Kirby Smart is staying put. For now, at least.
Alabama’s defensive coordinator was reportedly the leading candidate for the head coaching job at Auburn until he wasn’t. Tuesday afternoon, reports emerged that former Tigers assistant and current Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn would be Gene Chizik’s replacement.
Earlier Tuesday morning, a report surfaced from The Birmingham News claiming that Smart had interviewed at Auburn Monday. Smart’s wife, Mary L. Smart, was kind enough to open her door on a rainy day in Tuscaloosa to address such reports.
“[Kirby] is in Atlanta recruiting,” she said.
Mary said that after Saturday’s SEC Championship game, she and her husband returned to Alabama for the team’s banquet, then Kirby hit the recruiting trail.
When asked if her husband had any interest in Auburn or had interviewed for the job, Mary smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t say anything.”
Now that Malzahn has officially been hired, he was introduced as Auburn’s new head coach Tuesday evening, what does this mean for Smart?
Just last week there were several head coaching vacancies in the SEC, but since then, Kentucky has hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema was hired at Arkansas and Malzahn will head to Auburn. The Tennessee job is still open, however.
Other job postings across the country include California, Colorado, Purdue, South Florida, Southern Miss and now Wisconsin.
Last week Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a press conference that no one had called to ask permission to talk to any of his assistants. He followed up by saying that he wants and will help all his assistant coaches “fulfill the goals and aspirations they have,” and that he and Smart “speak the same language and have been on the same page for a long time.”
“He’s as fine of an assistant as I’ve ever had,” Saban said. “He just does an exceptionally good job in all areas. Recruiting, getting along with other people on the staff, you name it, he does it extremely well.”
Smart, the 2009 Broyles Award winner and this year’s AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year recipient, is in his sixth year coaching the Crimson Tide, but he’s been a hot name in nearly every head coaching search in recent memory.
“I knew when I came here longevity was a possibility,” Smart said back in August. “They give you every opportunity to be successful here. Whether it’s the president, the AD, whether it’s coach Saban, so I certainly expected to be here awhile.
“There’s nothing worse than recruiting a player and then leaving the player. Here you get the opportunity to see them through. That’s my greatest self-gratification, seeing them through, seeing them have success, having the relationship.”
Smart, who collects an annual salary of $950,000, is known as one of the best recruiters in the Southeast, which is clear considering the Tide’s recruiting classes have ranked in Scout’s Top 10 over the past five years.
Now that Smart is sticking with Alabama—for now—everyone can get back to focusing on the next task at hand: preparing Notre Dame and the national championship.
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