TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban greets the question with a smile.
What was more daunting — the expectations of his father while working at Big Nick's service station as a kid growing up in the heart of West Virginia coal-mining country, or the expectations of coaching football at a place where anything other than a national championship is greeted with all the enthusiasm of getting a lump of coal for Christmas?
In his ninth season at Alabama, Saban has the Crimson Tide back in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, but it's been ages since they last won a national championship. We're talking all the way back in 2012.
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"I don't really know how to answer that," said Saban, nodding his head slowly at a question that's probably harder for him to answer than most might expect.
"I was really a pretty happy kid working at that gas station, but my dad [was on me] all the time. I didn't like that sometimes, but I always sort of knew he was trying to make me better. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to coach or be the coach at some place where they didn't have high expectations for what they thought you could accomplish."
Saban didn't just pump gas at his father's station, which was located about nine miles south of Fairmont, West Virginia. From the time he was 11, he cleaned windows, checked the oil, waxed cars and did it all to perfection — or else.
"You learned to pay attention to detail and do the little things right," Saban said. "With my dad, that's the way you did everything."
Big Nick died of a heart attack in 1973 when Saban was just 22, but his legacy has helped to shape Saban's championship-laden coaching career and has also served as a blueprint for Saban on how to handle a pressure cooker unlike any other in college football.
Click here for more from Saban on his future, this year's team, the state of coaching and more.