Saban’s impact runs deep in Chambers County

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

After 16 seasons as Alabama’s head football coach, the legendary Nick Saban has decided to retire from coaching. 

Saban began his head coaching career with Toledo in 1990. After seven national championships and 11 SEC championships, the legendary coach has decided to move on to the next phase of his journey. 

Saban’s impact throughout the coaching world is impossible to understate, but his local impact goes beyond just what you see on television. 

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In 2020, Lanett star Kristian Story decided to sign with Alabama as a safety. Story has since announced that he will be transferring to Kentucky, but several coaches within Lanett’s program were impacted by Saban’s recruitment of Story. 

Lanett head coach Chip Seagle was an assistant coach under Kristian’s father, Clifford Story, for several years. Seagle grew up as a lifelong Alabama fan, but he had admired Saban long before he came to Tuscaloosa. 

“I’ve got a lot of coaching buddies, you can imagine in 40 years of coaching, and a good portion of them are Auburn fans. I don’t know a single one of them that would dog him,” Seagle said. “The only people that hate Saban are people that don’t know football.” 

Seagle grew up as an Alabama fan, but he began following Saban’s coaching philosophy earlier in his career. After Saban won a national championship with LSU in 2003, he released a book with some of his coaching and overall life philosophy. 

Seagle became an avid reader and fan of who Saban was as a coach and person. Seagle adopted his coaching philosophy to become more like Saban, and Seagle was thrilled when he found out that Saban was going to become the coach of his favorite team. 

“I still remember where I was when my brother called me on my flip phone, that’s how long he’s been at Alabama, and told me they just hired Saban,” Seagle said. “I was pulling for Saban all along. The summer before that football season I read his book How Good Do You Want to Be?” 

Saban’s book talked about a process-driven lifestyle as opposed to a goal-oriented lifestyle. Seagle took this and adapted it to his career. 

“It’s been near 20 years that I tried to be more process-driven than goal-oriented,” Seagle said. “The way he presented it just made sense.”

Over the years, Seagle has had several interactions with Saban at coaching clinics. Seagle got to see Saban at work firsthand when the legendary coach stopped by Lanett to recruit Panthers’ star, Kristian Story. 

Saban came to the school with the intention of speaking to Clifford Story, but he also took the time to speak with other players and coaches. 

“He just interacted so well with these teenage boys. He met the other players too. He shook every hand. There were a few mamas, word got out on social media, that came by. He was very gracious with them.”

Coaches and athletes of Saban’s caliber tend to take on a “larger than life” persona, but that was not the case according to Seagle. During Seagle’s several interactions with Saban, the legendary coach was completely approachable. 

“When you meet him face-to-face in a more intimate environment, he’s just like any other coach,” Seagle said. “He’s just a normal guy. 

“At the time Ken Ken was 17 years old, and he shook his hand and talked to him. He just interacted so well with these teenage boys. He met the other players too. He shook every hand. There were a few mamas, word got out on social media, that came by. He was very gracious with them.” 

At 72, Saban’s retirement does not come as a shock to many. However, most Alabama fans were surprised by the news. 

“If I could write the end, he’d have won it and then rode off into the sunset,” Seagle said. 

For most fans, it seemed only right that Saban give it at least one more season. The coach that brought the University of Alabama had to go out on top, except he didn’t. Saban went out on his own time, and the fans that understand that would have it no other way. 

Seagle, like most fans, wanted Saban to win it before he left. However, as a coach, Seagle also knows that Saban was left with nothing else to prove.