Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban, college football’s most unlikely couple to get together and then succeed, are soon parting. Kiffin accepted the head coaching job at FAU on Monday. On Tuesday morning, Kiffin held his introductory presser as the Owls’ new head coach, during which he spoke a lot about Saban.
Lane Kiffin: “Very grateful to Coach Saban. My phone was not ringing much after getting let go by #USC. That was very humbling experience."— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 13, 2016
In Jan. 2014, the Alabama head coach took Kiffin in after he was fired from USC and was seemingly untouchable. In Tuscaloosa, Kiffin transformed the Alabama offense into a fast-paced, well-oiled machine. The Tide running the read option with Jalen Hurts under center shows just how much of an evolution Saban has undergone.
But Saban’s coaching style has rubbed off on Kiffin a lot, too.
Lane Kiffin: "Coach Saban does not watch or read anything. (He says) I don’t care what (the media) says. If i read that, I’m wasting time"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 13, 2016
He even basically directly quoted something Saban said after Alabama won the SEC title a couple of weeks ago.
New #FAU HC Lane Kiffin: "You don't get what you want. You get what you deserve."— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 13, 2016
"You don't always get what you want but you want in life, but you mostly get what you deserve" Nick Saban, life coach— Morgan Moriarty (@Morgan_Moriarty) December 4, 2016
Kiffin was asked if he’d still be the Owls’ head coach in four years. He responded in a way that shows maturity, but also alludes to the fact that he’s changed since his disastrous stints at Tennessee and USC.
Kiffin on if he'll stay 4 years: "I’m in a different place than I would have been 10 years ago and I think different." Doesn't really answer— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) December 13, 2016
In Feb. 2009, just a couple months after being named Tennessee’s head coach, Kiffin was quite different than the calm and composed FAU head coach he sounded like on Tuesday. It was back then that Kiffin accused then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer of committing a recruiting violation, for example.
"I'm gonna turn Florida in right here in front of you," Kiffin said, according to WVLT-TV. "While Nu'Keese Richardson was on campus, his phone kept ringing. One of the coaches says, 'Who's that?' And he said, 'Urban Meyer.'"
Richardson, a Pahokee, Fla., native, signed with the Volunteers on Tuesday, despite having indicated he would sign with the Gators.
Kiffin told the crowd, "I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."
He later apologized.
At SEC spring meetings that same year, Kiffin also took a shot at Steve Spurrier when he took a personal dispute public.
“I didn’t accuse you of cheating,” Spurrier said, pointing toward Kiffin. “I said, ‘Is it permissible to call recruits before he’s announced as head coach, before you take the test?’”
As Kiffin turned red in the face, Spurrier told reporters he did not realize coaches could take the test online before arriving at their new school, as Kiffin did.
Pretty different so far!
Kiffin will continue to coach Alabama through its College Football Playoff run, just as former Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart did last season after accepting the head coaching job at Georgia.
If Kiffin’s first FAU presser showed us anything, it’s that he’s learned how to sound like Saban, at very least. That’s not a bad guy to model your first head coaching gig in three years after.