Bill Cubit, 32, the school's rookie head coach, was an assistant under Saban at Central Florida ('83-84). When Cubit's first choice for defensive coordinator opted for a college job, Cubit phoned Saban. "I knew how much he missed coaching," Cubit says.
Saban doesn't mind the new role. "As an assistant coach, I don't have to deal with administrative problems or parents," he says. "When the phone rings, I don't have to answer it. I am strictly coaching.
"Going back to high school has been enlightening. I had no idea how teenagers tackle today's problems. As for extracurricular activities, they are caught up in so many things. Football isn't everything. That's the way it should be at age 16. To me, that attitude is a breath of fresh air."
THE HEALING PROCESS
During the off-season, Ronnie Lott, 27, the 49ers' All-Pro defensive back, was faced with the most vexing question of his young life.
In a Dec. 22 game against Dallas, the tip of the little finger on Lott's left hand was severely lacerated and crushed when it got caught between his shoulder pads and the helmet of Cowboy running back Timmy Newsome. Three months later the finger hadn't healed. "There was a separation between the bone and the first joint," Lott says. "I could move the tip without moving the joint."
So the doctor gave Lott two options. The first was to have a bone graft done and a pin put in the finger; that procedure would take at least eight weeks to heal. "Even then, the doctor wasn't sure the graft would take," Lott says.
The second option was to amputate the finger at the bottom of the nail. "I swallowed hard and asked how long I'd be out," Lott says. The doctor replied it would take three weeks to heal. "I decided I'm going the shorter route, on the spot," Lott says.
Still, Lott sometimes wonders about the decision. "I couldn't look at my hand. I'm still self-conscious about it," he says. "I never thought I'd have to go through a psychological healing, too. I've had numerous injuries in my career. Everything was always fixed; everything always ended up looking brand new."
GEE, WILL PETE ROZELLE CATCH THE BOUQUET?
For two guys who could be involved in some bitter disputes at the collective-bargaining talks by February, Jack Donlan, the executive director of the NFL's Management Council, and Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association, certainly seem to have a cozy relationship. Donlan has accepted an invitation to Upshaw's wedding to Terri Buich in Washington on Saturday.