Nick Saban has a very bristly public-facing personality, but in private, Kirk Herbstreit says he's a "normal guy."
There've been some small signs of Nick Saban softening a bit as he moves towards the latter stages of his career, but he is still very much the gruff five-time national champion that Alabama fans—and not many others—have grown to love. Kirk Herbstreit is a big fan, though.
He and television teammate Chris Fowler spoke to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe about their call on the upcoming Alabama-Georgia College Football National Championship Game.
Herbstreit says that Saban is actually his favorite coach to speak with when preparing for a game.
“Oh, man,’’ said Kirk Herbstreit, who along with Chris Fowler will call Monday night’s game on ESPN (8 p.m.). “Well, I think we a lot of times see a very different Nick Saban than the one that’s at the podium or the one that’s on stage.
“I think when he gets on a stage, I think he’s clearly sending a message to somebody, many times it’s his own team, sometimes it’s his own fans, sometimes it’s to the conference commissioners and the people that are kind of making decisions about the sport. He knows what he’s doing at all times.”
Herbstreit said Saban is his favorite college coach to talk to when preparing to call a game, even referring to him as a “normal” guy.
Chris Fowler had a slightly different take, saying that he wishes that Nick Saban and his ilk could enjoy the fruits of victory a bit more, rather than only being consumed by the possibility of losing.
“I think he’s abnormal in a lot of ways, but good ways that help him win championships,” said Fowler. “His intensity is focused. The only thing I would remark about as coaches when you get to know them a little bit and how they react to wins and losses, is I wish Nick, like a lot of the guys, could savor victories more deeply and for a longer period of time.
“I think a lot of coaches would say the victories, even the championships, are a relief, and the losses are devastating. And I think that’s not in perfect harmony or balance. But a coach’s life isn’t often in perfect balance.”
On Monday, Saban faces a coach cut from very much the same cloth, his former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Saban is famously successful against former assistants, something that he certainly hopes will continue in a big way on Monday.