As Nick Saban approaches his 72nd birthday later this year, questions will inevitably continue about his retirement plans.

Alabama fans might roll their eyes each time they are asked, but the latest came this week from perhaps Saban’s biggest ally among sports commentators in ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

“I basically love what I do,” Saban told Smith during a wide-ranging interview on his “Know Mercy” podcast. “I love the relationships with the players. I love trying to build a team with a group of people. That’s a lot of fun. I enjoy doing that.

“I am also very aware that I don’t want to ever ride the program down. In other words, there’s going to come a time when my age and my circumstance — everybody is going to be able to tell somebody, ‘Well, he’s not going to be there. I mean, how long is he going to coach, until he’s 90?’ That will start to affect the program maybe in an adverse way. I don’t want to get there.

“I don’t ever want to be in this position where I don’t feel like I’m making a positive contribution to the program, because I can still do the work at a quality level that is making a contribution to the success of the organization.

“So, I’m not there yet. But all those things are factors that I would consider. Whenever the time comes — it hasn’t come yet, and I enjoy doing what I’m doing.”