Leave it to Nick Saban to take special interest in only one of the Saban exhibits: a glimpse of an Alabama football game plan.
“It was already here before I found out about it,” Saban said. “The first thing I looked at was, ‘What are we showing in the gamplan here?’ I think most people know those two blitzes, so we’re all right.”
Saban’s appearance Friday precedes the main event Saturday evening when the induction banquet is held at the Sheraton Birmingham. Tickets may be available at (205) 323-6665. In addition to Saban, inductees include longtime Alabama Assistant Coach Bill Oliver, deceased North Alabama Basketball Coach and Athletics Director Bill Jones (who was represented by his widow and by his son, former Tide basketball player Rex Jones), former NFL official Ronnie Baynes, late Auburn football player Forrest Blue, former Jacksonville State football player Eric Davis, former Auburn basketball player Vickie Orr, and former Alabama A&M and Olympic track star Dannette Young Stone.
Saban is not in relax mode. Vacation, he said, “is in the summer. It’s not summer yet. We’re in spring recruiting now, and there’s a ot to do there. Then we have our camps coming up the first couple of weeks of June. Then we have a little break after that.”
No one would expect this to mark anything like the end of Saban building his resume. “This honor makes it even more of a challenge because of all the great names here. I feel like I’ve got to go represent that now the rest of my career. That’s going to be something that’s a real challenge for me in the future.”
Saban said a Hall of Fame induction is not what has driven him. “When you’re in it – and I’m still in it – you’re always worried about the next game. (All-time basketball great) Michael Jordan always says, ‘No matter how many game-winning shots you’ve made, the only one that matters is the next one.’
“But to be honest, when something like this happens, it makes you sort of realize what an honor it is. It is very self-fulfilling and flattering to know that people recognize me. It's something that you did that will be there forever, that people will remember and look at forever. And that really means a lot.”
And, he said, he only thinks about his legacy when it happens. Saban said, “I think the real legacy for me as a coach is not just how many games you win and how many championships you win, it's really about the people that you affect and the players and the leadership you provide, the example that you try to set. I really care about the players. I really care about the coaches who work for us. I want to try to help them all be successful.
“One of the goals of our program is that our players can be more successful in life for having been involved in the program. I think the older I get, the more important the relationships that you sort of develop along the way and how you affected some of those guys, when they come back and tell you, 'Coach, you changed my life.' That's the most meaningful thing that happens for me.”
A year ago Saban was on hand to see Mal Moore being inducted into the ASHOF, and he thought about that Friday. Moore died March 30.
“There's no question that Mal was the reason I came to Alabama,” Saban said. “He certainly was a partner in every success that we had there, in terms of his contribution, his foresight for the program, the things that he did to make the facilities at The University of Alabama; and the coaches there have the opportunity to be successful. It is a little sad that he's not going to be there to share it with us.
“I was here last year when he was inducted. I'm very proud of all of his accomplishments.”
Editor’s Note: the accompanying photo is evidence of why Kirk McNair writes stories and does not ordinarily attempt to take photographs.