By Tyler Martin
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
When Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide take the field Saturday, he will begin his quest for a coveted seventh national championship as a head coach. A seventh ring would break a tie with former UA head coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, for the most in college Division I football.
Saban’s journey to becoming one of the greatest coaches of all time is chronicled in Lars Anderson’s newest book, “Chasing the Bear: How Bear Bryant and Nick Saban Made Alabama the Greatest College Football Program of All Time.”
“The idea behind this book has been circulating in my mind for several years now,” Anderson said. “I have been in Alabama since 2004 so I have had a front row seat to the rise of Nick Saban.”
In the book, Anderson investigates the similarities and differences between the two legendary Crimson Tide coaches and the role they have played in building a college football empire.
“It is kind of like two books rolled into one,” Anderson said. “I wanted the two narratives of their lives to reflect how college football has changed throughout the years, and you see that through the different methods the two coaches used to recruit and motivate their players. I also wanted to show that there are profound similarities between them, in terms of, what they have overcome in their personal and professional lives.”
Anderson’s research into the two giants of the college game left him walking away from his project with one foundational truth both coaches believe in, but have expressed it in different ways.
“The fundamental secret of both coaches, it is very simplistic, but it is hard work,” Anderson said. “But what does hard work really look like? For Saban, it is a 24/7 obsession with the game and that is shown in his coaching philosophy, ‘The Process.’ With Bryant, he wanted his players to be tougher, meaner, and rougher than anyone else. He won his first championship with undersized players, who were tough as nails, because of the practices and offseason workouts he put them through.”
Chasing the Bear is Anderson’s second book surrounding the Alabama football program with his first being, “Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope, and Triumph in Tuscaloosa.”
Saban’s success over the last decade has begged the question to college football savants like Anderson – Is he the greatest coach of all time? The author says that question is mainly for historians, but he would lean toward the current coach.
“What Saban has accomplished in this era might be more impressive than what Bryant did,” Anderson said. “Given the scholarship limitations, the overall parity in college football, and now that there is a playoff. There are more games to win and the SEC is stronger than it has ever been.”
Anderson can be heard on The Jay Barker Show with Lars Anderson and Kerry Adams every weekday from noon-2 p.m. on 102.9FM in Tuscaloosa.
Fans will be able to purchase “Chasing the Bear” on Sept. 3 at all major bookstores and online retailers