On the first day of his retirement in the wake of a legendary coaching career, Nick Saban was still thinking team first.

He wasn’t playing golf, planning a vacation or even sleeping in for an extra hour. Like every other morning for the past 17 years as Alabama’s football coach, he was driving to the office — always there by 7:20 a.m. sharp at the latest.

“I want to be there for the players, for the coaches, anything I can do to support them during this transition,” Saban told ESPN in his first public comments since retiring Wednesday, a move that reverberated throughout the sports world and shocked even those who were closest to him within the Alabama program.

“There are a lot of things to clean up, to help as we move forward. I’m still going to have a presence here at the university in some form and trying to figure out all that and how it works. This is a place that will never be too far away from Miss Terry’s and my hearts.”

Saban informed his staff and players that he was retiring during a 4 p.m. meeting in the team room Wednesday. It wasn’t a long meeting, less than 10 minutes, and Saban said it was important to him that they hear the news first from him.

“I wanted them to know how much they meant to me,” said Saban, who won six national championships at Alabama and another one at LSU. “It was hard, all of it was. The last few days have been hard. But look, it’s kind of like I told the players. I was going to go in there and ask them to get 100 percent committed to coming back and trying to win a championship, but I’ve always said that I didn’t want to ride the program down, and I felt whether it was recruiting or hiring coaches, now that we have people leaving, the same old issue always sort of came up — how long are you going to do this for?”

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