A staff writer for Forbes expands to full, generally flattering length a profile of Alabama football coach Nick Saban published in that magazine.
For this book, Burke, who has previous titles about both fishing and football (4th and Goal: One Man's Quest to Recapture His Dream, 2012, etc.), interviewed myriads of folks whom Saban has known—and not all are admirers. (The author spoke a number of times with Saban, as well.) Burke shows what he believes is the enormous influence of Saban’s father, charts his subject’s own modest athletic career, and then follows him through a most restless coaching career. Until the Alabama job (2007-present), Saban rarely stayed anywhere very long. College, the NFL, assistant coach, head coach—he moved around until he found a position where he had absolute control and where, as Burke points out, he collects millions of dollars each year in salary and incentives. Although the author clearly admires the accomplishments of his subject, he continually notes the traits of Saban that many (non–football fans) might find troubling. He rarely sees his family (he does phone his wife every day, writes Burke), evinces no enduring pleasure in even the most significant wins (his teams have won four national championships—one was with LSU), has a fiery temper (Burke calls him “livid” more than once and describes testosterone-soaked basketball games/fistfights with his coaching staff), demands absolute loyalty, weeps occasionally, and is fundamentally humorless. However, the coach unquestionably possesses an Ahab-ian focus, and he has perhaps only one true peer when it comes to recruiting (Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer). Some have called him “The Lord of the Living Room” because of his persuasiveness. Burke muses near the end about what would have happened if Saban had focused his talents on some more serious social need.
A positive though often blunt and unpleasant story of a man who has it all yet remains restive.