Bill Shanks

It’s not an easy job for Smart

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is entering his first season as the head coach at his alma mater.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is entering his first season as the head coach at his alma mater. Georgia Sports Communications

Kirby Smart’s job is not easy. The new football head coach at Georgia has the same pressure of any coach at a major program. The expectation for him, however, is simple. Smart must take a very good program and make it great.

It is easy to believe Smart has been around the blueprint to make that happen. His years spent under Nick Saban at Alabama is better than anything on a resume. Smart watched how the best coach in America got it done year after year. He watched as Saban became the best coach in the sport.

To take what Smart learned in Tuscaloosa and apply it to the situation in Athens will be a challenge. Saban was able to build up considerable leverage and currency to get what he wants as he won games. Do you think there are meetings when Saban wants something? No, it’s just done.

Smart will need that to an extent since he undoubtedly has seen how Georgia has fallen behind in the race to be an elite program. These are the days where shiny floors and monuments are needed to attract potential athletes. That’s what recruiting is all about. And Georgia still has work to do.

It’s embarrassing that Georgia is just now building an indoor practice facility. It’s also curious as to why the athletics department has sat on millions of dollars in reserve for years, while at the same time asking supporters for more money. And from all accounts, the coaching change inspired people to give even more.

That money must be used. It might be crazy to give Smart an open checkbook. But if Georgia wants to become a championship program, that might be exactly what it has to do.

This has been a winning program, a 10-win program, for years. But that was not enough. To think Georgia has gone a decade without an SEC championship is amazing. Division titles, 10-win seasons are nice. But Georgia fans finally decided nice was not enough.

One of the fun parts of this month is we have plenty of time to speculate on what type of coach Smart will be on the field. We have no idea, so we’re curious and anxious to see how he works. I’m not talking about his enthusiasm or how he interacts with the players during the game. I’m talking about how he manages a game, how he helps his team win.

The player development will be there, but what about during the games?

How much will he lean on his coordinators — Jim Chaney on offense and Mel Tucker on defense? How involved will Smart be on offense, since he’s a defensive coach? How aggressive will he be as a coach? How will he do when he has to make that big tough decision that faces a coach every week?

We have no precedent to go on. He’s a first-time head coach. So it’s fun to simply wonder about what type of coach Smart will be in his first season.

Smart handles the media well. Sure, he has a rough edge, but he watched Saban get away with that for years so that’s not a surprise. But he seems to not sugarcoat anything, and he’s either going to give you an answer or simply tell you he’s not going to answer. There’s no in-between games with the media like the Georgia beat reporters likely grew tired of over the years.

Smart has a fan base hungry for a championship — not a 10-win season but a championship. There’s patience, for the most part, in his first season. Any logical fan (that’s an ironic term) knows the depth is not there to do anything special this season. But Smart is one of their own, a Georgia guy, so the leash will be a bit longer as the fans watch Smart rebuild this program into his own.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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