Of course, time heals all wounds. Paul Dietzel, who led LSU to its first national title in 1958, left LSU for Army after the 1961 season. Despite feeling spurned at the time, LSU fans welcomed back Dietzel as athletic director in 1978. When the ’58 champs were honored on their 50th anniversary, Dietzel was in Tiger Stadium, raucously cheered by a new generation of fans grateful for his important thumbprint in LSU history. He would remain in Baton Rouge until his death in 2013.
The same was true for Dietzel’s assistant, Charles McClendon, who replaced Dietzel in 1962. He left LSU as the program’s all-time winningest coach, but did so under banners on campus that read “Help Mac Pack.” Today, McClendon’s name adorns the football practice facility. He, too, remained in Baton Rouge until his death in 2001.
Neither of those men, though, returned to Tiger Stadium one year after they left. Saturday, Miles will. And in a strange parallel that often only sports can provide, it will be Auburn on the opposing sideline, the same team that hammered the final nail in his coaching coffin last season.
Still, Miles will be there, doffing his trademark hat, soaking in the sun and the cheers from an adoring crowd. The slow-talking, grass-eating, hand-clapping “Mad Hatter” is returning to Death Valley.
For that, he deserves an wide-finger hand clap from all of us.
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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