Nick Saban likes to refer to his football program in Alabama as an “organization,” and a new book by AL.com’s John Talty dives deep into how Saban runs the Crimson Tide like he’s the CEO of a big company.
“Nick Saban’s Leadership Secrets: How Alabama’s Coach Became Greatest Ever,” was published Tuesday by Matt Holt Books. It’s the first book by Talty, who said his goal was to uncover how the Alabama coach built a seemingly relentless college football dynasty in Tuscaloosa.
Read an excerpt from The Leadership Secrets of Nick Saban
“There have been a few other books written about Nick Saban over the years, so if I wanted to do it, I wanted to do something different,” said Talty, senior sports editor and SEC insider for AL.com and the Alabama Media Group. “Part of that is because of my background, my first job out of college was actually a business reporter and I have an interest in business. My father worked on Wall Street, so that was part of my daily life growing up. So many people I’ve spoken to over the years — former coaches, former players, recruits — they all talked about how Nick Saban runs football in Alabama like a business.
“So I wanted to see if there was really anything to it. Was it just footballers talking about it feeling like a business or were there actually things he does on a daily basis that could be applicable in a business environment outside of football? And so, in essence, the book is a deep dive into how and why Nick Saban found the success he is. There are lots of interesting anecdotes and things that I don’t think people have read before that will appeal to any football fan, but there are also things about corporate governance that I think should appeal to people who are just curious how this guy has had the success he’s had in the last 25 to 30 years of his career.”
Talty, a New Jersey native who graduated from the University of Maryland, said he interviewed more than 100 of Saban’s former players and coaches, but not just those he met in Alabama or at other college stints like of LSU and Michigan worked together. Saban spent more than a decade as a head coach and assistant coach in the NFL, most notably as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, before happily serving two years with the Miami Dolphins, which directly led to his return to college football in Alabama im year 2007.
Also included are insights from those who have not worked directly with or for Saban, but have competed against him.
“I wanted to try to paint as complete a picture as possible not only of Nick Saban, but of his style and strategy,” Talty said on Mobile’s SportsTalk 99.5 FM. “I wanted to bring together so many different people from different aspects of his life or interact with him in different ways to be able to do that. So there are ex-coaches, there are ex-players going back to his days as a coach with the Houston Oilers (in the early 1980’s) and beyond. But also rivals like (former Georgia coach) Mark Richt and other people who have had to compete against him over the years.
“I just felt it was important to get all these different voices to be able to show who this guy really is and not just rely on Alabama players or former Alabama coaches.”
Nick Saban’s Leadership Secrets addresses not only the core principles Saban shares with many successful leaders, but also those that the Alabama coach appears to have done better than most before him, such as speaking to his Players through the media in addition to that in individual or team-wide settings. With chapter headings such as “Using Employee Turnover to Improve,” “The Process,” “Don’t Waste Failure,” and “Rat Poison and Other Lessons from the Podium,” Talty’s book is category after category breakdown of the pillars of Saban’s success.
Of course, the driving force behind everything Saban does as a football coach is recruitment. He’s almost undeniably the greatest of all time, and not just at winning over high-profile high school prospects and getting them to play in Alabama.
“In his very first meeting in Alabama, he had everyone in the building come to that meeting,” Talty said. “I’m talking supervisors, secretaries, the lower levels (academic assistants) — it doesn’t matter what your role is. He wanted you at this meeting. And he put it to them in very clear terms: “Everything we do is about recruitment. Everything has to be geared towards recruiting at a high level.” “And I think that’s something he did from that day to the end. (Former Assistant) Tyler Siskey told me a story… that they (Saban) would send about a hundred recruiting films when he went on vacation and he would just even when he was on vacation watched recruitment films and sent in his notes and he would they update and things like that. I mean, it’s something he prioritizes every day.
“He understood that the most important thing he has to do to be successful is to have the right people. So if you understand that the most important thing is to have the right people, then he wants to be involved in these important steps.”
Nick Saban’s Leadership Secrets is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and through the Penguin Random House website. Talty will be appearing at The Little Professor Bookshop in Homewood on August 11th and Page & Palette in Fairhope on August 18th for book signings/readings.