The coach’s sheepish grin and delay in answering as he surveyed the room was funny. The snickers in the room told all one needs to know about perceptions of what he really thinks.
“No, not at all,” he said, drawing out more laughs from the room. “You know, I’m probably misunderstood a little when it comes to media.”
He went on to give the speech often heard at SEC Media Days and other mass media functions, in which he expresses appreciation for what media does to promote the game and create “self-gratification in a positive way” for players.
“I really have a lot of appreciation for that,” he said. “I guess where I get a little misunderstood is I’m a little old-school in how I’ve tried to protect our team from — to stay focused on what they need to do and how what you do can affect how they think and their ability to focus on what they need to do to be successful.
“So, I think there’s some kind of a disconnect that occurs sometimes between what you think I think and what I really think.”
MOVIE NIGHT: Saban typically has movie night for his teams on nights before a night game. As of Sunday morning’s news conference, he said he didn’t know which movie his team would watch.
But Saban has expressed a preference for message movies in his personal life, let alone movies he shows his teams. Last year’s Alabama team saw “Red Tails,” the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.
One writer, presumably from LSU country, asked him Sunday about his memories from the lead-up to his national-title run with the Tigers in 2003, and movie night came up.
“I think the movie, regardless of whether it was ‘The Last Samurai’ or whatever movie it was,” he said, “really it was about the honor of — the message was the honor of being all that you can be, that maybe that might be more important than winning or losing, and that your focus should be on that instead of the outcome.”
FOCUS CONCERNS? Saban described the players-only meeting that the Crimson Tide had in Miami this week as routine and downplayed concerns about the focus of younger players as a matter of getting out of routine.
“We always have a players-only meeting. Every week our players do that,” Saban said. “We have a leadership group. We’re constantly trying to enhance the development of and responsibility that players have to affect other players.
“I think that when we came here — I guess it was Wednesday, I kind of get lost with the days — we had a practice at home, which was a little bit out of the routine. We traveled here, and it just seemed like we had a little bit of trouble getting sort of re-centered and refocused on what we needed to do, and we had to have a little meeting to try to get everybody back on track.
“But since that time I feel really good about how our players have responded.”
PAYING PLAYERS: With the NCAA’s continued look at providing stipends for scholarship athletes, the question has come up in Miami with Saban and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.
Both coaches support the idea, Saban because a considerable number of players come from economically challenged backgrounds.
“In our sport especially, there is socioeconomic groups that struggle a little bit, even with a scholarship, because there is a cost associated with going to college that is beyond room, board, tuition and books,” Saban said. “And I think, especially where we’ve sort of gotten to from a business perspective relative to the financial end of things that there isn’t really any good reason that the student-athletes who create that should not share in that to some degree.
“And I think there’s a lot better people to determine how and what that really should be, but I do think we should move in that direction, to help student-athletes.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.