While Alabama football has certainly had some legendary head coaches over its almost 130 years of history, the same can be said of its assistants.
While the names of Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul 'Bear' Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban are all too familiar with college football fans, their generals on the gridiron often fall by the wayside in terms of recognition for their efforts. We aim to reflect on the accomplishments of assistants both old and recent in this edition of the Crimson Tide Top 5.
To narrow a list down to five, there must first be some honorable mentions. Under Bryant, Pat Dye — who would ultimately move on to become one of Auburn's most successful head coaches — got his start as linebackers coach in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dye also helped sign the Crimson Tide's first African-American scholarship player in Wilbur Jackson in 1970.
Looking to more recent honorable mentions and we find Steve Sarkisian. While Sarkisian's two stints in Tuscaloosa were both brief, he was responsible for what are widely considered to be the two best offensive seasons in Alabama program history in 2019 and 2020.
And with that, here's is the Crimson Tide Top 5: Football Assistant Coaches edition:
5] Lane Kiffin
Whether you love him or hate him, there's no doubt that Lane Kiffin left an impact in Tuscaloosa.
After two seasons in the NFL with the then-Oakland Raiders, Kiffin coached at Tennessee for the 2009 season before abruptly leaving to coach at Southern Cal. Four seasons later, Kiffin was let go from USC only to find himself land on his feet in Tuscaloosa as Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2014.
Under Kiffin, the Crimson Tide's quarterbacks were elevated to the next level including Blake Sims, Jacob Coker and Jalen Hurts. In 2015, Kiffin helped coach running back Derrick Henry through his Heisman Trophy season.
In Kiffin's three seasons with Alabama, the program reached the inaugural CFP before falling to Ohio State in the 2015 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide then won the 2015 national championship the following year in a classic shootout against Clemson.
Kiffin left in 2017 to become head coach at Florida Atlantic. Today he is the coach of Ole Miss, where he made his return to the SEC in 2020.
4] Kirby Smart
While the final three men that are ranked above Kirby Smart on this list were part of Alabama during the good ol' days, Smart is a key piece responsible for the outstanding Crimson Tide defenses in Saban's early years in Tuscaloosa.
Smart joined Saban's staff in 2007 and was promoted to defensive coordinator the following season. In 2009, Smart earned even more recognition when he was named the recipient of the Broyles Award — the first Alabama assistant to ever win the honor.
In total, Smart helped pave the way for the Crimson Tide's dynasty, coaching the defensive side of the ball to four national titles in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Smart is now heading into his sixth season as the head coach of Georgia.
3] Ken Donahue
Ken Donahue served Bryant for two decades as his most trusted defensive assistant, coaching the Crimson Tide to have some of the top defensive units in SEC history. In total, Donahue coached five national championship teams and helped contribute to 11 SEC titles.
Donahue — along with Bryant, Dye and Bill Oliver — created the multiple defense scheme that allowed players to switch quickly. Thanks to his revolution of defensive strategy, the 4-3 and 5-2 schemes are still used predominantly on defenses at both the college and NFL level to this day.
2] Bill Oliver
Bill Oliver had two solid tenures as an Alabama assistant. His first stint was from 1971-79, where he served as defensive backs coach under Bryant. He returned to the Crimson Tide in 1990, once again as a defensive backs coach.
Following Alabama's championship in 1992, Oliver became the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator through the 1995 season under coach Gene Stallings.
In total, Oliver helped contribute to four national championships, with three of those coming in the Bryant era. Additionally, Oliver was responsible for coaching several All-American defensive backs.
In May of 2013, Oliver was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
1] Mal Moore
In 1961, Mal Moore served as the backup quarterback on Alabama's 1961 national championship team. His first title at Alabama, though, was far from his last.
Moore coached defensive backs for his first six seasons as a full-time assistant before moving over to become the team's quarterbacks coach under Bryant. With Moore's introduction to the new position in 1971 came Bryant's implementation of the legendary wishbone offense.
In 1975, Moore then became Bryant's offensive coordinator — a position that he would serve for eight seasons. After a brief stint at Notre Dame and in the NFL, Moore returned to Tuscaloosa as offensive coordinator once again, this time under Stallings. The move back to Alabama would ultimately see him move over to serve as athletic director in 1999 through his death in 2013.
All together, Moore was responsible for 10 national titles at Alabama either through serving as a player, coach or athletic director.
In 2012, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
The Crimson Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral.