Nick Saban doesn't often discuss the end to his coaching career. However, he opened up a bit about it recently, and Steve Spurrier has weighed in.
“The way I look at it is, as long as I’m healthy and as long as I feel that I can do a good job, I want to keep doing it because I enjoy doing it,” Saban said. “What I don’t want to do is just stay forever, forever and forever and ride the program down where I’m not creating value. I would never want to do that, and I think I’m a long ways from doing that. I don’t want to talk about anybody else, but there have been a couple of coaches where their legacy was tarnished by them maybe doing it longer than they should have. That won’t be me.”
Steve Spurrier knows a little bit about how coaching tenures run their cycles. He has also seen Saban's dominance first hand.
Like Saban, he took a dormant SEC power to new heights. Spurrier did it at his alma mater Florida in the 1990s; Saban won a national championship at LSU.
Like Saban, he made a questionable jump to the NFL. Spurrier had a pretty poor few years in Washington; Saban had more success with the Miami Dolphins, but it clearly wasn't the same fit as the college game.
And like Saban, he eventually returned to the SEC. Both have had successful second coaching tenures in the league, but at vastly different levels.
Spurrier took over South Carolina, historically one of the league's worst programs, and had what was probably the best stretch in Gamecocks history, capturing a division title in 2010 and 11 games in three straight seasons from 2011-13.
Saban took over Alabama in 2007, which had been going through a very cold patch, and has captured five national titles since 2009. He is unquestionably one of, if not the greatest coach of all time, and most of that legacy has been built in Tuscaloosa.
Nick Saban has shown no signs of slowing down, but Steve Spurrier says he knows what would cause him to retire.
In Chris Low's piece, he said that Saban starting to lose three games and failing to compete for titles would probably lead to retirement. It backs up Saban's own comments.
"Nick ain't thinking about retiring, not even close," Spurrier said. "He can go into his 70s easy, and I think he will.
"I told him he won't retire until he loses three games in a season. He told me, 'If I ever lose three games around here again, they might kill me.' I think he was joking, but I'm not sure."
Saban, who is now 66, has only lost three or more games twice at Alabama. One was in 2007, very much a rebuilding year, the other in 2010, when the Tide went 10-3 and finished with a Capital One Bowl blowout of Michigan State, another former Saban program.
If anyone would know what that decline feels like, it would also be Spurrier. After that stretch of 11-win seasons, the Gamecocks started to slide.
The team went 7-6 in 2014, and was just 2-4 when Spurrier abruptly retired in 2015. Coaches like Saban and Spurrier don't like to lose, so it could be a decline like that that would cause Saban to step away. However, it does seem like we're years away from something like that happening, if it ever does.