Saban lets record do all of his talking

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2000

I had heard all the talk about how to not expect the jokes about Italian food, or any jokes at all for that matter. No, Nick Saban is no Gerry DiNardo. He certainly seems all business. But I still found him very personable.

Saban was the guest speaker at the Miss-Lou LSU Alumni Chapter meeting at Ramada Hilltop Monday.

While DiNardo was very animated and told some great stories, Saban is more stoic and searches carefully for his words.

Email newsletter signup

But Saban’s all-business attitude will work at LSU.

While he may not be as animated, he was very patient during an interview, answering every question patiently and openly, even with eager Tiger fans waiting to meet him. And even when the subject wasn’t football.

Saban said he wasn’t surprised when close friend Tommy Izzo turned down an offer from the Altanta Hawks last week to stay at Michigan State, where he won a national championship last year.

&uot;Tommy’s from Michigan and his wife is from the Lansing area,&uot; Saban said. &uot;He’s been at Michigan State for 17 years and you develop a lot of ties. It was difficult for us to leave, and we’re not from there, and we’d only been there 10 years, five years two different times. I told him to make sure that he would be personally happy if he made a move relative to pro ball. But also leaving his roots. It didn’t surprise me he didn’t do it. It was a tremendous offer and well deserved for him.&uot;

Getting back to football, Saban stressed getting quality people as well as outstanding athletes.

He talked of how much it hurts a program when a player does not stay four years (see Cecil Collins or Larry Foster).

Saban inherits a quarterback controversy that saw Craig Nall, Josh Booty and Davey Rohan starting at different times last year. Rohan missed spring drills because of a knee injury suffered in a pick-up basketball game.

&uot;He was there and did some of the learning things,&uot; Sabay said. &uot;Physically he wasn’t able to make the same kind of progress the other quarterbacks made and I was pleased with their improvement they were able to make over the spring, I think he’ll be able to catch up. I think the true cream will rise to the top eventually regardless of that situation.&uot;

Saban said he enjoys recruiting.

&uot;When you are a coach that knows he can’t coach bad players to play well you figure that recruiting is your lifeline,&uot; he said. &uot;You better go recruit good ones or you won’t have a job.&uot;

Saban admitted he is anxious to get going this summer.

&uot;I’m anxious to do this stuff one step at a time,&uot; he said. &uot;You’re always concerned about new opponents, but when you’re in a new conference and you’ve got all new opponents, it’s tougher. We need to take some time to go over the people we’re going to play so we can do a good job of preparing our players to play those games when we get to them.&uot;

Saban is adamant about new facilities for LSU.

&uot;It’s no different than a house,&uot; he said. &uot;People enjoy their house or home because it’s convenient for what they need to accomplish. We have OK&160;facilities, but they are not very functional for the players. You spend so much more time with the players in a non-coaching type of environment.&160;That helps you assess them as people. We only see our players when we are in practice because we are all in different places. Over time I would like to see us build a football facility that would fill out around the indoor facility. And obviously it would help us in our recruiting. I think we need to make a decision on what we want to invest in our program.&uot;

If first impressions are any indication, LSU seems to have made a great investment with its latest football coach.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172, ext. 232, or by e-mail at