Alabama assistant coach Kirby Smart mentioned in a radio interview last week how happy he is in Tuscaloosa, but how long will he wind up staying?

If Smart continues as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator with the Crimson Tide, then the school faces a big decision when Saban chooses to retire. Saban will turn 63 in October, and while he doesn’t seem ready to call it a day soon, he has a lot more years of coaching behind him than in front. In only six years, he will be the same age as Bear Bryant was in his final season at Alabama.

At the moment, Smart has every reason to think he deserves to succeed Saban. Not only has he helped win three national titles while overseeing one of the nation’s best defenses, it seems only fair he get a chance.

He has no college head coaching experience, but that hasn’t proven a huge barrier in the Southeastern  Conference.

Will Muschamp hadn’t served as a head coach until Florida hired him in 2011. Gus Malzahn had only one season when he arrived at Auburn before last season. Dan Mullen was a career assistant until he went to Mississippi State in 2009. It was the same for Mark Richt when Georgia hired him 2001. Les Miles put in only two years at Oklahoma State before the LSU job was offered to him in 2005.

Alabama supporters will say the Crimson Tide job is different from any other, so it shouldn’t be held to the same expectations, and maybe they’re right. Also, while the Alabama tenures of Mike DuBose and Mike Shula now seem like eons ago, they were career assistants before being tapped to lead the Tide. Would their combined struggles make Alabama just a little more wary of hiring someone with no college head coaching experience, even though they entered situations dramatically different from how it is now?

Even so, the day Saban tells the Alabama president and athletics director he has had enough, there shouldn’t be a search. Call Smart right away and tell him the job is his.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.