Every time a big-time college coaching job opens in the Southeast, most everybody immediately starts talking about Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Smart himself almost never talks publicly about anything. Thanks to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s rule forbidding assistant coaches from speaking to the media during the season, Smart’s thoughts on his future and most everything else are left to be parsed from interviews that pop up about as often as Bigfoot sightings.
“My career goal is to be a head coach,” Smart told the New York Times in 2013. “Where that is, I have no idea. It’s not like I wake up every day trying to leave Alabama. I said this last year at my press conference: I have the best non-head coaching job in the country because I’ve got great administration, we’ve got great facilities. I want to be where I can win. And I know you can win at Alabama.”
Does Smart believe he could win at South Carolina? He’s not saying, naturally. An Alabama spokesman confirmed the obvious for The State this week: “Our assistants are not available to the media.”
Smart, a Georgia native who played defensive back for the Bulldogs from 1995-1998, interviewed for Auburn’s head coaching job in 2012. He also has interviewed at Southern Miss (according to AL.com) and Arkansas (according to USA Today). When he does talk about his coaching aspirations, he always insists he’s in no hurry to leave Alabama.
“To me personally, my development to become a head coach will be much better working for coach Saban than necessarily going somewhere else because you learn every day that you’re in there,” Smart told USA Today in 2013. “The experience that I’ve been able to gain through being with coach is, ‘Hey, this is how you run a major program, this is the way you do it and this is the way you question every part of your organization, therefore making it better.’”
Smart’s salary already is more than most head coaches in the country. He makes $1.35 million annually. If and when he does become a head coach, Smart would be the fifth of the recent Saban assistants to take a head job. The track record of the other four – Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp at Florida and Derek Dooley at Tennessee – has been mixed. Smart has worked under Saban for 11 of the last 12 years, either at Alabama, LSU or the Miami Dolphins.
One thing is certain: Smart is one of the nation’s most respected recruiters. He was ranked No. 3 in the nation among recruiting assistants by 247Sports.com, and he has strong ties in his native south Georgia that could help the Gamecocks.
Whether it will or not, nobody’s saying at the moment. In one of his rare media appearances, Smart was asked in July by Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan, “2019, are you roaming the sidelines as a head coach, 2018?”
“I have no idea,” Smart replied. “I wish I knew.”
So do South Carolina fans.
Kirby Smart file
Where Is He? Alabama defensive coordinator (2008-present, assistant head coach and running backs coach 2007)
Where’s He Been? Miami Dolphins (safeties, 2006), Georgia (running backs, 2005), LSU (defensive backs, 2004), Florida State (graduate assistant, 2002-2003), Valdosta State (defensive coordinator, 2001; defensive backs coach 2000)
Where’d He Play? Georgia (defensive back, 1995-1998)
What’s He Make? $1.35 million