After making seven stops in seven years as an assistant at the college level and in the NFL, Kirby Smart has found stability in Tuscaloosa on Nick Saban’s staff. After a season as a defensive backs coach, Smart was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008 and he has held that position ever since.
With Alabama’s successes in that time, Smart’s name has come up often in head coaching searches, but Smart told Atlanta’s 680 The Fan Monday morning that he isn’t anxious to land his first head coaching job.
“I could finish my career being a defensive coordinator and say, ‘Hey, he’s Mickey Andrews,” Smart said in reference to Bobby Bowden’s longtime defensive coordinator at Florida State. “I’d be happy knowing that I had success doing it and I was the best I could be at my job. If the opportunity knocks, then so be it.”
Smart, who will turn 39 in December, maintains that he would like to become a head coach one day down the line as long as it’s the right fit and the right time. He was courted by Auburn in 2012 after the Tide’s most-recent national championship and has also been linked to openings at Arkansas and Tennessee in the past.
Per Al.com, other Alabama assistants have given Smart head coaching advice.
(Smart) credited inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele and former Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines as two mentors who have relayed to him the dangers of taking the wrong job. Kines went 3-6-1 as the interim head coach at Arkansas in 1992 while Steele was 9-36 in four seasons at Baylor.
“I’m not sitting here saying I got to go today in order just to take one to take it,” Smart said. “Every one of them says don’t just jump at the first one. If you get the wrong one, it will be the last one.”
His family’s comfort in Tuscaloosa also plays a significant role in Smart’s career decisions.
“My family’s so happy in Tuscaloosa,” Smart said. “My wife loves it. We’ve got 6-year-old twins and a 2-year-old. We’ve been very fortunate. I moved seven times the first seven years I coached. The last, I guess, eight, going on eight, I’ve been in the same place, and my kids only know one place. So for us that’s very comfortable.”
In that same radio interview, Smart was asked to name the best players he’s coached during his time at Alabama. He has a number of top talents to choose from, and according to Al.com, Smart couldn’t quite narrow it down to three.
Smart rattled off the named of defensive end Marcell Dareus, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Javier Arenas.
When asked the toughest players he’s had to coach against, Smart didn’t hesitate to put a recent NFL first-round pick at the top of his list.
“Oh god, Johnny Manziel. Nightmare for us,” Smart said. “He’s the perfect storm for us because he’s athletic, he can more around in the pocket and he can still make the throws. The first year he ran all over us so we said ‘we’re going to rush five’ and do the Michael Vick theory – fill up the pass rush lanes and come after him. And then he made every throw and had a huge receiver out there (Mike Evans) that gave us problems matchup-wise.”
Former Auburn Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton and former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden rounded out Smart’s list.
For more Alabama news, visit TideSports.com.
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