PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Comparing Kirby Smart to his son, Alabama head coach Nick Saban on Sunday spoke extensively about his defensive coordinator, who will finally leave his side after Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game.
“Well, Kirby has been with me a long time, all the way back to the LSU days, Miami days and the entire time we’ve been at Alabama, nine years,” Saban said at the head coaches’ news conference at the J.W. Marriott’s Camelback Inn Sunday morning. “Kirby has done a fantastic job in every way, in terms of relationships with plays, development of players, recruiting players, doing a good job of implementing scheme, system, getting people to buy in and believe. Kirby has done a fantastic job. And I certainly appreciate the fact that he’s stuck here with us and done a really good job as far as trying to finish this year for our players. I think that’s the number one reason that he’s here.”
In addition to losing Smart to Georgia, Saban is also expected to lose assistant head coach and defensive backfield coach Mel Tucker and Glen Schumann, a defensive quality control specialist and Smart’s right-hand man for the last four years.
“I’m sure he’s going to be a very, very successful head coach,” Saban said of Smart’s impending stint at Georgia. “But these things are inevitable when you have really good assistant coaches. They work hard and aspire to have the next opportunity. I appreciate and respect the great job that they did for us. But it also makes you pleased and happy and proud to see them get an opportunity to do the things that they wanted to do.”
But as many in Alabama circles will tell you, Smart and Saban have developed an especially close relationship over the years.
“You know, it’s sort of like you have a son and he’s moving away, and you want to see him do really, really well,” Saban said. “Because we all go through stations of life where things change, so now someone else will have a better opportunity. Kirby will have an opportunity. Somebody will have an opportunity to do what he does, and hopefully we can provide a little leadership and guidance that will help him along the way have a chance to be successful.”