Kirby Smart says he’s ready to make jump to head coach

Kirby Smart used to be sought after as a defensive coordinator, but he seems ready now to be a head coach. (AP photo)

Kirby Smart was sought after as a defensive coordinator, but now he seems ready for top job. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS — Two years after saying no to his alma mater, Kirby Smart can take comfort in one thing: The next time somebody picks up the phone to offer him a job, it won’t be for a lateral move.

Georgia wanted Smart back as their defensive coordinator, a position he already held at Alabama. But there was a thought by some in Athens, including Mark Richt, that the promise of a more-than-doubled salary – and the option of an attractive escape route from under Nick Saban’s thumb – could lure Smart back to the Bulldogs.

It didn’t happen — and that was the wisest decision Smart ever made.

When Alabama faces LSU on Monday night, Smart will have a chance to win his second BCS championship in three seasons. He no longer is viewed as merely a hot young assistant ready to jump at any head coaching job. He sounds more head coach-ready than ever before, and, to a large degree, he can be choosy about any offers that come his way.

“I definitely think I’m ready to take the next step,” Smart said. “It’s gotta be the right place, the right opportunity. That hasn’t really presented itself. I’m completely happy being the defensive coordinator at Alabama. It’s the greatest non-head coaching job in the country.”

When Georgia started this season 0-2 and Mark Richt’s job security was tenuous, Smart frequently was referenced as a logical candidate to replace him. An unexpected 10-game winning streak blew up that scenario, and Richt’s not going anywhere now.

Smart will tell you he doesn’t pay attention to rumors. Coaches need to operate with tunnel vision. So it follows that when he was asked Saturday, given his aspirations, if he ever allowed himself to take notice when another major program struggled this season, he laughed.

“If you start doing that, you lose your own job,” he said.

Don’t doubt a man who works for Nick Saban.

Smart presided over a defense that allowed the fewest yards (191.2) and points (8.83) per game this season. LSU’s offense has averaged over 38 points. Alabama held the Tigers to three field goals in November (albeit, they were enough for a 9-6 overtime win).

Smart even looked and sounded like a head coach Saturday.

Smart even looks and sounds like a head coach.

The defense is not all about Smart having Saban above him and great athletes below. He has grown as an assistant in the past two years.

“I look at things from a different perspective now,” he said. “I used to look at things from the secondary, then as a coordinator. Now it’s like, ‘What would I do as a head coach?”

We have been hearing for two years that Saban’s demanding style will wear on the 36-year-old Smart and chase him out of Tuscaloosa. It must mean something that he’s still there.

“When you say, ‘demanding,’ to me the definition of demanding is they require you to do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, and how you’re supposed to do it,” Smart said. “That’s what [Saban] does. So is he demanding? Yeah. He requires you to do your job. And I appreciate that. That gives me job security knowing that everyone in the organization is held accountable.”

(Is it just me, or is he starting to sound like Saban?)

Continuing: “To me that’s probably the greatest feature I’ve learned or will take with me when I become a head coach, is you have to be demanding.  You have to be able to confront people if they’re not doing their job or not doing it the way you want it.”

Are you sold yet?

Smart officially said no to Georgia on Jan. 11, 2010. Alabama matched the Dogs’ offer ($750,000 annually, which equated to a $390,000 raise). Smart said at the time he “wouldn’t have even considered discussing the [coordinator] position with any other school.”

He added this Saturday: “I felt I still needed to develop as a coach so I could be a head coach, and what better way to do that than under Nick Saban?”

He made the right decision to stay. Before long, somebody will make the right decision to phone him.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

382 comments Add your comment

coloradofalconsfan

January 7th, 2012
3:13 pm

If he waits a year, the Tennessee job will open up.

Ed Hartwell

January 7th, 2012
3:17 pm

Truth be Told

January 7th, 2012
3:24 pm

I am glad it won’t be at UGA.

re: the Muschamp experiment.

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:24 pm

Jeff make sure you take photos of your Bead Exchanging for us guys back in Atlanta. I bet the media confidentials can get you more than what you can get with those cheap plastic beads.

Truth be Told

January 7th, 2012
3:24 pm

But if things keep going the way they are on “the flatts”, there may be an opening at Tech this time next year.

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:25 pm

Truth be Told and how is the Richt Bobo experiment working exactly?

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:27 pm

Cal is getting a lot of commits from this ARMY game. The USC not going bowling looks like it has hurt some.

VinnyD

January 7th, 2012
3:27 pm

Good for Kirby, I hope he gets a great job and has great success! (I just hope it isn’t in the SEC)

Truth be Told

January 7th, 2012
3:30 pm

Oh, 5150….

UGA wins 10 games, you consider it a “failure”.

If Tech wins 10 games you consider your coach a “genius”.

Harsh reality…. it really is only the Tech fans and a few immature punks who flood these blogs who are unhappy with Richt and Bobo.

Hope you enjoyed your last 3 Thanksgivings.

memphis

January 7th, 2012
3:31 pm

Smart is one slimmy POS without a doubt. Whoever takes a chance on him, and make no mistake it is a huge gamble, will have their hands full dealing with him.

Blackoutanyone?

January 7th, 2012
3:32 pm

“I felt I still needed to develop as a coach so I could be a head coach, and what better way to do that than under Nick Saban?” Kirby just smacked CMR right up sided the head with that last line.

Skitty Fritty

January 7th, 2012
3:32 pm

Why would any school want Kirby Smart? He isn’t even man enough to speak for himself. Do you think he can even make his own decision if offered a HC job or will he have to ask Nick Saban if he can take it or not? He is strictly a “Follower” and not a “Leader” just look how Nick Saban has him under his thumb at Bama.

Beast from the East

January 7th, 2012
3:33 pm

Truth be Told,
How can any rational person judge a first year HC on one season? He had a winning record and won his bowl game. He’s also lining up a top 5 recruitng class. You’re just one of those homers that hates anyone that doesn’t see everything through red and black glasses. Good luck with that narrow, simpleton outlook. I think both Muschamp and Smart will turn out to be great head coaches because of the

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:33 pm

Truth being Unkind….you just keep holding on to all those 10 win seasons and no BCS CG shots. Richt and Bobo don’t Scare any Defensive Coordinators in the SEC.

Blackoutanyone?

January 7th, 2012
3:34 pm

UGA leghumpers hating on Coach Smart because he didn’t want to come save CMR’s job? LOL Please hurry up and get CMR’s extension signed. He just gave you people an SEC Eastern Divison title for crying out loud. Sign him to a life time contract please!!!

Bainbridge, GA

January 7th, 2012
3:34 pm

I watched Kirby grow up in my neighborhood in Bainbridge. When he was salutatorion of his high school graduating class, I was fortunate enough to be there for his commencement speech. I knew at that moment that he was special and would go places one day. He had the whole place fired up before he was done.

Great article, Jeff. I agree that Kirby has a bright future somewhere when the opportunity arises. I am a Dawg fan and would have loved to see him back in Athens in some capacity, but he made the right decision to sit tight where he is and wait on a head job.

Old Dawg

January 7th, 2012
3:34 pm

Kirby Smart = Crazy Will Muschamp.. not working at Floriduh ?

Skitty Fritty

January 7th, 2012
3:34 pm

Beast from the East:
How’s Muschamp working out for you? How the mighty Gators have fallen when you are happy with a 7 win season.

Don Draper

January 7th, 2012
3:35 pm

@5150 UOAD — The ‘Richt Bobo experiment’ is 10-1 against the Maggots. How is the ‘Moobs’ experiment working?

Beast from the East

January 7th, 2012
3:37 pm

Finishing my last post……Muschamp and Smart will both be great head coaches in large part because of Saban’s mentoring. The Dawg Nation should be proud that 2 of their ex-players are 2 of the best young coaches in the country.

supsalemgr

January 7th, 2012
3:37 pm

Sounds like memphis has a personal vendetta.

Destin Dawg

January 7th, 2012
3:37 pm

Troy or Ga. Southern ???

Don Draper

January 7th, 2012
3:38 pm

@Jeff Schultz — ‘Are you sold yet?’ No, not as a head coach anyway. I think the jury is still out on Muschamp (although his first year was underwhelming) and the Derek Dooley show has been a disaster. Kirby may be Vince Lombardi, but he needs to win at a Southern Miss or some other stepping stone program before he gets the keys to a tier 1 SEC gig.

Score Check

January 7th, 2012
3:39 pm

Dear 5150 UOAD,

Things are going pretty well at UGA. We certainly aren’t where we want to be, but are getting there.

BTW: Will Coach “Man-Boobs” Johnson ever win a Bowl game at gt? Probably not, but do not worry because your proud record of consecutive Bowl appearances will probably continue next year albeit at a rather insignificant destination.

Beast from the East

January 7th, 2012
3:39 pm

Skitty,
He’s working out just fine. Rough first year with a brutal schedule, but he did manage to have a winning record and a bowl win. He’s also putting together a top 5 recruiting class. What more could a reasonable person expect? He had to face some major depth issues this past season. We ended the year with only 68 scholarship players.

Destin Dawg

January 7th, 2012
3:39 pm

He has really just been a cheer leader for Saban so far

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:41 pm

Skitty Richt was 6-7 last year after being a head coach for 9 years. Is it worse to do that in your first year or you 10th year.

Don Draper the UGA Talented Players are what have won games not Richt and Bobo’s genius.

Beast from the East

January 7th, 2012
3:42 pm

5 star DE Jonathan Bullard just said he’s coming to Gainesville.
Go Gators!

Dick Whitman

January 7th, 2012
3:43 pm

@5150 UOAD – Richt/Bobo seems to be working out better than 34C/Groh.

Mountain Dawg

January 7th, 2012
3:46 pm

Beast from the East

January 7th, 2012
3:47 pm

“34C/Groh”
LMAO! Sorry, but that’s just funny!

Don Draper

January 7th, 2012
3:49 pm

@5150 UOAD — Whatever. The ‘talented players’ want to play for Richt and Bobo vs. ‘Moobs’ and the cadaver you have as a DC. Meanwhile, you are left picking your nose and scrating your a** while you troll AJC blogs. Oh well, learn to deal with it as it won’t change.

Cdpridg

January 7th, 2012
3:53 pm

My suggestion for Kirby is for him to take a job at a division 2 school. Saban does not have a very good track record of preparing his assistants for head jobs.

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
3:53 pm

Don name calling and personal attacks? Boy you are acting a little childish for so early in the day.

ClinchPanther

January 7th, 2012
3:56 pm

not head coach material.. ( see will muschamp )

Don Draper

January 7th, 2012
3:58 pm

@5150 UOAD — Right, like your attacks on UGA co-eds as being ‘bleached’ ‘whores’? Or, your racial stereotype references? Or, your calling Ben Jones a ‘fat pig’? Or, your continual references to Bobo as being in-intelligent?
Nice try. You have no moral high ground here dude, everyone has seen your act played out time and again.

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
4:01 pm

Jeff will you do an article like this one about BOBO? You might want to do is fast cause Bobo might be the new QB coach at UGa.

ty webb

January 7th, 2012
4:04 pm

shouldn’t he be a Coordinator first?

dawggirl

January 7th, 2012
4:05 pm

Why wouldn’t he just stay at Bama to be the head coach in waiting? Saban won’t be there forever.

Cdpridg

January 7th, 2012
4:06 pm

I dont know 5150..some pretty funny stuff from Don….go ahead son and do what you little tech bugs do best…..drop your head and shuffle out of the way to the corner

ty webb

January 7th, 2012
4:07 pm

5150 UOAD resolved to live even more vicariously in 2012.

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
4:17 pm

Al you could only find that one reason? Man the list goes longer than that.

Dawg48

January 7th, 2012
4:19 pm

Dawg fans that want Kirby as a head coach. Do you really think he would get rid of BOBO as a OC?

oakisland

January 7th, 2012
4:21 pm

Al, you must be a complete loser. If you hate us so bad what in hell are you on here reading about us you stupid piece of crap

5150 UOAD

January 7th, 2012
4:29 pm

oakisland could it be that it is the ONLY New article on the AJC sports page? Could it be that it is about an ALABAMA coach and his name is AL maybe? I think if you read the article again it is more about Bama, Smart, and Saban than it is about the dwags.

Heavyweight Champion of the Earl

January 7th, 2012
4:32 pm

Enter your comments here

Cdpridg

January 7th, 2012
4:33 pm

5150…well it does have to do with a former GEORGIA player and a former GEORGIA coach. What does the article have to do with tech?

Bert Cooper

January 7th, 2012
4:33 pm

UOAD — You calling someone out for name calling is your attempt at irony I guess? This from the same cat who refers to Georgia female students at trollops and makes frequent use of racial stereotypes. Keep ‘em coming though.

Bert Cooper

January 7th, 2012
4:36 pm

UOAD, the same guy who brings us Ben ‘fat pig’ Jones.

Bob

January 7th, 2012
4:36 pm

No way that Kirby Smart will ever be the head coach in Athens. Mike Adams has not forgotten how he used his alma mater two years ago. More importantly, it is well known how negatively Smart has recruited against Mark Richt the past couple of years, telling recruits not to go to Athens because Richt was going to be fired. No change ever that Smart in coaching Between the Hedges other than as a visiting coach.