It's true that when he left Michigan State for LSU in 1999, he sent the LSU plane for his assistants and no one got on board. The Spartans assistants chose to stay in East Lansing, work for Bobby Williams and not have to move their families. Duh.
And it's true that Saban isn't one to greet lower-level staffers by name, or at all. When it comes to kissing babies and clutching shoulders, Saban is no Mack Brown. Saban is an introvert.
But here's what you need to know about how tough Saban is to work for: Of the Crimson Tide's three new assistants this year, two of them, defensive line coach Bo Davis and linebackers coach Kevin Steele, left his staff at Alabama and came back. Overall, of the nine assistants, six have left Saban for better jobs or different environments, only to come back.
Saban pays his staff well -- according to USA Today, Alabama assistants earned $4.46 million in 2013, second only to LSU. He is highly organized and an effective teacher. Coaches who work for him learn a lot. What they don't do is speak to the media, unless it's a contractual obligation, which it was at BCS games.
Here's what defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said at the BCS National Championship in Miami two seasons ago about working for Saban:
"You learn every day," Smart said. " ... Every day we do two minute against each other, we come in, talk about clock management, what could we have done here? What should we have done there? He's questioning not only us, why we did this in this situation, but he questions himself. He does a great job of quality control of the entire organization, what could we have done differently, and I think sometimes when you go other places that don't have the same support structure, you don't get that same experience."
Perhaps only when they leave do assistant coaches understand why Saban isn't so bad.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The spotlight at Florida State last season trained on Jameis Winston, as well it should have. Left in the shadow cast by his quarterback, head coach Jimbo Fisher quietly ascended to a place few before him have been able to reach.
If history is any guide, the toll of taking over a program from the legend who built it is steep. Hand-picked replacements such as Ray Perkins at Alabama (Bear Bryant), Ray Goff at Georgia (Vince Dooley) and Gary Moeller at Michigan (Bo Schembechler) all struggled on the field and, occasionally, off of it, with the demands of being the Next Guy.
Same goes for Jim Lambright at Washington (Don James) and Gary Gibbs at Oklahoma (Barry Switzer). Earle Bruce at Ohio State (Woody Hayes) and Fred Akers at Texas (Darrell Royal) nearly won national championships but fell short, and eventually got fired because they stopped winning enough for their fan bases.
Coaches who replaced legends and then became legends themselves come along about once every generation. Tom Osborne (Nebraska) did so, and still he needed 22 seasons to win his first national championship, while his predecessor, Bob Devaney, won two in 11 years. Osborne needed only one more year to equal Devaney's haul, and went on to win a third in 1997, his final season.