Before he became a two-time national championship head coach at Georgia, Kirby Smart was one of Nick Saban’s closest assistants. Smart spent 10 years on Saban’s staff, first at LSU, then with the Miami Dolphins, before eight consecutive seasons at Alabama.
With Saban now retired, Smart told a story of the first time Saban screamed at him and his staff. Smart told ESPN’s Chris Low and Harry Lyles Jr. that after Saban first hired him, to replace Lance Thompson as LSU’s defensive backs coach in 2004, Thompson told him that working for Saban was “like dog years.”
Saban invited Smart to his house on Super Bowl Sunday to meet his wife as part of the interview when Smart made a crucial mistake.
“I was comfortable and feeling good about the way it was going, and I just say, ‘I don’t get it. People say working here is like dog years.’ I don’t know why in the hell I said that. Just dumb,” Smart told ESPN. “Think about it. Why would you ever say something like that to an employer you’re trying to get a job with? But I did. I guess I wasn’t overwhelmed or intimidated. I was too young to know any better.”
At the time, Smart was a 29-year-old who had just finished up two years as a graduate assistant at Florida State. The next day, then-LSU defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who recommended the young assistant, said Saban was furious that someone on the staff told him that comment.
“I got the whole staff cussed out and somehow still got the job,” Smart said.
It all worked out for Smart in the end, climbing up Saban’s staff on his way to a successful tenure as Georgia’s head coach. At the time, however, a young Smart almost ruined it all with a big mouth.