I will admit that one reason I had misgivings about hiring Kirby Smart as Georgia’s head coach was due to something he said on the radio last summer.
“That cell phone you’ve got is the death of coaches,” Smart said. “Every college coach I talk to won’t say it on record, but every one’s thinking, ‘Should I go to the League?’ Because you don’t have the same requirements. It’s different. The hours are different. But the recruiting is non-stop. Today I was on the boat, and my phone was blowing up. It’s non-stop.
“You can put the phone away in pro ball. For three or four months, players have the CBA where you can’t do certain things. For us, it’s non-stop. I’ve got recruits that will text and call in the middle of the night, and I’m with my family. But you’ve got to dedicate time to that, or you can’t do it.”
Alabama has brought in the No. 1-ranked recruiting class for five straight years. Smart described the mindset with Nick Saban as always being behind in recruiting. If a coach thinks he’s ahead, Saban will remind him that he’s not. Alabama has the luxury of a huge recruiting staff, which many schools can’t afford. If a coach can’t handle a recruit, a staffer can, because otherwise, other schools can pounce.
“If you don’t, somebody (else) will,” Smart said. “That’s the part why I say college coaches are always looking to go. If you’re not a niche recruiter, as you get older or less active as a recruiter, you become less valuable.”
Was Smart, as he put it, looking to go? He doesn’t say he was, but it sounds there like he’d spent some time contemplating the question. I’m not saying that Smart’s value as a potential head coach hire is solely tied up in his ability to recruit, but if the fire in the belly had started to diminish, even a little, it would have made it harder to justify entrusting the job to someone with no previous head coaching experience.
Fortunately, events of the past two or so months have put my concerns to rest. Smart may not have locked down every recruit he wanted, but I don’t think anyone can say that was due to a lack of effort on his part or his staff’s. And judging from this, he hasn’t exactly slowed down since signing day.
On a typical day now in the office: “I got up about 6:30 today and got to the office a little bit before 7:30. We do a lot of quality control work, defensively, offensively in the morning from 8 to 11. The coaches are in watching tape, deciding how we’re going to do this. Each opponent we play, we’re studying what we did last year, offensively, defensively, what we’re going to do going forward. Me personally, I’m taking phone calls from high school coaches and recruits at different times intermittently in the morning and they’ll be a lunch break. We’ll let coaches go, they get an hour to eat, work out and get everything done they need to do. Then we start back in the afternoon on recruiting and we go from about 1 to 3:30 evaluating prospects, making decisions on 2018 kids.”
Jeez, one hour for lunch and then get your asses back in the office, boys, you’ve got 2018 waiting on you. I don’t want to say the whole thing is obsessive, but it’s definitely focused.
The reason I don’t want to say it’s obsessive is because Smart appears to have that concern in the back of his mind, too.
Smart pulled in a top-10 recruiting class earlier this month, but he wants his assistants to put their families first, and he says the right recruits respect that.
“They constantly call you and tweet you. There’s some kind of contact nonstop every day with a recruit,” Smart told 680 The Fan. “I want my coaches to be as active as I was as an assistant. But they’ve got to manage their families, too. That’s important to all of us.
“The good recruits, the people we want in our family, they respect that. The kids we recruited this last year, they respected the fact I’m putting my family first when it comes to Sunday and going to church with them and doing things with my family. They’re going to appreciate me more for that than abandoning my family to show them attention. It’s a good balance.”
In fact, he believes a little sanity is a good recruiting tool. I can see his point there. As a recruit, I wouldn’t want to worry that my coach might be so wrapped up in the job that his health could eventually suffer enough such that he’d have to walk away from the program. (Or worse, mail it in a year or two before exiting. See, for example: Meyer, Urban.)
I’m sure being given the keys to the castle has been what Smart needed to make sure his batteries stayed charged. I just hope he can keep his balance as he gets established in the job.