Saban says he’s putting Kiffin in position to succeed

Lane Kiffin won't be face of the program at Alabama. And that's why Nick Saban thinks this will work.

Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin might seem like a major personality clash waiting to happen. Not true, Saban said after giving an hour-long speech to a few thousand coaches Monday at the American Football Coaches Association Convention.

“I’ve known him for a long time; I always thought he was a really good coach," Saban said after security had cleared out most of the coaches and reporters so he could be taken to the airport. It was the first time Saban had spoken about Kiffin since hiring the former USC coach to be Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

“All his issues came from something we’re not asking him to do."

Presumably, that means dealing with the media and selling the program. These are two large personalities. And Kiffin was fired at USC just as much for his personality as for the team’s struggles.

In fact, before the season, I told Kiffin something along those lines.

He agreed.

Kiffin takes over for former coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who left to become Michigan’s offensive coordinator. Alabama’s offense will have to retool a bit without quarterback A.J. McCarron and some top linemen.

Saban’s speech was part instruction, part inspiration, part comedy.

Yes, comedy.

He shared several anecdotes:

He said his wife, Terry, thinks “a lot of our success is attributed to her ideas and her influence."

He said he once saw one of Terry’s ex-boyfriends pumping gas and wasn’t going to pass up the chance for “a drive-by." He drove her past, showed her the ex and said she should be glad she chose Saban or look where she’d be now.

“She said, `Bulls—, if I’d have married him, he’d be the head coach at the University of Alabama.’ "

He said his four years as an assistant to Bill Belichick with the Browns were the worst of his career but also the most rewarding.

A win over Michigan, when he was an assistant at Ohio State, was the greatest win he was ever associated with because the Buckeyes were such underdogs. (The rivalry was so hot that Ohio State rules were that he couldn’t even fill his gas tank in the state of Michigan and have the expense reimbursed.)

Early in his days at Alabama, he was at a gas station and said casually to a stranger something about the future of winning championships at Alabama. The guy responded: “We’ll never do it as long as Nick Saban’s coaching."

On coaching at LSU: “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to LSU, but you can smell the bourbon on the 50-yard line."