Why Nick Saban won’t let Alabama get caught up in seeking revenge

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST DR. Kevin Elko was sitting across from Alabama coach Nick Saban in 2019, relaying postgame gossip he’d seen online. Not only had LSU beaten the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa , apparently the Tigers had made a spectacle of it, toasting themselves as if they’d won the national championship in early November.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron had gathered his team around the 50-yard line and, in full view of reporters, shouted, "Right here on the middle of the damn field, let’s break it down! Tigers on three! Because this is our house from now on!"

It was a bold claim for a program that had gone nearly a decade without beating its rival, so Elko pointed out to Saban that he thought it was an excessive celebration.

Saban changed the subject.

Elko doubled-down later in the conversation, bringing up LSU again because it wasn’t just one slap they dealt Alabama, but two.

Later that night, a video from the visitors’ locker room went viral in which Orgeron was heard telling his players, "We’re going to beat their ass in recruiting! We’re going to beat their ass every time they see us! You understand me? Roll tide, what? F— you!"

Again, Saban gave Elko nothing.

"He spoke — believe it or not — positively about Ed Orgeron to me," Elko recalled. "He talked about how the game was big and [Orgeron] built them up and gave them faith."

Elko was surprised in the moment, but looking back he knows he shouldn’t have been. He’s worked with Saban for 20 years, and not once, he said, has he heard him utter a negative word about another coach.

"I have," Elko admitted. "He hasn’t."

On Saturday, LSU returns to Tuscaloosa for the first time since Orgeron’s proclamations ( 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App ), though it will be the final time Orgeron visits Bryant-Denny Stadium as the Tigers’ head coach. In October, after the collapse of the program in the 21 months since beating Alabama and winning the national title , Orgeron agreed to step down at the end of the season.

But with LSU back in town, is Alabama out for revenge? Well, not exactly.

"That’s not in Nick’s makeup," Elko said. "He’s real different than people would think."If the attitude of a football team is a reflection of the personality of its head coach, then Alabama is nothing if not methodical. Saban’s so-called "Process" isn’t about feelings. If anything, it’s about how everyone has a job to do and every play has a life of its own — how what is said, and even what the scoreboard says, are distractions to be ignored."He has a presence," former linebacker Christian Miller said. "If you’re around him, you can tell he has that strong, silent confidence."The equation is simple. Emotion can create anxiety, especially in meaningful games, Saban said, "and anxiety can be detrimental to performance." Revenge creates an "emotional psychological disposition which may not last," according to Nick Saban. Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports AT LEAST ONCE during Saban’s tenure at Alabama, that […]

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