It feels like this topic pops up every few months now because, well, at some point it's inevitable. Nick Saban can't coach forever.
While a day will come when Saban no longer sits atop his throne in Tuscaloosa, today is not that day. Nor is tomorrow.
“Everybody asks me when I wanna retire. Retire from what?” Saban asked, rhetorically. "I’m gonna jump into an empty abyss, aight, of what am I going to do? Because the very challenges that I talk about and the things in our profession that concern me -- for you and for me both, in your game and our game -- that’s what keeps me going. That’s why I get up every day. That’s why I can’t sleep at night sometimes."
The topic came up during an Alabama Football Coaches Association clinic last month. Video surfaced on Monday, which has since been deleted, but was transcribed by Bama OnLine.
“So why would you quit doing that? I haven’t figured that one out yet.”
The 2022 season will be Saban's 16th at Alabama, putting him on the job longer than all but six active FBS head coaches.
Rumors have always persisted -- I've heard it myself this winter -- that the next championship will be Saban's last. Such thinking is understandable, if not inevitable. The man turns 71 this season.
But such thinking misses the point. Saban isn't waiting for a milestone to walk away. He's given the above quote or something like it enough times now that it's clear that assuming he'll walk away after __ win is a fundamental understanding of Saban's thinking.
He doesn't coach to win, at least not to win a specific game or a specific trophy. He coaches because coaching is who he is. Each morning when his feet hit the floor, they need a hill to immediately start climbing. He feels a sense of duty to and ownership of the game, to make sure it continues in its current and proper form.
It's also true that, if Saban was thinking about retirement, he wouldn't tell us. The last thing Saban will ever do is show weakness, and even acknowledging the possibility of retirement would invite an avalanche of negative recruiting. Saban isn't the type to do a Coach K-style year-long farewell.
But it's safe to assume that, so long as Alabama is annually competing for titles and his health allows it, Saban will continue coaching.
See you all again in a few months.