Dabo: 'A lot of coaches have a fear, because they think it's all they can do'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday June 28, 2017


Dabo Swinney knows he can be successful outside of coaching. It’s not an all-or-nothing profession for him.

After 12 years as an Alabama player and assistant, Swinney was dismissed with the rest of the staff after 2000, and the school was later hit with NCAA penalties. Unable to find a job, Swinney spent two years in real estate, and found himself making a good living.

He got back into coaching in 2003 when Tommy Bowden hired him at Clemson, but it gave him a different view of things. He wasn’t afraid to fail. He didn’t need coaching. He just wanted to.

“I always tell people it was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it gave me a whole other perspective,” Swinney said in an interview for the Southern Textile Association/Joint Fiber Buyer Annual Meeting. “I’d never done anything but coach. It gave me a chance to get out and use my education. It gave me the confidence I could be successful doing something else. I think there’s a lot of coaches out there that have a bit of a fear, because they think that’s all they can do. No safety net.

“It gave me that confidence of, I coach because it’s what I love to do, not because it’s what I have to do.”

Coaching is a difficult profession. You typically start off with no pay or very little pay. You almost always have to move all over the country, rarely staying in one spot in an extended time. Jobs end abruptly. The ones that become millionaire head coaches are few, even if they get the headlines.

Every offseason, a large amount of talented coaches don’t find work, and have to hope an opportunity comes around the next year. For a lot of them, they’ve never done anything else. For all the talk about student-athletes going pro in something other than sports, it can apply to coaches as well, and Swinney experienced that.

“There are a lot of things you can’t control. It’s a volatile business, especially when you’re an assistant,” he said. “You’re at the mercy of the head coach. I did (real estate), and when I got back into coaching in spring of ’03, I was a different coach. I had a different mindset, a different appreciation for the privilege of coaching.

“I came to Clemson in ’03, and I’ve been here for 14 seasons. It’s been an incredible, challenging and fulfilling journey.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.