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Saban pledges patience in seeking Dolphins turnaround

New Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban wants to build a foundation for long-term success rather than trying to rush a turnaround from a 4-12 season.

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) _ New Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban wants to build a foundation for long-term success rather than trying to rush a turnaround from a 4-12 season.

In his first 2{ weeks on job, Saban has focused on assembling a staff, evaluating tapes of last season's Miami games and preparing to shop for free agents. Assessing college players will take priority next week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

There's a lot to do,'' Saban said Thursday, when he met with reporters for the first time since his introductory news conference.I feel good about where we're at, where we're going, what we have to do. I don't feel overwhelmed at all. Do I wish I could get a little more done more quickly? Absolutely. I'm not the most patient guy in the world.''

But with a five-year, $22.5 million contract, the former LSU coach can afford to be patient rebuilding the Dolphins. They're coming off their worst season since the 1960s and their first losing season since 1988.

I think we have some good players, and I think we have some issues that we have to try to solve,'' Saban said.Whether we can do that all in one year ... you've got to look at the big picture. Do you make value decisions that are going to be best long-term for the organization, or do you compromise the future of the organization by making short-term decisions to get better quickly?

``Everybody can make their assessment of what's been done here in the past. That's not for me to judge. But we would like to make value decisions so that we can be long-term competitive.''

Part of that strategy will apparently be to hoard draft picks, something the Dolphins didn't do under former coach Dave Wannstedt. They have the No. 2 overall pick in April, but they're without a choice in the second or sixth rounds because of trades.

We've made some decisions here that ... we're going to deal with,'' Saban said.I think your team has to be built with the draft. Those are the only players you know you're going to have in the organization for three, four or five years. That's the stability. Draft picks are something I hope in the future we'll be able to keep, and build that way.''

On Wednesday, Saban hired Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan for the same job in Miami. Saban still needs to hire several assistants, including a defensive coordinator to replace Jim Bates, who decided to leave and seek a head coaching position. The personnel staff including embattled general manager Rick Spielman will remain at least through the draft, Saban said.

The new coach said he has talked with 10 or 12 Miami players about how to improve the organization.

I don't really have a message for them,'' he said.What I'm interested in when I meet the players is: What do you think about the situation? What can you tell me that would help us be more successful here?

``Their message was pretty clear. Most of them want a disciplined, strong approach to what we try to do, and everybody working on the same page.''

Saban declined to comment on his evaluations of particular players because he has yet to talk with most of them about where they stand.

But he did discuss a former member of the team: Ricky Williams. The coach reiterated earlier remarks that he would consider welcoming back Williams, whose abrupt retirement last July precipitated the Dolphins' decline.

The door is open, if that's a possibility,'' Saban said.But a guy has to want to do this. It has to be important to him. That's part of the equation as well.''

Williams has given no indication he wants to come out of retirement.

Saban spoke at length on most subjects raised during a 45-minute interview session. His shortest answer came in response to a question about whether he has had time to sample the South Florida lifestyle.

``Not much,'' he said.

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