Mark Dantonio talks tough love from Nick Saban
Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday July 25, 2013
Nick Saban is one of the top coaches in college football, already drawing comparisons to Bear Bryant at Alabama.
But his first BCS conference head coaching job came at Michigan State in 1995, and he hired a defensive backs coach from Kansas: Mark Dantonio.
Defensive backs are Saban's specialty. He played the position at Kent State and had spent most of his coaching career at that point working with the position. So Dantonio was under extra scrutiny. At Big Ten Media Days, Dantonio talked extensively about tough love from Saban, and how it has affected his decisions as a head coach later on.
"I wouldn't be where I'm at right now without Nick Saban," Dantonio said. "I got asked, who's the single-most person who impacted me? I really can't say that. There is no single person. But Nick Saban had a definite impact on my life. I was one of his recruiters. I recruited a lot of players. So we drove around a lot. ...
"He's a defensive backs coach. He's going to be in your meeting. He was in my meeting every day. Every day. I coached with him for five years, maybe longer at that time than any other coach had made it with him. I gained a great deal of football knowledge. Early on, he'd get up in front and take over the meeting, and that's OK. But after a year of that, he basically sat there and watched. Then he'd start a sentence and I'd finish it, and vice versa. I knew exactly what he knew, and there was power in that. There was also a lot of power in the fact that he knew what was being taught in that room.
"When the ball went over somebody's head, or when a guy blew a coverage, that finger wasn't pointed at the coach, because (Saban) knew what was being taught there. There was a mixed silver lining in all that. Being able to be his secondary coach, there's a silver lining in that. My dad used to always say, 'You've got to take the good with the bad.'
"Yeah, it's stressful. I don't put that kind of stress on (Michigan State defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett). I do go in the meetings sometimes, but very infrequently. I choose not to do it that way. Because I want continuity in our staff and I want people to remain and all these different things. Sometimes, everybody can't handle that. I don't do that with (defensive coordinator / assistant head coach Pat Narduzzi), either. I don't come in to the unit meetings on defense. If I have something to say, I'll say it in staff meetings. But I'm not going to disrupt or overrule him in the unit meeting. That's his time."
That's not to say Saban did it the wrong way. Saban's record - and Dantonio's subsequent record - speak for themselves. And Dantonio explained that he needed that push at that time in his coaching career.
"That was a good thing for me because I needed that to grow," Dantonio said. "I needed to grow as a coach. I've worked for some great coaches. I was a graduate assistant for Dom Capers (at Ohio State), for legendary secondary coach Bob Cope (at Purdue), Gary Blackney (at Ohio State). Guys like that.
"Then I had an opportunity to be on my own for 10 years as a defensive backs coach. I grew immensely as a coach, not just in the secondary, but as a defensive coach over the course of the time with Nick Saban."
You can watch Dantonio's media availability by clicking here, courtesy of Spartan Nation.