cover image Saban: The Making of a Coach

Saban: The Making of a Coach

Monte Burke. Simon & Schuster, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8993-4

Sports journalist Burke highlights the career of University Alabama football coach Nick Saban in this affectionate, admiring, no-holds-barred glimpse into the quest for perfection that has driven Saban to win four national titles in his 19 years as a college head coach. With the staccato pace of a great play-by-play announcer, Burke traces Saban’s desire for perfection to his desire to please his father, both on the football field and off, as a child and teenager growing up near Fairmont, W.Va. This yearning pushes Saban to move from one coaching job to another, relocating from Toledo, Ohio, to Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, and finally to Alabama, each time turning a football program around in a short time after his arrival. Burke describes Saban as someone who expected every player to be as focused on the game as he is, and who peppers his conversations with his players with phrases such as, “You can’t hoot with the owls at night and get up and soar with the eagles in the morning.” As decisive as he is on the field, Saban has often been indecisive when it comes to his career; famously, he left Michigan State for LSU, arrived in Baton Rouge, called Michigan State late at night in a moment of terrific indecision and asked to return, and then reversed his request the next morning and remained at LSU. Burke has written a winning, definitive portrait of a fascinating character. (Aug.)