COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Bill Curry is a happy man.
He is not satisfied with his 2-5 record in his first season as the head football coach at Kentucky, but he is smiling. Kentucky is not Alabama, not when it comes to football tradition, but Curry doesn't mind.
Curry now is employed by what is regarded as a basketball school after leaving what is regarded as one of the most prestigious jobs in college football. Curry's 1989 Alabama team shared the Southeastern Conference championship and won a Sugar Bowl bid; his 1990 Wildcats are 1-2 in the conference and will be home for Christmas.
But Curry is happy. "Thrilled to death" is his description.
Don Lindsey, Curry's assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the three-year Curry era at Alabama and his assistant coach for Curry's last three years at Georgia Tech, understands the happiness. Curry won't admit as much, but Lindsey says his former boss just wants to be loved.
"Bill, first of all, is a person who literally loves everybody," said Lindsey, now working as the manager of business development at Highland Industrial Park in his hometown of Camden, Ark.
"He sincerely wants to care about everybody, and consequently that kind of person wants everybody to like him, however unrealistic that is. The criticism at Alabama was so strong just the fact he wasn't accepted from the minute he got in there it bothered him. That was the same for all of us that came from Georgia Tech. It was always 'Curry and that Georgia Tech staff.' It was just very depressing."
Curry celebrated his 48th birthday last Sunday the day after his team's 30-20 loss at Louisiana State. There may be more losses this year. The Wildcats played host to Georgia last night and then have games left against Vanderbilt, Florida and Tennessee.
Curry may finish no better than 3-8 or 4-7 this year a far cry from his three-year Alabama record of 26-10. Jerry Claiborne's Kentucky footprints may be less noticeable than Bear Bryant's permanent stamp on Alabama, but Curry insists his weekly challenge did not change with his address.
"I've said this since day one, and I know a lot of people don't believe it, but I feel the same pressure to win that I felt when I was the coach of the Midget League Bulldogs in College Park, Ga., in 1957 and when I was the coach of the Green Bay Packers offensive line and when I was the coach at Georgia Tech and the coach at Alabama, because the pressure comes from inside me and it doesn't change because some fans don't like me or like what we do," Curry said.
"It always feels the same to me because I don't care what the negative people think. It doesn't bother me for somebody to throw a brick. People act like they don't believe that, but it's the way it is."
Even with a 2-5 record, Curry has found no brick-throwers at Kentucky. A 35-29 loss to Mississippi was not followed by suggestions that state flags fly at half-staff. There is still pressure to win; the difference is the acceptance of Curry by the Kentucky establishment.
"We've got a tremendous family thing going here, and it's just really exciting," Curry said.
"From the standpoint of my family, it's a difference, and it's a marked difference. Most of the people at Alabama were wonderful to us, but there were some very difficult things that were said and done, and at Kentucky it's been absolutely wonderful for my wife, and I really appreciate that."
Lindsey says acceptance never came at Alabama, not even with the SEC championship.
"It was the most unique experience I've ever been in, and it wasn't the most enjoyable," Lindsey said. "All schools expect you to win, so it wasn't that. It was the other part. Even when we won, we didn't win right."
Curry often is asked about his Alabama years. When Alabama started 0-3 under Gene Stallings, Curry pointed no fingers. Though sometimes frank in his comments on the negative side of his Alabama experience, Curry generally chooses diplomacy over bitterness.
"I don't look for anybody to support me or not support me," he said. "I don't have any hard feelings toward anybody. I just want Gene Stallings to do well.
"All I want is what's good for those players on that [Alabama] team and the players on the Tech team and the players on our team," he said. "I feel like I've got about 400 children now. I'm emotionally tied to all three programs."
Curry has more adopted football children. He also cheers for Virginia, where his son, Billy, is a second-year center. (Former Georgia adversary Vince Dooley also has a son, Derek, on the top-ranked Virginia team.)
Georgia Tech, however, is special for Curry because he is a Tech alumnus as well as a former Tech coach. As Tech prospers in the top 20, Curry delivers long-distance cheers.
"I've known all along that Bobby Ross is a great football coach," Curry said. "I'm not surprised he's built a great team there. I think they are better right now than we were at any point while I was there, and I could not be happier."
Curry said it again. The message is clear: There is life after Alabama. For Curry, the life is good.