The departure of Major Applewhite from Saban’s staff at Alabama to Texas, raises some very serious questions about Nick Saban and just what kind of human being he really is. When talking about head football coaches here at Coaches Hot Seat, we often toss out the idea if a particular coach could be employed as a CEO in the private sector. In many ways the responsibilities of a head football coach mirror that of a CEO, and in today’s very public world of corporate leaders being held accountable for their actions, the pressures on both jobs are immense. When you look at the top coaches in I-A football, or at the bottom of the Coaches Hot Seat Rankings the top 10 to 15 coaches in the game are:
Les Miles, Mark Richt, Pete Carroll, Gary Pinkel, Bronco Mendenhall, Rich Rodriguez, Paul Johnson, Jim Tressel, Bobby Petrino, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Tommy Tuberville, Bob Stoops, Frank Beamer, Brian Kelly, Dennis Erickson and a few others…
All of those above coaches are very intense, they are very demanding upon their assistant coaches, they expect excellence from their players, and to a man they all know how to run a football program. Nick Saban also has all of those traits, but the difference between the above coaches and Nick Saban is that Saban is a pompous ass.
If a CEO really wants to know what kind of leader he is, the first and best place to go is to the people that work under that CEO. We are a big believer in anonymous 360 degree personnel evaluations at Coaches Hot Seat (at the companies we work for in our days jobs), where everyone in the organization reviews the people above and below them on the organizational chart, because there is a lot to be learned by what the subordinates think of their bosses. After talking to coaches that have worked for Nick Saban over the years, if we did administer evaluations to Saban’s former and current assistant coaches we believe those evaluations would come back and uniformly they would say that Nick Saban is pompous ass that treats his staff like shit. Why is that? Why does a head football coach feel that he must work his staff to the bone and treat them terribly? What would possibly cause a football coach, or anyone in a leadership role, to treat his staff in a way that would cause such incredible resentment? Does Nick Saban somehow believe that he is going to get the most out of his staff by treating them in a demeaning manner? Where does one learn how to treat people in such a terrible way in the first place?
Those are all very good questions, and very perplexing that they have to be asked in the first place, because there really is no excuse for any subordinate that has ever worked for someone else to have to say that their boss was a pompous ass. Football is no different than the corporate world, and in many ways there is more pressure in the highest boardrooms than on a football sideline. In corporate America you cannot post a .500 record and yell out “bowl-eligible,” nor does a CEO get a pass in his first year just because the guy before you ran the company into the ground. In fact, with 64 football teams going to bowl games this past season, you can be a very average football coach and be feted by your fan base and bosses. All of that brings us back to the fact that there is just no good reason for a leader to treat his subordinates like shit, because life is too short to go through life creating havoc and running people down If Nick Saban believes that he can continue his current behavior and return Alabama to the top of college football, he is sadly mistaken. This is not Saban’s first head coaching job, and the word now on the street is that if you want to live in Hell on earth, then you can go to work for Saban. Why would anyone that has any respect for himself voluntarily put himself in a situation where he will be treated like a piece of crap? We cannot imagine that there is any coach out there that values himself that would go to work for Nick Saban, and that goes straight to the point of this post. Nick Saban is indeed a pompous ass.
Getting back to the coaches that we listed above, and most of the greatest head football coaches of all time, we believe that all of them would be able to adapt to a corporate environment and find a way to make the company they ran successful. On the other hand, Nick Saban would not last 10 minutes as the CEO of a company, because the entire staff would quit en mass the first time he went off on one of his tirades.
The real question Nick Saban needs to ask himself is: Does Nick Saban really believe he has to be a pompous ass in order to be a successful football coach? If the answer to that question is yes, then Saban hasn’t a clue to what it means to be a leader. If the answer to that question is no, then Nick Saban needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide that he wants to join the rest of us in the human race. Tom Coughlin, the head coach of the New York Giants, who is like Saban and off of the Parcells/Belichick coaching tree, has found out in the past year that acting like an ass was getting him nowhere, and in fact was impeding the success of his football team. Coughlin is a very proud man, but he recognized his own personal failings and the impact his behavior was having upon the Giants, but could Saban recognize his failings and change his behavior as well? We doubt it, because for Saban to change he would have to take a good hard look at himself, and we seriously doubt that his a place Nick Saban wants to go.
When it is all said and done, Nick Saban will not be remembered as a football coach, but rather what kind of human being he has been to the people around him. We really believe that Nick Saban needs his “Scrooge-type” moment right now where he can see the way he has acted in the past, the way he is behaving right now, and where he will end up in the future if he continues on his current path. It is not a given that Saban will succeed at Alabama, because the SEC is much more difficult place to win in, than when he departed LSU for the Dolphins. If Saban does fail at Alabama, and failure at Alabama is not winning SEC and National Championships, Saban’s behavior when leaving the Dolphins and the general sense of the man among his peers might end up as the dominant themes in his biography. We cannot imagine that Nick Saban wishes to be remembered as a liar that also treated the people that worked for him like shit. If Saban believes that his personal behavior is not relative to his immediate and future success, then he is sadly mistaken and he is walking on a very perilous path.