The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are preparing to play the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked the following question by a reporter during Monday’s press conference:
“Do you expect there to be the competitive fire from players that won’t allow them to think that it’s okay to lose this game?”
If you’ve followed Saban much over the years, you know a question like that is going to draw an irked response from the five-time national championship-winning coach. The thought process behind the reporter’s question is that the undefeated Crimson Tide can afford to lose the SEC Championship; Alabama will still almost surely be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff. So, perhaps the Crimson Tide players wouldn’t have the “competitive fire” to win this game given that it may not truly be a must-win.
The thing is, every game to Saban is viewed as a must-win. It’s like I wrote last week on Gregg Popovich ranting about the San Antonio Spurs having a “very pathetic performance” (in a game they won!):
There is a trait that separates great coaches like Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, and Mike Krzyzewski from the average coach. And it’s not just “winning”, although the trait certainly leads to more winning.
It’s that they’re never satisfied.
Saban is never satisfied (at least until that championship is won), and he’s definitely not one to think it’s okay to attack a game with the “Well, we’ll still be fine even if we lose!” attitude.
So when Saban was asked this question on Monday, he of course answered with a rant on how “it’s never okay to lose a game” (videos and quotes via AL.Com):
“That’s certainly not the mindset that we want,” an angry Saban responded. “This is a big game for us. It’s an opportunity to win the SEC championship, which — to me — is a very significant accomplishment. We hold that in very high esteem, having the ability to do that, having the opportunity to do it, having the ability to play for it.”
Saban’s voice then rose even more.
“You all (the media) put everything about the Playoffs,” he said. “That’s all you care about. You don’t care about any bowl games. You don’t care about any teams in the country that aren’t in the Playoffs. I don’t know. If we don’t win this game, maybe we throw a stink bomb out there, maybe we don’t get the Playoffs. I don’t know. You guys have got all the answers to all that, but I don’t. All I know is that if we play well we control our own destiny in terms of what we do.”
His voice then rose to an even higher level.
“So,” Saban said, “I’d really rather not have any more questions about ‘Is it OK to lose this game?’ It’s never OK to lose a game.”
This wasn’t necessarily a bad question from the reporter, as it’s indeed worth wondering if Alabama will go 100%, all-out for this game. But, it’s a bad question if you expect a different response out of Saban. Perhaps this was simply a reporter baiting Saban into a rant, and if so, thank you, reporter!