MIAMI: Nick Saban has a charity called Nick’s Kids Fund.
He and his wife Terry have been running it for 14 years and it raises money for needy children. It’s not named after the Alabama coach. It’s named after his late father, the hardworking man and tough Pop Warner coach who made Saban what he is.
Saban, who isn’t one to let his emotions show easily, opened up a bit while talking about his father during media day for the BCS championship. Saban’s Crimson Tide play Notre Dame on Monday for the national title.
Saban grew up in rural West Virginia and started working by the time he was 11, “which I think is probably been the most critical thing in the development of the work ethic that I have,” he said Saturday.
His father and mother, Mary, instilled in Saban the importance of respecting people and at times he was taught hard lessons.
“There was a bum that used to come to my Dad’s service station early in the morning because he’d give him free coffee and doughnuts,” Saban said. “We had had a tough game the night before, I don’t remember whether it was basketball game, a football game or whatever. The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of sassed him. I was 17 years old. I got the strap right on the spot.
“It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the situation.”
Big Nick Saban started the Pop Warner football league in which is son played. Saban said his father bought a school bus to drive the kids around, picking them up from the coal mining towns where they lived and driving them home so they wouldn’t have to hitchhike.
“He was a tough coach,” Saban said. “He expected the best all the time. Probably instilled some of the perfectionist-type characteristics that I have in what I try to do. He had a high standard of excellence for what he expected from me. Discipline was a very important part of what you did.”
Saban said that he, like many people, didn’t really appreciate what his father was trying to teach him until he was an adult.
“Probably when I was a senior in college. That’s probably when I realized it,” he said. “And my first year of graduate school was when he passed away. I never really ever told him, which I regret.”
A pair of 5’s
Whether Notre Dame is on offense or defense, the leader of the Fighting Irish is number 5, quarterback Everett Golson or All-American linebacker Manti Te’o.
Te’o, a senior, explained that the reason he wears 5 is not for some former Irish great like Paul Hornung — who also had the number — but because, when Te’o was a young boy, he and his dad were in the car and his father asked him, “When you play football, what number would like?”
Being 5 years old, Te’o said “5.”
For Golson, a redshirt freshman, the number is simply the one he wore all through high school.
So, coming to Notre Dame — a school where Te’o was already a star — did Golson ask for Te’o’s permission to wear the same jersey?
“No,” the normally forthcoming Te’o said Saturday, shaking his head.
Manti, you mean he just did it?
Saban stars in NBA
Nick Saban is not tall.
By his own admission, not fast, either.
Yet somehow, he’s found a way to be a successful pickup basketball player. Then again, it’s easy to win at pickup ball when you can manipulate everything from rules to rosters.
In between recruiting season and spring-football season at Alabama, it’s basketball season for Saban and his staff. Saban was asked at the BCS title game media day on Saturday what he does to stay in shape, and Saban revealed that he enjoys getting on the court.
With certain conditions, of course.
“I’m the commissioner of the league,” Saban said. “It’s a noontime basketball league, NBA. I pick the teams so I have the best players on my team. I also pick the guy that can guard me and there’s only two guys in the whole organization who are shorter and slower that I would pick to guard me. And then I call the fouls. So if you call that working out, I guess that’s my workout.”
Saban said he doesn’t keep stats, and no, he doesn’t break down those game films, either.
“No one would want to see that,” Saban said.
Does Saban call fouls on himself? He said it happens — but only sometimes.