Georgia’s Kirby Smart shares challenges, benefits of coaching alma mater
ATHENS — Kirby Smart shared that the biggest pressure of being the head coach of your alma mater is not what you might think.
“What I found was the first year, it had nothing to do with the outcome of wins and losses,” Smart said. “I’m not making excuses for wins or losses.
“(But) there’s a lot of pressure of your time.”
No doubt, moving back to Athens after spending the previous eight years in Tuscaloosa as Nick Saban’s top defensive assistant was an eye opener.
“The unique thing about being at Alabama,” Smart said, “nobody ever came up there wanting to see me at Alabama.”
But at Georgia, it was a different story.
“What I found was the negative to being at Georgia, was that everyone who knew me, whether I coached them as a coach, or I played with them as a player, or they were lettermen, they felt like they deserved 15 minutes, or 20 minutes,” Smart said.
“At some point, you’ve got to have somebody be the bad guy.”
Indeed, Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, one of the fastest rising stars in the coaching profession, shared one of the biggest things he’s learned from Smart is time allocation.
“Coach Smart’s extremely detailed, maybe the most detailed and efficient man I’ve ever been around,” Lanning said at the start of last season. “Every day he reminds me not to waste a minute.”
Smart said when he was hired he reached out to former UGA coach Ray Goff to ask him about the trappings of being a former player coaching at your alma mater, and Goff advised him wisely.
“It’s important to treat people right,” Smart said Goff told him, “but you’ve got to understand that you only have so much time to get things done, and you can’t make everybody happy.”
The pressure to win is obvious, whether a coach is leading his alma mater, or not.
Consider, four of the 16 head coaches leading their alma mater heading into last season stepped down or were fired.
“That’s the burden that you carry with you as a former player, is that you want to do well for your alma mater, and every game,” Smart said. “Regardless of what people say about me and Coach Goff, we want to win worse than the fans do.”
It is sometimes amusing to see fans second-guessing coaches on personnel decisions, particularly when they don’t see the 20 hours of practice each week or understand the nuances of each position and game plan.
Smart knows there are a portion of people in each fan base who somehow disconnect from the head coaches’ burning desire to win.
“Some of them don’t understand that,” Smart said. “We want to win for these kids and the coaches on the staff, and there’s a lot of pressure in that.”
The flip side, Smart said, is that as a former player at Georgia he can speak to the value of the school’s education and resources better than anyone.
“The benefit is you can sell it better than anybody,” said Smart, whose recruiting prowess indicates he has done just that. “I can sell the experience I had at Georgia under Coach Goff and his staff.
“How good they were to me, the success of being a graduate of the University of Georgia, and what that has done. All of those things are just remarkable, so it’s a lot more positives than negatives.”
Kirby Smart & Ray Goff, July 13
Georgia coaches who were UGA grads
1892- Dr. Charles Herty
1893 – Ernest Brown
1903 and 1905 – M.M. Dickinson
1923-1927 George “Kid” Woodruff
1961-1963 Johnny Griffith
1989-1995 Ray Goff
2016 (one game) – Bryan McClendon
2016-present Kirby Smart