Trust me, you’ll want to check out this ESPN piece on how Kirby Smart built Georgia. He knew what he wanted before he walked in the door at Butts-Mehre for the first time.
When McGarity and Smart finally spoke face to face after the SEC championship game that December, there weren’t many unknowns. The meeting was more about determining fit, hearing Smart’s vision for the program and understanding the commitment it would require. “He knew what he needed,” McGarity said, “and it was our job to make that happen.”
At one point, Smart handed McGarity a flowchart containing all the positions and reporting responsibilities within the organization. The recruiting department would roughly double in size. The chart was so big and complex that it couldn’t fit on McGarity’s tablet. Positions were color-coded to distinguish salaried from hourly employees.
McGarity wasn’t put off by the dollar figures, though, not even when they lured offensive line coach Sam Pittman away from Arkansas by giving him a $525,000 raise and paying a $250,000 buyout. McGarity said he was determined to empower Smart, rather than being a “helicopter” AD questioning him at every turn. But he does remember looking over the flowchart and wondering, “What are all these people going to do?”
“Once you saw a recruiting weekend in action, you said, ‘I get it,'” McGarity said. It wasn’t just the number of people required to pull off Smart’s vision of an official visit that impressed McGarity but also the coordination that took place, all the way down to the janitorial staff. From the moment a player set foot on campus, he and his family had a Georgia representative with them the entire time — a driver, a tour guide, a coach. There were no large groups where someone could get lost or let their mind wander. Everything was personalized.
“I’m always going to have a presence because I think it shows the players, it shows the people in the organization, that everything we do is important,” Smart said. “And if you’re not there and you’re not relevant, you know, what does that say you’re saying about that part of the organization? And I just think it’s too important to be involved.”
And everyone was called upon to pitch in. Jere Morehead, the school president, would give up his Saturday mornings to come talk to recruits. When Morehead couldn’t make it, McGarity, who retired in 2020, would step in.
When the football coach makes the school’s president and athletic director pitch in on recruiting, you know who the real boss is.
My favorite two parts of the article are about Bill Belichick…
Smart recalled going to the NFL combine as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins in 2006 and being told by Saban, “I want you to come here and sit by Bill.” To which Smart asked, “Bill who?” It was Belichick, whom Saban had worked with as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Saban said to listen and learn. But as they followed Belichick, positioning themselves behind the defensive linemen getting ready to run the 40-yard dash, Smart was confused. “Why are we here?” he asked. “You can’t time the finish.” Saban explained, “No, Bill likes to look and see how big their ass is when they get down in the 40-yard stance because he wants to sign the biggest ass defensive linemen that he can.” Saban accounts for a number of critical factors when evaluating players: straight-line speed, short-area quickness, arm length, ankle and hip flexibility. But sometimes a big can is what’s required, “Because those ‘backers want to … be protected.”
I’ll never be able to look at a Georgia defensive line the same way again. But I digress. The other great thing is a staple in the mix at practice.
On Mondays, Smart wanted to set the tone. So at the start of every practice, during stretch period, he played a song by The O’Jays. It was a little on the nose and way too old for the audience, but he dialed up “Back Stabbers.” Early on, there’s this passage:
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin’ straight at your back
And I don’t think they’ll miss
What they do? They smilin’ in your face
All the time, they want to take your place
The back stabbers (Back stabbers)
So that was the soundtrack the first time Georgia reached the playoff, beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and lost to Alabama in the national championship game. Four years later, the Bulldogs got their revenge.
The song is still in rotation. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson said Smart plays it to remind them “They’re not with us.”
You know that’s coming soon to a Musical Palate Cleanser near you. Anyway, read the whole thing.