There’s a big story on Alabama football coach Nick Saban by Warren St. John in the latest GQ.
The main takeaway is that Saban is obsessed with routine — not necessarily results. He talks about “the process” non-stop, fills his time with obligations, eats the same thing for lunch everyday, and sets all sorts of strange rules for his team (no tank tops in the football facility, for example).
It’s this mechanical way of life that’s responsible for the (false, he says) impression that he’s a monster who cares about nothing but football.
To illustrate Saban’s mindset, St. John found a crazy anecdote about Saban’s reaction to winning the 2013 National Championship.
Here’s the gist of it:
During the offseason, Saban got a call from a golf buddy named Steven Rumsey who congratulated him on winning the game.
Saban responded, seriously, “That damn game cost me a week of recruiting.”
“Rumsey at first thought he’d misheard. He asked for clarification. Saban repeated himself. He just knew that while he was preparing for the title game, enduring all the banquets and media bulls*** that came with it, some other coach was in the living room of one of his recruits, trying to ip the kid. The thought was making him crazy.”
When his friend told him that winning the national championship was the best recruiting tactic possible, Saban said,”I just don’t know. Maybe. Maybe that was good.”
The existential dilemma here gets to the heart of what makes Saban so successful, and such a maniac..
He was annoyed that he had to play the national championship game because it took away valuable recruiting time, which he would have spent recruiting players to get his team to a future national championship game.
There’s a telling Saban quote later in the article that explains this further, “I don’t want people to think I’m not happy when we win — I am. But there’s a difference between being happy for the feeling of accomplishing something and being overjoyed and feeling ‘This is it — we conquered the world.’ We didn’t. We just won a game.”
The accomplishment for Saban isn’t in winning the championships, the accomplishment is in constructing a structure that facilitates winning championships. He’s interested in an abstract ideal of success more than the success itself.
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