When he was as assistant coach at Chattanooga in the 1990s, Lorenzo Ward would stay at Dabo Swinney's condo in Tuscaloosa whenever he was recruiting in Alabama.
Ward would get the royal treatment from his former Alabama teammate: a home-cooked meal and the guest bedroom adjacent to the master bedroom where Swinney and his wife slept.
Ward, South Carolina's defensive coordinator, bumped into Swinney this past summer and asked the Clemson coach if the lodging offer still stood.
"No," Ward said Swinney told him. "You've got to stay in the basement now."
The Alabama loyalty only extends so far.
There are several branches from the Crimson Tide's coaching tree on both sides of this week's USC-Clemson rivalry game.
Gamecocks assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson had two stints at Alabama in the 1990s, when he worked alongside Danny Pearman, Woody McCorvey and Charlie Harbison, all members of Swinney's Clemson staff.
Johnson coached the Crimson Tide's outside linebackers under Gene Stallings in 1992 when Swinney was a receiver on Alabama's national championship team. Ward was a senior defensive back at Alabama in 1989, when Swinney was a freshman, and returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant while Swinney was still on campus.
Ward recalls playing quarter-ante poker games with Swinney.
Swinney remembers helping Ward through a few classes he needed to graduate.
"We had a lot of fun at Alabama together. He was a couple of years ahead of me, but he stayed as a G.A. while I was finishing up my playing career," Swinney said recently. "He was the team jokester. Nobody in Alabama knows him as Lorenzo. Everybody calls him Whammy.
"It took me three years to figure out what he was saying. By Year Four, I could speak Whammy-ese. He's got a language of his own, but he's a great guy and a good friend. But he'll my enemy on that one day."
Ward, who coaches the Gamecocks' cornerbacks and strong safeties, will be scheming against a Clemson offense that looks decidedly different from what Stallings ran at Alabama.
"We were pretty vanilla back then, run the ball a lot and throw it some," Ward said. "He's a lot more wide-open than we were at Alabama."
Ward received hands-on training in the fall of '93 while Johnson was receiving chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's disease. On the days when the chemo was most draining, Johnson would go home and let Ward coach the outside linebackers at practice.
"I think he learned a lot that year," Johnson said. "And obviously, I grew to have a lot of respect for him that year."
Ward and Swinney became close that year while both broke into the coaching profession as graduate assistants. And Ward will never forget the kindness Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, showed him when he was on the road recruiting in the Tuscaloosa area.
"They've always been real, real nice to me and we've been good friends ever since," Ward said. "He's always been a very motivated young man, so I knew he'd be successful in whatever he did."
Reminded that Swinney, who turned 40 last week, is just two years younger, Ward said: "He's younger than I am."
As the younger of the two, Swinney relied on Ward's advice at the Gator Bowl following the '93 season - and joked that he nearly was fired as a result.
Stallings had assigned Swinney bus duty during the week in Jacksonville, Fla., requiring Swinney to accompany players traveling to and from practices. Swinney was not certain whether he had to be on the bus for the nighttime activities, as well.
Ward assured him he did not.
"The next morning, boy, coach Stallings chewed us out up and down," Swinney said. "So I almost got fired. That's what I get for listening to Whammy right out of the gate."