- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Some of the best insight on why Alabama coach Nick Saban is the way he is when it comes to attention to detail and focusing on what’s right in front of him can be traced to his late father.
They called him “Big Nick” back in Fairmont, W.Va., and he owned a service station that the younger Saban started working at when he was 11 pumping gas.
“Notice I said it was a service station. It wasn't a self-serve," Saban said Sunday. "So you cleaned the windows, checked the oil, checked the tires, collected the money, gave the change, treated the customers in a certain way. We also greased cars and washed cars.
"So the biggest thing that I learned and started to learn at 11 years old was how important it was to do things correctly. There was a standard of excellence, a perfection. If we washed a car, and I hated the navy blue and black cars, because when you wiped them off, the streaks were hard to get out, and if there were any streaks when he came, you had to do it over.
"We learned a lot about work ethic. We learned a lot about having compassion for other people and respecting other people, and we learned about certainly the importance of doing things correctly."
Saban's father, Nick Sr., also coached Pop Warner football and American Legion baseball. He died of a heart attack in 1973 at the age of 46.
"He was the same way as a coach; attention to detail, discipline, do things that you're supposed to do, the way you're supposed to do it, when you're supposed to do it, the way it's supposed to get done ... all those things that we've all heard about," Saban recounted.
"Discipline was ingrained in just about everything that we did, and I think that sort of perfectionist type of attitude that my parents instilled sort of made you always strive to be all that you could be, and that's probably still the foundation of the program that we have right now."