July 20, 2012
Different Paths to the SEC
It's not what you know. It's who you know.
"There's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of coaches out there that are good enough to coach in college," Gary Pinkel said. "They just don't get the break to do it."
Pinkel is about to start his 39th year as a football coach and his 22nd as a head coach. His break came in the form of a college teammate.
Pinkel was the offensive coordinator at Washington under his college coach, Don James. Between the Huskies' last regular season game and the Rose Bowl against Iowa, he had interviewed for head coaching jobs at Bowling Green, where he had coached wide receivers, and at Kent State, where he had played. Bowling Green hired Gary Blackney. Kent State went with Pete Cordelli.
Then came the break. Pinkel had just finished skiing when he got a call from Nick Saban, who was the head coach at Toledo at the time.
"He calls me up and says, 'Listen, I'm leaving here, I can get you an interview, are you interested in the job?'" Pinkel recalled. "I said yeah and that gave me an opportunity."
"He did a great job at Toledo," Saban said. "I did recommend him for the job when I left there because I thought he would do a fantastic job, and he did a wonderful job there."
The two will reunite, facing off as head coaches for the first time on October 13th when Alabama visits Columbia. Due to the cross-division scheduling in the SEC, it may very well be the only time the former college teammates will coach against each other. That Saturday will be all business. The season is no time for sentimentality, but Pinkel acknowledges what Saban has meant to his career.
"There's a lot of guys that will never be a head coach because they don't get the break to do it. You get the break, you can do it," Pinkel said. "I got a break because of him. Who knows what would have happened?"
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