Saban and Miles Have No Rivalry, It’s Mutual Respect and Friendship
By: Larry Burton
The press and fan bases want to make the Alabama / LSU rivalry a big deal and it is. And while fans may not like each other and LSU fans still hold anger of Saban leaving LSU so many years ago, among the coaches, there is no animosity.
These two men actually enjoy one another when they get those rare chances to be together. But it’s not just a welcoming hello and handshake kind of relationship, but a relationship where you’ll actually see the two of them smiling, joking and rare as it seems for Saban, sharing a laugh.
Maybe it’s because these two men share more commonalities than differences. Maybe it’s because each knows exactly what the other man’s life is really like, the pressures, the bad times and the good times, the juggling of family time and coaching duties and so much more.
And maybe it’s because each man respects the other as men and as professionals. In varying press conferences each man has praised the other in much more than just coach speak. “Yes, LSU has great athletes, but they are well coached and Les Miles will have them physically and mentally ready and it’s going to be one of our toughest games because of that.” Saban said about Miles.
And in the match up that had both teams in the national championship game a few years back, Saban said, “You can’t have the level of success that they’ve had on a consistent basis without doing a fantastic job as a coach and a leader. And I think Les has done that. I think he’s done a marvelous job.”
“This is a Nick Saban coached team, do I need to say anything more?” Miles said of Saban two years ago.
And it’s not that each man has had success over the other in a very tightly fought series of battles over the years when it comes to games settled on the field. Each knows the other as a top notch recruiter too. When it comes to top recruiting classes over the years the two have gone head to head, these two have been the top two coaches in the SEC in recruiting top classes and putting players in the NFL.
In fact, just this week Miles said in his press conference, “Coach Saban does a great job.” and then said, “”I think there’s a mutual respect, certainly from me to him, recognizing the great job he’s done at Alabama and the style of offense, defense and special teams he puts together,” Miles said when asked about this, his ninth game against Saban. “Obviously, he is a very, very talented coach.”
And just last week in a teleconference, Saban said, “We don’t really look at it like it’s a personal thing to me. They’ve got a really good team, and they’ve got good players. I think what they’ve done a good job of through the years is they do what their players can do well. And that’s always very difficult to defend whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. We have a lot of respect for what they do. I think Les has done a fabulous job there in recruiting as well as developing players.”
But this is a far cry from how the two first started. Miles needed to throw red meat to the LSU fan base and in 2007 when Saban first went to Alabama, Miles refused to even say his name and publicly poked fun at Saban being 0-2 against Louisiana in his first year with the Tide after losing to both LSU and Louisiana Monroe.
Early on, Saban just said nothing, good or bad about Miles, but as time went on, a relationship developed. Not from likeability between the two men, but one born of mutual respect and understanding. It may have been aided by Miles being the one that usually starts the teasing and playfulness, but clearly, both men enjoy the small amounts of time they have when they get together.
However, that good humor only lasts until kickoff, then it’s all business until what always looks like a cursory acknowledgment at midfield after the game. It’s just not the time for pleasantries there as each are still consumed by the emotion of the last 60 minutes of play.
So while Alabama and LSU will always be a rivalry game, the rivalry between the two coaches is over, except during the game.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter