Kirby Smart says Nick Saban always chose him over Will Muschamp to play pickup basketball

Georgia Bulldogs' football head coach Kirby Smart and Alabama head coach Nick Saban held a joint interview on the SEC Network on Friday before they met for the 2021 SEC Championship on Saturday. The couple were interviewed by ESPN's Laura Rutledge.
During the interview, the couple began talking about their pickup basketball games while working together in Alabama, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins.
Smart coached in Alabama from 2007-15. In 2004 he was also assistant coach to Saban at LSU and in 2006 at the Miami Dolphins.
Saban was the head coach of LSU from 2000 to 2004 and head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006 before becoming the Alabama soccer coach in 2007.
Nick Sabana and Kirby Smart teamed up for pickup basketball
Alabama head coach Nick Saban (left) and then defense coordinator Kirby Smart call a defense in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on October 26, 2013.
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Rutledge asked Smart and Saban if they were friendly leading up to the SEC championship.
"I respect Kirby as a competitor," said Saban. "He's always been on my team in lunchtime basketball, so I know who he is."
The coaches stayed away from talking about basketball for a while, but Rutledge brought the conversation back to her pickup basketball games.
"He would choose the teams," said Smart. "He was the referee. He was the general manager. He was the owner. Luckily I got to play on his team. (Will) Muschamp was demoted when I got there. He wanted the younger, more talented guy. He didn't I don't want Will and Derek (Dooley) on his team anymore. We had some really physical fights. "
Georgia assistant Will Muschamp, left, signals a game near Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart during the first quarter of the Duke's Mayo Classic on September 4, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; at Bank of America Stadium. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)
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Muschamp, currently a senior analyst in Georgia, was Saban Assistant Trainer at LSU from 2001 to 2004 and with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. Dooley, currently with the New York Giants, was Saban's assistant coach at LSU from 2000 to 2004 and with the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06.
"You had to go play because he looked at you and said, 'Hey, when are we playing?'" Smart said of the pickup basketball games. "You have to play."
Rutledge asked if Saban got coaches for not playing hard at the pickup basketball games.
"You wouldn't be on his team," said Smart, because he hadn't played hard at the pickup basketball games.
Fans cheer Paul Finebaum and Laura Rutledge as the college football show SEC Nation is filming in the Plaza of the Americas on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida on September 18, 2021.
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Rutledge then asked Smart what Saban's greatest skill as a basketball player was.
"He's got incredible grips," said Smart. "And he has an uncanny ability to beat the bank. ... He still uses the backboard. I grew up in a generation that didn't count the backboard. You had to put everything online. He still uses the backboard . "
Rutledge asked Saban if he was still playing pickup basketball.
"No, since I replaced my hip, I had to retire," said Saban, who had hip surgery in 2019.
Here is more soccer news from Alabama, Georgia:
SEC Nation: How to watch 'SEC Nation', 'Marty & McGee' on TV, Livestream from SEC Championship Game
Georgia, Alabama Soccer: ESPN's Greg McElroy decides the Georgia soccer team will be Alabama's best Nick Saban enemy in 2021
TV, Live Stream Information: How to watch Alabama vs Georgia football at the SEC championship in Atlanta on TV, live stream
The 2021 SEC championship is slated to begin at 3 p.m. CT / 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 4th.
Erik Hall is the leading digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik.
This article originally appeared in the Tuscaloosa News: Kirby Smart Highlights Nick Saban's ball handling in pickup basketball games
In this article:
Nick Saban
American football coach
Kirby Smart
American football players and coaches
Laura Rutledge
Sports reporter

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