First-year Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin has said he'll take lessons he learned from Alabama coach Nick Saban with him on his new coaching tenure in Boca Raton. One thing Kiffin won't take with him, however, are public ass-chewings of his assistants.
Kiffin was a noted target of Saban's outbursts during his three years as Alabama's offensive coordinator. During an eventual win over Western Kentucky last season, Saban was seen screaming at Kiffin, who didn't do much in the way of responding. Afterward, Saban remarked, "There are no arguments. Those are called ass-chewings."
It was a telling quote. You don't argue with Saban, you listen to him as he lays into you. Saban can get away with that in front of everyone because that's the type of leeway you get when you've won five national championships.
Regardless, Kiffin isn't taking that aspect of coaching with him to Boca Raton.
"No, that's not really how I do it. Greg (McElroy) knows about those," Kiffin said on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. "Those things come up, and everybody has different ways of dealing with them. It's just not really how I do it. I'm not really big on humiliating assistant coaches in front of everybody. I write down notes. In the staff meeting, I explain what we want to get done."
Causing a huge scene on the sidelines has never been Kiffin's M.O. It's ironic, in a way, given how much drama he's been involved with away from the field. But that almost-passive style of taking Saban's tongue lashings is probably what kept the whole relationship from imploding after one season.
The Saban-Kiffin "Odd Couple" tandem worked miraculously for three years. Despite any tension and differences at both the personal and philosophical level, the all-time great head coach paired with the brilliant Xs and Os play-caller was an undeniable success. There's no other way to describe the record-breaking offenses that helped the Crimson Tide to three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, one national title and nearly another.
Somehow, and defying all matters of science previously believed, oil and water mixed. Not forever, but for a brief time.
The most iconic image of Kiffin and Saban together actually came in their first game side-by-side, a 33-23 win over West Virginia in the Georgia Dome to start the 2014 season. Maybe Saban's look of utter contempt had nothing to do with Kiffin attempting to explain something, maybe himself, but I like to think they're deeply intertwined.
Three seasons later, in the same stadium, Kiffin coached his last game with Alabama. The parting was as awkward and appropriate as anyone could have imagined. But there were a lot of wins in between. And theater. So much good theater, too.
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