have been a certain way for a long time, and they may be different from the way you like to run your program or need to run your program to be successful. I know you had plenty of rabid fans at LSU, but Alabama is known for being a whole other animal. How do you balance the expectations of a fan base and a state that, for a lack of a better word, has always felt a certain sense of "ownership" in that program, with what you've always liked to do?
Saban: Well, first of all, I want everybody here to take ownership. If we're going to be successful, it's going to be about how we do it together -- the positive energy from the fans, the supporters, relative to being a team. I realize everyone has expectations, but I think expectations can be a deterrent in that they can be unrealistic. Everyone wants to win every game. We want everyone to be together and direct that energy toward the opponent, not creating any kind of internal strife that's not enhancing us. The people at LSU were very positive and supportive in every way. People forget, we lost at home to UAB there early in the first year , ended up winning eight games that year and won the SEC championship the next.
But it does take time to develop and do the things you need to do. It's like I always say, it's not about what anyone thinks it should be, could be, or what it was - it's what it is. Our fans need to be positive and supportive. Everything won't be perfect. It's got to be a driven-oriented approach, not, "We want to win a national championship next year, and we're going to be mad if we don't," because I don't think that's realistic. I'd like to do that, and our players would like to do that, but I'm not sure it's realistic. It should be about, "What can we do to make sure everyone does the best we can," and we can build on that. That might not be satisfactory, but rather than "Here's where we are and here's the goal, and forget everything in between," let's focus on what we need to do to achieve that goal.