Not only did Stephen Orr Spurrier win a fair share of football games, he rarely lost a press conference.
If it wasn’t picking on Tennessee or Free Shoes U — check that, Florida State — it was picking on the media themselves or saying something funny. Spurrier was the coaching version of must watch TV. You didn’t want to miss him.
Who has succeeded him? We review the league’s coaches and break them down into three group —Pick It Up, Getting There, and Don’t Miss It. We include a quote and where appropriate, a representative clip of the coach in action.
Pick It Up
Barry Odom, Missouri “zzzzzzzz”
Odom seems like a genuinely decent, stand-up sort of guy. Just not a stand-up comedian. Or necessarily a great wit. Maybe as he gets more experience, he’ll loosen up a little and show Tigers fans a little color or humor.
Kirby Smart, Georgia
“I couldn’t tell you the first thing about that thing. I couldn’t tell you how to operate it. I can just tell you that they like it.” — on team’s DJ Booth
Like Odom, it’s probably telling that Smart’s lack of experience and his lack of comfort in letting his guard down probably go hand-in-hand. But surely, we can all agree that we need Kirby manning the DJ booth.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
“Why would I expect it not to? You expect it not to? Is that the question?” — on whether A&M’s offense would be as effective without Johnny Manziel
Watching Sumlin battle for his career will be one of the defining moments of 2017. One of the defining moments of his relationship with the media has been watching him dance around Johnny Manziel — from getting angry for being asked about him, to deflecting the question and acting as if it is insane, to trying to more quietly bat away the questions. Sumlin isn’t one of the most entertaining coaches in the league, but the Manziel Dance has been its own whole other story.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
“I’ll never apologize for wanting to be a good father.” — retort to Jim Harbaugh calling Freeze “lazy” for opposing NCAA satellite camps.
Sadly, no video survives of the soundbite, but Freeze, who is an evangelical Christian, isn’t the type to go R-rated or say controversial things. But he knows how to dig — just ask Jim Harbaugh, who in his zeal to look committed to his team, ended up looking like an idiot. Family before football? Freeze knew where his bread was buttered.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
“Yeah, it sucks. I’m not going to enjoy it. I’m not going to be able to sleep for about 365 freaking days until they show up at our place next year.” — on losing the Egg Bowl in 2014.
Mullen is a pretty straight up, serious guy. But with time, he has at least gotten more transparent. He’ll say things, like he doesn’t intend to lose to Ole Miss — or admit how much it sucks if he does. So that’s progress.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
“I cancelled my visit to Michigan State [and Saban]. That phone call didn’t go very well.” — on being recruited by, and turning down, Nick Saban when Stoops was a player.
Stoops is pretty deadpan about things, but his memories of being a recruit and turning down Nick Saban are the kind of sneaky humor he brings to the table.
Ed Orgeron, LSU
The Farmer Fran Waterboy angle is often played, but personally, Orgeron always has a deep-friend Cookie Monster kind of vibe. He’s passionate, he just is also borderline unintelligible.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina
Muschamp is credited as saying that he got a graduate degree from Auburn — solely by putting a tractor in reverse.
Muschamp obviously has some good instincts, but he needs to take a play from Spurrier’s playbook. If you want to crack on Auburn, own it. The HBC would have.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
““I had a sheet that I had been looking for for the last 18 months. Lo and behold, about two weeks ago, it popped up. I found it in my library of football books.” — on finding his magic sheet after his first year as a head coach at Vandy.
Sadly, the video on this doesn’t seem to be around. At the time, it seemed like a bad omen. A 3-9 coach admits that he’d lost his play sheet — anybody else think of Henry Winkler’s magic playbook in The Waterboy? But in the end, it was just Mason being Mason — and you can see how his players appreciate playing for a guy who not only doesn’t have all the answers but might lose his special sheet.
Don’t Miss It
Butch Jones, Tennessee
“We’ve talked about winning championships. They’re a champion. They’ve won the biggest championship, and that’s the championship of life.” — Jones on his Tennessee team that didn’t win the SEC East in 2016.
Hey, spin doctoring is a part of coaching. It’s a brutal business that designates a weekly winner and loser and — ask Les Miles — if the wins don’t add up to a big enough number, soon, somebody else will be behind the podium being quotable. In the echelon of spin doctoring, somebody needs to give Butch Jones a doctorate. Perhaps no one has ever dropped a line in a disappointing season that got quite as much talk — granted, much of it negative — but Butch was out in front on the “Champions of Life” thing. It’s probably pretty lonely up there, but there he is.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
“This is definitely a Waffle House night” — after beating UGA on a fourth-down pass in 2013.
He could be crazier. And in fact, that should be on the to-do list. But the guy has a genuine folksy, down-home sense of humor. Just like every other football genius in the Waffle House. We need more from Malzahn. The ceiling is higher. How high? This high: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFvqdQnWu9I
Jim McElwain, Florida
“If you go to the grocery store, and see those dead fish on ice, that’s the energy they’re playing with right now. … How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish?” — on his 2015 team’s struggles
McElwain sneaks under the radar, but he’s a highly quotable guy. If he’s not busting out that he hopes swagger isn’t a disease (he did say that), he’s comparing his team’s attitude to that of the fish aisle at the grocery store. This is almost Tom Hanks “There’s no crying in baseball” territory.
Nick Saban, Alabama
“They run through our (expletive) like (expletive) through a tin horn, man, and we could not stop them.” — on Charleston Southern, 2015.
He can fall into coach-speak at times. But the answer to the question about Charleston Southern — yes, that was Charleston Southern that he was concerned about — will live forever. The analogy is thoroughly confusing. If anybody out there likes to defecate into a tin horn, drop me a note. Or, on second thought, don’t.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
“I’m just looking forward to hopping on my wife.” — on plans after a game, 2015.
First, hilarious moment that Bielema doesn’t try to hide from. Second, at least he’s looking forward to hopping on his wife, a welcome improvement after the Petrino era. Hey, the guy can talk trash, but he can also say something hilarious. He — like his Razorbacks teams — keeps you guessing.