What did Lane Kiffin learn from being Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama?
Start with this:
Nick Saban didn't sugar coat things when asked about the argument he had on the sidelines with Lane Kiffin. pic.twitter.com/NvEXhGDyTZ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 11, 2016
Former Nevada head coach Brian Polian knows the feeling.
Polian, the son of former NFL executive Bill Polian, got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant on Saban’s Michigan State staff in 1997. The Spartans finished 7-5 and lost the Aloha Bowl.
“Those 11 months were the longest 10 years of my life,” Polian joked before last year's NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. “I was scared to death of Coach Saban — and he liked me."
Polian's experience may help explain Saban's outburst during Alabama's 38-10 victory against Western Kentucky on Sept. 10. Saban said it was the most "disappointed" he's ever been after a win. The Crimson Tide committed 12 penalties, rushed for fewer than 3.3 yards per carry and fumbled late to set up Western Kentucky's only touchdown.
Saban let Florida Atlantic's next head coach know right then and there that he's no less demanding today than he was then. It's the Saban way.
“That was a graduate-level football course,” Polian said. “The single biggest lesson I learned from Coach Saban is that there is exactly right and then there’s wrong. And if you did it 85% right, it’s not right.
“There are too many people in this day and age, especially young people, who (say), ‘Hey I tried my best, I did the best I could, I got most of it right.’ Well, in the real world you gotta get it all right. Learned that lesson as a 22-year-old the hard way.”
Kiffin, who was introduced Tuesday as the fourth head coach in FAU's history, has learned some hard lessons during his career. That includes tenures as head coach with the Oakland Raiders (5-15 in 2007-08), Tennessee (7-6 in 2009) and Southern California (28-15 in 2010-13).
In 2008, he was fired by Raiders owner Al Davis over the telephone. In 2013, he was fired by USC Athletics Director Pat Haden at Los Angeles International Airport after the team's 62-41 loss at Arizona State.
Kiffin joined Saban's staff in 2014 and Alabama is 39-3 since with three consecutive trips to the College Football Playoffs. Still, some considered Kiffin a dangerous hire. Houston, for example, never considered Kiffin after Tom Herman left for Texas. Instead, they promoted offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to head coach.
“Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me,” Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the school's board of regents, told KILT-AM in Houston. “Sure, he's been a head coach and he's been an OK head coach. But I can tell you this: [Kiffin] was not a safe hire.”
An ESPN story on Monday asked, “Has Lane Kiffin grown up?”
But Kiffin, who will continue as Alabama's offensive coordinator through the College Football Playoffs, will have no bigger fan than Saban.
“We think this is a wonderful opportunity for him to be a head coach again,” Saban said Monday during a news conference. “I think FAU has selected someone that is going to do a great job for them.
“He's done a great job here molding our offensive players to what they can do to have the best chance to be successful ... they made a great hire.”
On the cover: Photo by Getty Images
Above: Video courtesy of WPEC CBS 12 West Palm Beach