Breaking down the quirks of the myth that is Les Miles

Tuesday, Nov. 16
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Tuesday, Nov. 16
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November 18, 2010

LSU junior halfback Stevan Ridley had just scored a touchdown.

A screaming crowd of 92,969 fans was making as much noise as humans could possibly make as the Tigers pushed on top of rival Alabama by a score of 19-14.

LSU coach Les Miles was struggling to contain himself in the midst of the excitement.

So the six-year LSU coach did what he claims he’s done before to stay level in the heat of battle. Miles picked up a handful of grass, sorted through a few of the blades, then stuck a few of his liking into his mouth and begun to chew.

Miles said he’s taken part in this odd custom throughout his career and it reminds him in the heat of a game that he is one with the field, which keeps his brain on an even keel in even the most stressful situations.

Like the ritual mandates, Miles’ Tigers were able to keep their composure for another few minutes on that Saturday afternoon, eventually winning the contest n a win many state was the biggest of the coach’s career at LSU.

The legend of the Mad Hatter strikes again.

“Tiger Stadium was never any better than it was today, never any better,” Miles said following the win. “Hats off to the 92,500 that sounded like 300,925. It was just a spectacular, spectacular day.”

Spectacular days are not uncommon to Miles during his career at LSU.

After all, the coach has won 60 games in close to six seasons in Baton Rouge and has two BCS bowl wins, including a national championship under his belt.

Just for comparison’s sake, Miles’ 10 wins per season average is better than the 9.6 wins per season Saban accumulated in his five-year stay in Baton Rouge.

But it’s how Miles reaches victory and how he manages (and sometimes causes) defeat that has made the coach both a legend and an enigma all at the same time throughout the past half-decade of college football.

First, there’s Miles’ coaching style. It’s unorthodox to put it mildly.

From trick plays to fake punts to just all-out questionable calls, Miles treats every Saturday like a nighttime gathering across town in one of the Baton Rouge casinos.

Miles seemingly measures each risk like there’s a stack of chips involved, going all-in when it means he’d become the chip leader, and sometimes shying back and playing too conservatively for LSU fans’ taste when he’s the big stack of the table.

Fourth down and 1-yard to go with the season on the line? Dial up the tight end reverse.

Third down and 13 in the fourth quarter with Jarrett Lee in the game for the first time in two quarters? Throw the bomb.

The legend continues.

Whether there’s a method to the madness or not, Miles is so unorthodox that he leaves opposing coaches dumbfounded because there’s simply no way to predict what he’ll do.

Most of the time those risks pay off, but when they don’t, likewise, he feels the typical armchair quarterbacks who want to run him out of town.

The second thing that makes Miles both a local legend and a YouTube laughing stock is his use of the English language.

Watching a Les Miles press conference is about as boring as boring gets. The coach timidly fields through questions with generic answers that do not give away “bulletin board material,” to opponents.

But through that always-careful approach, Miles sometimes slips up and frankly … says things that don’t make any sense.

Don’t believe me? There’s a website dedicated to these “Miles-isms”,, which claims to have 519 quotes from the coach in his six year stay at LSU.

A 10-minute search of the site yielded gems like, “Now, in terms of the issue of clocking it, certainly there was every want to win that game,” following last year’s Ole Miss loss, ‘The things we’re doing here are with a mindful eye. That’s the best I can tell you,” in reference to LSU’s early-season struggles and “I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to throw and catch it. I felt that way before. I suspect it will come to fruition Saturday,” when talking about LSU’s struggling passing game.

Those are a whole lot of words to be saying absolutely nothing at all, right?

Miles stumbles and stutters and gives off the impression to the rest of the world that he’s a blithering imbecile.

Heck, he might actually be. But then again, maybe he’s just putting on a front? Maybe that’s what he wants us to think?

The legend continues.

The last reason for Miles’ mythical place in college football history is his attire.

First, there’s the ever-popular hat that’s about three sizes too small. Why does Les wear it that way? He knows it looks the way it does, but why does he still do it? Is his head just so big that the biggest size still looks that small?

I said three sizes too small above. I was wrong. On second glance, yes, the hat is definitely five sizes too small.

Does his wife like it like that? Is he doing what others have suggested and is hiding something in the hat? A rabbit? A lucky horseshoe? An emergency offensive coordinator in case a fan mauls Gary Crowton mid-game? We may never know.

Regardless of the man’s flaws, it’s been a wild and crazy ride these past six years.

Les Miles is a good coach, a bad coach, a genius and a dunce all wrapped into one purple jacket and undersized white hat.

He’s loved, he’s hated, he’s praised and he’s ridiculed n all by the same people n all in the same day.

But Les is our good coach, our bad coach, our genius and our dunce, and here’s to hoping we’re able to love him, hate him, praise him and ridicule him some more now and into the future.

Until then, someone go sprinkle a little pepper on that grass in Tiger Stadium.

Miles will need it down the stretch run of the season.

And the legend will continue.