The news of Les Miles’ removal as head football coach hit me like a ton of bricks on Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t even in Baton Rouge this weekend, I was in Dallas to attend the Cowboys-Bears game with friends. As the situation unfolded and the reports came to be true that Les had been fired, I couldn’t quite figure out how to react. Disbelief numbed my feelings of sadness. I don’t want to re-hash the Miles story for you here, because many others more qualified than me have already done that so well. (ATVS)
Like the majority of LSU fans, I love Les Miles. I became a LSU football fan right before the game that shall not be mentioned (it’s my fault, guys), and chose to attend LSU for college in 2012. Since then, I’ve only fallen more in love with my alma mater and it’s football team. But all I have ever experienced or known about LSU football has come post-1/9/12. The loss that was the turning point of Miles’ tenure, and still hangs over the program like a dark cloud.
But through it all, Les Miles stayed consistent. A trait that made him loved, and also led to his downfall. As beloved as he is, it was just time for a fresh start here at LSU. That doesn’t change how I feel about him one bit. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to appreciate the man, but understand the move that LSU had to make.
The quirky coach from Michigan seemed to fit the LSU culture like a glove. As one friend online put it yesterday: Miles was perfect for LSU, and LSU was perfect for Miles. He earned the nickname “The Mad Hatter” for his propensity for fake punts, fake field goals, goofy plays, and one stark white cap.
I had the privilege of covering LSU football for three years in college as a part of Tiger TV and student media. Getting an up close, unseen look at LSU athletics was the highlight of my time in college. Covering the Tigers in Death Valley and on the road was an absolute blast, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
I did this retrospective story for Tiger TV after Miles’ 100th victory. Some of his best moments, and funniest quotes here. A Look Back: Les Miles 100 Victories
Les Miles is the greatest coach in the history of LSU football. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach in school history (77%), won 114 games (second most in school history), is one of four SEC coaches to win eight or more games for 11 straight seasons, won two SEC championships, and one National Championship. He was beloved by his players, and he was a leader in the community and on a national level that represented LSU with class and dignity. The way he handled Monday’s interview on the DP Show tells you all you need to know about what kind of person Les Miles is.
His tenure also began and ended amidst dire situations in our state. His first season (2005) began right off the heels of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. His final season began following a tenuous summer in Baton Rouge. With championship aspirations, Miles had to respond in the face of the Alton Sterling shooting, Baton Rouge police terror attack, and the August flood that decimated south Louisiana. In each situation Miles, and his team, was present in the community providing leadership, stability, and healing for the state. This is what makes him great above all else.
All I can say now is thank you, Coach Miles… For always treating me, even as a small student reporter, with respect and kindness. Thank you for being unique and consistent at the same time, for being so entertaining, for winning a lot of football games, and especially for representing this school and state with class, dignity and grace. You will be missed.
Here are some stories of a few of my brief interactions with Les Miles the coach, and Les Miles the man:
- My sophomore year at Tiger TV I got to help out with our annual sit-down interview with Coach Miles. We arrived at the football ops building with our equipment and were escorted down the hallway to the area where we were to do the interview (in a room right across the hall from Miles’ office). We waited for a few minutes as his secretary tracked down Les to notify him that we had arrived. (Preface: This was the bye week before the 2013 Bama game, LSU’s first trip to Tuscaloosa since the GOTC). All of sudden we hear a loud crash as Miles and other coaches blow through the door down the hall and around the corner out of our line of sight, and all we hear is Miles screaming “PUT IT UP IN THE PLAYERS ROOM! 9-6! GAME OF THE CENTURY! THAT’S OUR FOCUS TODAY! … HOLD ON I’LL BE RIGHT WITH YOU GUYS…” And he then storms into his office. We stood there stunned. It was hilarious, and so Les. Passionately finding ways for his staff to motivate the players. Anyways, 30 minutes later he came in and Patrick Clay did an amazing interview. That was my first time personally meeting Coach Miles.
- The next year, my junior year, I had the privilege to conduct Tiger TV’s sit-down interview with Coach Miles. Easily the biggest thing I did in my time at TTV. Not gonna lie, I was absolutely terrified. I was pacing back and forth before Miles arrived, really nervous. All of a sudden he comes in, walks over and we shake hands and get re-introduced. He says, “GOOD TO SEE YA AGAIN, JOHN” with authority. We sit down on the couch and I fail miserably at making small talk about football. Then the interview starts and goes off without a hitch. Coach Miles throwing in a few funny jokes here and there. This interview was done in the Spring, so Coach was more relaxed and we had much more time to talk during the interview. After we finished, Coach was able to hang around a little bit and chat. It was a great interview, and Coach Miles was kind, courteous and fun, as usual.
- After one LSU home game in 2014 we were on the field doing stand-ups. Miles was doing his interview for LSU Sports a few yards away by the goal posts. They had the Ohio State-Virginia Tech game playing on the jumbotron. VT upset OSU in the game, and “Michigan Man” Les Miles gave a bunch of hearty cheers while watching his alma mater’s rival lose. As he walked past us off the field, still talking about OSU, I worked up the nerve to say something to him about Ohio State losing. He laughed, gave me a thumbs up and replied something in “Les speak” that I couldn’t understand, but I’m sure it was clever.
- Senior year I was helping WAFB’s coverage of the high school football state championships at the Superdome. Miles’ son Ben was playing for Catholic High, and caught a TD pass en route to helping Catholic win their first state title in school history. After the game, Ben Miles and many other Bears players were at the podium doing the post game press conference. I was off to the side and looking down at my phone, scrolling through Twitter. All of a sudden I look up and turn to the right and Coach Miles is standing right there, almost startled me. He then sat down at a table nearby. What I remember seeing the most was the look on Les’ face watching his son Ben up there at the podium after winning a state title. Miles was grinning from ear to ear and just beaming with pride. He was also a great family man.
Those were all very small interactions that I had with Coach Miles. I can’t really tell you much more about the man than you already know from public stories. All I know is that he was always nice to me, and never blew me off or dismissed me. To that, all I can say is thank you. To me, Les Miles was a man of decency who respected everyone he came across.