We’ll have more on Tennessee’s thoughts about former head coach Lane Kiffin returning to Knoxville as Alabama’s offensive coordinator as the week progresses, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban addressed the issue from their side on Monday at his weekly press conference.
As would be expected, Saban downplayed the storyline, though he did have some interesting insight into a similar situation.
“I think it’s only a distraction if you allow it to be a distraction,” Saban said. “It doesn’t mean anything to us. The game, our players, their players – that’s what means something to us, and that’s what should mean something to every coach on our staff.”
Saban has some degree of first-hand experience with being a returning villain to a fanbase. After five years at LSU (2000-04), Saban eventually ended up returning to Baton Rouge as the head coach of Alabama after a brief stint with the Miami Dolphins. Saban won a national title with the Tigers – that’s far more than Kiffin accomplished in Knoxville – and there was resentment for him leaving and then returning with another SEC West school.
Saban took over the Tide in 2007 and returned to Baton Rouge in 2008 for the first time in a game No. 1 Alabama won 27-21.
“The only experience I have is when I went back to Baton Rouge, and it was very negative, getting hung in effigy, burned at the stake, just about everything that could happen happened,” Saban said. “But the way I try to manage it with the players is let them know that’s going to happen in advance, and not to be affected by it. That it would probably be rowdy when we got off the bus to go to the locker room, but that really would have nothing to do with what happened in the game.
“That was going to come down to what we did on the field. I would hope it’s our approach to do the same thing in this game.”