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Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines, left, with former head coach Mike Shula, right. Kines has the difficult task of guiding the team through preparations for the Independence Bowl without a full-time head coach.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines, left, with former head coach Mike Shula, right. Kines has the difficult task of guiding the team through preparations for the Independence Bowl without a full-time head coach.

Colorful Kines leads Tide through some tough times

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

TUSCALOOSA — Joe Kines might just be the antithesis of the modern-day head coach.

Alabama’s interim coach and defensive coordinator is blue-collar rough around the edges not CEO-polished. He uses colloquial Kines-isms as often as he does traditional coach-speak and is far more comfortable in sweats or khakis than coats and ties.

These days, Kines has the difficult task of guiding the Alabama team through preparations for the Independence Bowl without a full-time head coach.

Kines has been here before, as interim coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks back in 1992, after Jack Crowe was fired following a loss to The Citadel in the first game.

“Start of the year, end of the year,” said Kines, who led Arkansas to a 3-6-1 record and its first win at Tennessee. “One of these times I’m going to make it all the way through.”

Back then, Kines really was auditioning for the top job. Now, he’s a silver-haired 61-year-old who almost certainly isn’t a serious candidate to replace his former boss, Mike Shula, who was fired after the season.

“It’s nowhere near the same,” Kines said. “This time my whole focus has been on trying to make sure when we end this thing the University of Alabama is in shape to go on and have a real good season next year, and to have a good event at this bowl game.

“Before, I spent three-fourths of my time trying to get the job.”

Now, Kines is plenty busy getting the Tide (6-6) ready for the Dec. 28 game against Oklahoma State (6-6). That means helping guide the recruiting efforts during an unsettled period.

He presides over practices and serves in his more customary role of getting Alabama’s defense ready.

Kines has been a fixture in Southern college football since starting as a graduate assistant at Jacksonville State in 1972, except for a stint with the Tampa Bay Bucs. He has worked at Arkansas, Florida State, Florida and Georgia along with two stints as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.

“Joe is really, I think, one of the best coaches around,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. “He has been through it before and I don’t think you could have it in any better hands. He is a veteran at what he is doing.

“He is the kind of guy you enjoy being around. He is very intense at coaching, very thorough in his coaching.”

Kines also is popular among the Alabama players and fans. The fiery coach’s booming voice resounds through Tide practices, and he comes up with so many homespun turns of phrases that defensive end Wallace Gilberry jokes about turning them into a book.

“It should be a best-seller,” he said. “He’s a normal guy, but he just has a unique way of getting his point across.”

Kines’ defenses have been the strength of Alabama’s teams in recent years. The Tide ranked second nationally in total defense in 2004 and 2005. Kines had to replace seven starters this season, but his defense still forced 25 turnovers and ranked third in the SEC against the pass.

“Coach Kines can run plays in his sleep,” Gilberry said. “If you could just be around him for a day, you’d see what I’m talking about. The guy breathes and sleeps football.”

Tailback Kenneth Darby is used to only hearing Kines yell at the defensive players. He now sees a big difference from the more soft-spoken Shula.

“He’s going to get onto you when you’re not doing good and he’s going to get onto you when you are doing good,” Darby said. “I think that’s what’s we’ve been lacking all season, just that intensity on that side of the ball. And he brings that.

“The guys are responding to it well. It seems like we’re a different team.”

Kines is definitely a different kind of guy, self-deprecating, plainspoken and colorful.

He’s even unique in the way he deflects questions about his future after leaving Alabama. Kines is reportedly a candidate to replace co-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik at Texas.

“I really haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about it,” Kines said. “My little ole brain won’t handle much. By the time I take care of everything I’ve got to handle right now, I don’t have much left over.”

His takes on the uncertainty facing him and his staff:

n “When you enter the coaching business, the first thing you notice is that you get a lot of Christmas cards from Allied Van Lines,” Kines said.

n “Wives are strange creatures, especially around Christmas. They’re real conscious of bills to be paid and children to be educated and fed. All those things begin to take a bearing on these men.”

Even if he’s not likely to be a candidate to replace Shula after the bowl game, Kines is anything but bitter about his time working at Alabama and serving as interim coach.

“You’ve got no clue how proud we are to be here in this program,” he said. “This program was founded on the backs of guys who are legends in this business.

“It’s a humbling experience to stand in this position when you look back over that history. My vocabulary is too little to explain it.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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