John Calipari observed as Nick Saban’s 2009 Alabama team won the national title and then fell off a bit the next year. He then watched Saban repeat as champion this year and wondered how the mastermind stayed ahead of the pack. He got his chance to ask at the SEC meetings.
“When I met with Coach Saban at the SEC meetings I wanted to know, ‘When you won it in 2009, you guys kind of faltered a little bit. Now that you won it in 2011, tell me exactly what you thought you learned,” he said. “He gave me some great insight in what he saw and how things had changed and what he would guard against. One of the things was he started right away on the next season. He didn’t wait.”
One of the keys to their conversation was making a distinction between trying to become a great team and defending a national championship.
“He gave me some good things, like we’re not trying to defend a national title,” Calipari said. “That one is in the bank, that one is on the shelf. We’re trying to become the best team this team can be.”
Saban is not a bad guy for Calipari to seek advice from, because the Alabama coach lost 12 players to the NFL last year and then still repeated as national champion. Calipari also realized after his conversation with Saban, that he has to recruit with the same frame of mind as the Alabama head coach as well.
“If you recruit a kid and you’re promising him the world, how in the world are you going to coach him in that short a period of time to do that?” Calipari said. “You can’t. You have to say, ‘This is Alabama.’ Without me being in the home, with those kind of kids you have to say, ‘Look you have a chance, I’m not promising you but look who we have. Do you understand how hard it’s going to be? Do you understand what it means? Are you up for that challenge?’ It’s the same thing here. It’s all similar.”
I’m hoping the Calipari didn’t learn TOO much from Saban, because really how much better of a recruiter can Calipari become? It’s just not fair to everybody else.