When one champion recognizes another, it’s wise to pay attention.
That’s what happened not long ago, when Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama’s football team, conducted an interview with Fox Sports. If you don’t follow college football, all you need to know is that Alabama has won four titles in the past seven years–including last season. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman believes that “what Saban has done is arguably the most impressive run that any coach in the sport has ever had.”
In the interview, Feldman asked Saban how Alabama has sustained such a high level of success. It was in this context that Saban cited the work ethic and mentality of Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP of the NBA. Curry is also the best player on the defending champion Golden State Warriors, which last week broke a record by winning 73 games in the regular season.
At the start of the interview, Saban discussed how success often breeds a sense of selfishness or laziness. “Complacency is usually an issue when you have success,” Saban told Fox Sports. “Where human nature is to say, ‘I did well. I got my quota this month. Now do I get some time off? Do I get a bonus? Do I get to go on a cruise?’ But it’s not to keep trying to be the best. That’s not necessarily human nature. It’s not, ‘I’m gonna win again. I’m gonna be the best again.’ That’s special.”
In Saban’s view, it’s Curry who best epitomizes the proper attitude of “trying to be the best,” even after achieving a high level of success. “Steph Curry is special in terms of the kind of competitor he is,” Saban said to Fox Sports. “We’re always trying to build that kind of attitude in our players internally so that we don’t have those issues.”
Later, Feldman asked Saban about his methods for keeping players focused and locked-in. Saban responded: “Just keep talking to them and showing them how the good guys do it.” One speaker Saban brought in to keep his players focused on the right things was an expert in corporate recruiting. The speaker stressed how character and attitude were the most important traits large employers were seeking.
To illustrate his point, the recruiter showed a video of NFL executives conducting job interviews with former college football players. “Not one question was about football,” Saban told Fox Sports. “It was all character-related. How are you gonna overcome adversity? What kind of leader are you? How do you affect other people? Then he shows a video of Steph Curry who was a one-star [recruit] and now he’s the best player in the NBA.”
In other words, Curry’s career, in which he has continually surpassed expectations and overcome doubters, encapsulated the recruiter’s overall point about the importance of character and attitude.
Saban summed it up like this: “It’s always trying to develop the physiological disposition that you need to have to be successful and not assume and take for granted that everybody’s got it.”