LSU coach leaves celebrating to the experts
by Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
January 4, 2004
Later he held the championship trophy like it was for second place in a sorghum-growing contest at the Iberville Parish fair.
Here in the Big Easy, where over-the-top exuberance always is in style, college football's most dour and dull coach is king. He delivered on LSU's immense potential, ended a 45-year title drought and did it all without cracking a smile.
But that's Nick Saban. He ain't much for cocktail parties but he can coach like hell.
Not that this school or this town needs another free spirit anyway. Once LSU had answered every other question – defense, offense, special teams – affirmatively, about the only mystery left was whether Tiger fans could drink the damn town dry.
Put it this way: During the fourth quarter Sunday, the pro-Tiger crowd at the Superdome had to be warned to stop throwing beer cans onto the field.
Basically it was bring-your-own-tear-gas night on Bourbon Street.
And what would the man who orchestrated this Bayou revival, who designed the suffocating defense that humbled Heisman winner Jason White and wrote the game plan that bested Bob Stoops, be doing to celebrate?
Maybe eat a big dinner at Emeril's? Chug a hurricane? Go high five some fans?
How about: eat his traditional Little Debbie victory cookie.
"That's my best reward," Saban said of the 25-cent dessert he has after each win.
So arguably the nation's top party school, currently overwhelming arguably the nation's top party town, has a leader with all the personality of a dial tone. He rarely cracks jokes. Heck, he rarely laughs at jokes. He is often described as "thorough," "detailed" and "prepared."
And that is by his friends.
Actually Saban said he wasn't going to let climbing the pinnacle of his profession go completely unnoticed. He vowed to take "24 hours" to enjoy the win.
Hey coach, you just won the national title, what are going to do?
I'm going back to the office.
"You don't really want to know what I'm thinking," Saban said just minutes after the game. "Because what I'm thinking is, 'How are we going to get this done next year?' This year's accomplishments are next year's expectations."
Last April in this same city, Syracuse won the national basketball title and coach Jim Boeheim smiled, laughed and later that night took a victory stroll down Bourbon Street.
Relative to Saban, Boeheim was a party animal. Who knew?
Saban insists he is a happy person, he just doesn't show it. But he is true to his personality, and his personality is to worry about all the little details that might lose football games. The truth is LSU wouldn't be this good this soon if he were any other way.
So he is known as a demanding coach and a tough boss. After winning the national title he still found time in his press conference to complain about the officials and take a shot at LSU fans who used to take shots at him on talk radio.
Then there is the story from when he took the LSU job. Saban famously sent a school plane to East Lansing, Mich., to pick up all of his former Michigan State assistants who wanted to join him.
The plane flew back to Baton Rouge empty.
But look who is laughing last.
On the biggest of nights, his team was prepared, focused and mentally tough. The Tigers ran on OU, passed on OU and stuffed OU defensively. His players did everything but marry Britney Spears.
It was a crowning achievement for Saban and his driven staff.
"I think the chancellor of LSU is happy that the coaches don't work on an hourly salary," LSU quarterback Matt Mauck said. "That would be a lot of money. The knowledge they pass down to us is the reason we have success."
Saban's system has awoken the sleeping giant that is LSU football in four short years. And the parade of blue chip recruits headed for Baton Rouge means the Tigers aren't likely to wait another half century to do this again.
Which is the thing that really pleases him.
"I'm happy for everyone else," Saban said. "What makes me happy is [that the championship] made so many people happy."
Happy doesn't begin to describe the riot scene on Bourbon.
Not that Saban would know. He had a cookie to eat, maybe a nap to take. He said he might take a few moments with his wife and daughters.
But not for long. He expected to be back at work by Tuesday morning. About the same time most of the hangovers end.
Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Jan 5, 2004 2:52 am, EST