SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Goodbyes are hard, apparently even for Nick Saban.

That’s at least the impression he gave when asked about his final game coaching with Kirby Smart on Monday in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Speaking in a joint press conference with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney Sunday at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, Saban was sentimental when talking about the longtime Alabama defensive coordinator who transitions into a full-time role as Georgia’s next head coach after Monday night’s game.

“You know, it’s sort of like you have a son and he’s moving away, and you want to see him do really, really well,” Saban said.

Smart, who accepted the Bulldogs head coaching position last month but was permitted to stay on with the Crimson Tide until the conclusion of their season, leaves Alabama after nine seasons and 11 overall with Saban when including his one-year stops at LSU (2004) and the Miami Dolphins (2006). Smart has been Saban’s defensive coordinator the past eight seasons.

Saban said he was “pleased and happy and proud” to see Smart receive the opportunity to become a head coach, praising him for the job he’s done working with him over the years.

"Kirby has done a fantastic job in every way in terms of relationships with players, developing players, recruiting players, doing a good job of implementing scheme, system, getting people to buy in and believe in," Saban said. "Kirby has done a fantastic job, and I certainly appreciate the fact that he's stuck here with us and done a really good job so far in trying to finish this year for our players, and I think that's the number one reason that he's here. I'm sure he's going to be a very, very successful head coach.”

Along with Smart, Saban is also expected to lose defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, who is in his first year with the Crimson Tide, to the Bulldogs as well. Numerous outlets earlier this week reported that Tucker will be Georgia’s next defensive coordinator, though Tucker wouldn’t discuss the reports when asked about them Saturday during Alabama’s media day at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Days after Smart’s move was made official, Saban hired former assistant Jeremy Pruitt to replace him as the team’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt spent the past two seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator under former Georgia coach Mark Richt.

Before he leaves for good, Saban and Smart will have a chance to win yet another national championship – their potential fourth in seven years -- on Monday night. Smart’s defenses played in integral part in the Crimson Tide’s past three national championship runs in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Alabama-Clemson will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT inside University of Phoenix Stadium.

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