Truth be told, Nick Saban really wanted to be a car dealer.
“I never wanted to be a coach,” Saban, the extraordinarily successful head coach at the University of Alabama, told Automotive News. “I was planning on going to a General Motors school to learn about how to become a general manager to have a dealership.”
But fate had different plans.
Saban was a defensive back on Kent State University’s football team and graduated from the school in 1973.
His coach at Kent State had an opening for a graduate assistant position on his staff and offered Saban the job.
Saban took the position and ended up liking coaching. As he climbed the ladder, which included stops at both the collegiate and professional ranks, Saban said he never got the dealership opportunity he so desired until recently.
Saban’s self-proclaimed affinity for cars is partly thanks to his late father, who owned an “old-fashioned” service station in West Virginia.
In fact, from age 11 until he got married at age 20, Saban said, he worked various jobs at the station, taking notice of the eye-catching vehicles that would stop by.
“A Pontiac GTO showed up to the station one day, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s the best thing in the world,'” Saban recalled.
Another car that grabbed his attention was a Mercedes, which he remembered seeing at a young age — a rare sight in West Virginia at the time, Saban added. It left a strong impression on him.
“I’ve had a Mercedes since 1981,” Saban said, noting that his first model was a midsize diesel sedan that he drove while he was on the coaching staff at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I always loved those cars,” Saban said. “I always felt like they were sort of the industry standard in terms of quality and excellence.”
Admittedly, Saban’s schedule as coach of one of the nation’s top football programs is hectic, to say the least.
And to be clear, coaching is still his focus, and his day job.
Saban is entering his 11th season at Alabama. He’s led four Crimson Tide teams to national championships, and the 2017-18 team is the current favorite to win the next championship.
But Saban’s partner, dealer Joe Agresti, said he and Saban speak regularly and that he always finds time to give Agresti his ear.
“I feel very comfortable calling Coach,” Agresti said. “He offers guidance and sometimes relates it to football, but more importantly, he takes the call.”
And Saban makes time to visit the Birmingham stores when he can, though never during the football season, he said. Saban said he stops by the stores during the Christmas season to shake employees’ hands and wish them happy holidays.
Saban does have an extra reason to stop by the Mercedes store. His son, Nicholas, works there.
Currently, the younger Saban is in a dealer training program in which he’ll be working every position at the Mercedes store.
“If I’m ever in Birmingham, I say hi to him,” Saban said. “And I tell the team that I appreciate the good job that they do.”
Coach Nick Saban
- Age: 65
- Position: Head football coach, University of Alabama
- Previous head coaching stops: University of Toledo, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, NFL’s Miami Dolphins
- National championships: 2003, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015
- College head coaching record: 205-61-1