Saban strategy focus of Day 1


Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 12:10 a.m.
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Nick Saban gestures Tuesday as he officially announces he has signed on as head coach of the Miami Dolphins at the team's training facility in Davie.

The Associated Press
DAVIE - In the weeks ahead, new Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban must revamp the coaching staff, evaluate the players he inherited, trim payroll to meet the salary cap, hire a player personnel chief, shop for free agents and prepare for the college draft.
"We'll have a busy few months coming up," Saban said. "Let me just say this: We will make haste slowly when it comes to making decisions. We're going to be methodical in evaluating all those areas."
The sixth coach in the Dolphins' 39-year history reported for work Tuesday, arriving at the team complex by helicopter shortly before 11 a.m. He met with three assistant coaches, spoke at an introductory news conference and expressed confidence he can revive a franchise coming off its worst season since the 1960s.
"I'm not here to predict championships," Saban said. "I'm here to formulate a process that helps people be successful. If we can do that, we're going to put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to win a championship sometime in the future."
Despite his reputation for turning around programs at LSU and Michigan State with a hard-nosed approach, the 53-year-old Saban said he's not a savior, workaholic or disciplinarian. Indeed, he sounded more like a CEO conducting a Power Point presentation.
"In every part of this organization, we want to try to be on the cutting edge of everything we do - in systems, analysis, everything," he said.
During a 45-minute news conference, Saban never smiled but did flash occasional humor, such as when he drew a parallel between coaching and raising his two children.
"Nicholas is 18," Saban said. "If you take the keys to the truck away, you can get just about anything you want done."
On Christmas Day, Saban agreed to a five-year deal with the Dolphins worth at least $22.5 million, but he delayed starting the job until after coaching in LSU's loss to Iowa at the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. After repeatedly turning down past overtures from the NFL, Saban was lured to the Dolphins by their winning tradition - this season's 4-12 disaster notwithstanding - and Wayne Huizenga's reputation as a hands-off owner.
"The challenge that is here with a great organization and a great owner in a great part of the country was very appealing," Saban said. "I felt like after 11 years of being a coach in college, I was ready for a new challenge."
The Dolphins set a franchise record for defeats, but Saban said there's enough talent on the roster to do better. He left the door open to the return of running back Ricky Williams, whose retirement in July began Miami's downward spiral.
"If Ricky Williams has value to this organization, he's somebody we'd like to have be a part of this organization," Saban said. "I would be open to that."
Saban met Tuesday with friend and former colleague Jim Bates, who went 3-4 as the Dolphins' interim coach after being promoted from defensive coordinator when Dave Wannstedt resigned in November. Bates may return to his coordinator job, but he's also interested in head coaching opportunities elsewhere in the NFL.
"We'll probably have another meeting in a week or so," Saban said. "The decision is going to get made - not what's best for anyone but this organization, and how we can work together to help this organization. If that's not going to be the case, it's something we really shouldn't do."
Chris Foerster is unlikely to be retained as offensive coordinator, and Saban said he hopes to hire someone with NFL experience for that job.
There will be plenty of applicants. There was also a phone message Tuesday from Saban's mentor Bill Belichick, coach of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. They'll now be rivals in the AFC East.
"Just because you compete against each other doesn't mean you still can't respect each other and be good friends," Saban said.
Saban went 48-16 in five seasons at LSU and won the 2003 BCS national championship. His career college record is 92-42-1, and he helped turn around the Cleveland Browns as Belichick's defensive coordinator in 1991-94.
"Nick Saban has a track record of being a winning coach, and I believe he will continue that here with the Dolphins," Huizenga said in his brief introduction at Saban's news conference.
The transition from college to the NFL has tripped up many coaches, but Saban said he'll draw on his experience with the Browns, and at Michigan State and LSU.
"We recruited in college like we drafted in the pros," Saban said. "I don't think many of these other coaches that went to the NFL actually did that. The system we learned in the NFL in terms of size and speed and athletic attributes and mental and psychological characteristics are all things we used in college. Most people don't do that."
Saban declined to say how quickly he expects to rebuild a franchise that has been out of the playoffs the past three years. But he said he'll be as impatient as the rest of South Florida.
"Fans think they're the only ones affected by the fact we lost a game," he said. "But when we lose a game, I don't sleep at night."

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