Nick Saban Is A Lunatic

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That's the only possible takeaway from this profile of the Alabama coach in this month's issue of GQ.

It's sort of a given that a college coach has to leave his humanity behind. With the round-the-clock-and-calendar realities of recruiting, fundraising, scouting, prepping, practicing, and just generally being the most important person in the state, there's no time to be anything but a manic football automaton. If Nick Saban's the most successful of coaches, it stands to reason he'd be the most damaged. He doesn't disappoint.


He eats the same thing every day. (For breakfast, two Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies; for lunch, a salad of iceberg lettuce, turkey, and tomatoes.) He won't let his tired players bend over. His wife has to act as his interpreter because he's unable or unwilling to follow social conventions like smiling at jokes.

Joy seems like a foreign concept to Saban. A congratulatory phone call he took after winning the BCS title game:

"That damn game cost me a week of recruiting," Saban grumbled into the phone.

Rumsey at first thought he'd misheard. He asked for clarification. Saban repeated himself. He just knew that while he was preparing for the title game, enduring all the banquets and media bullshit that came with it, some other coach was in the living room of one of his recruits, trying to flip the kid. The thought was making him crazy.

Rumsey pointed out that Saban and his team had just been on national television before millions of people—including, most likely, every high school recruit in the country—and reminded Saban that they had won the national championship.

"I said, 'I'm not sure, but I think that helped you,'" Rumsey recalled. "And he said, 'I just don't know. Maybe. Maybe that was good.'"


Saban himself disputes this characterization. "I think I'm pretty misunderstood, because I'm not just about football," he says. "I almost feel like I'm not that way at all."

There's an attempt to search for humanity here, and it seems like the perfect opportunity for some to emerge. Saban offered GQ a surprising amount of access, and the writer—Warren St. John, Birmingham native and author of a book chronicling a year with the Crimson Tide—is especially qualified. But there's only one moment that shows an interest in anything other than football, and in true Nick Saban fashion, it involves him being angered by a small child.

Burns is at the wheel of Saban's black Mercedes S550, and because he knows Saban's musical taste veers toward the Eagles, Al Green, and the Rolling Stones—no country—he's got "Gimme Shelter" cued up on the stereo. Saban sits shotgun, and I climb in the back. As Burns guides the sedan past columned fraternity houses on the arbored Alabama campus, Saban mentions he's seen the Stones twice. In an attempt at levity, I tell him I'd recently tried to turn my four-year-old daughter on to the Stones but that she had responded by earnestly asking me, "Dad, how come the man in these songs can't sing?"

Saban spins around from the front seat and shoots me the bug zapper.

"Mick Jagger can sing," he says, before turning back to face the windshield. "Mick Jagger is a great entertainer."

Nick Saban: Sympathy for the Devil [GQ]