BATON ROUGE, La. — How about an “Atta boy!” for Les Miles?
On Saturday, LSU will honor the 2007 national champions, an intensely thrilling team Miles coached while famously encouraging us all to “have a great day.” A little more than a year after being unceremoniously fired and replaced by one of his assistants, Miles has confirmed he will attend the celebration in Tiger Stadium.
“Absolutely, babe,” Miles said when asked by former player T-Bob Hebert on his show “Off the Bench with Culotta and T-Bob” on 104.5-ESPN Baton Rouge. “I’ll be there with a pretty strong team and a talented group of men. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
How easy it would be for Miles to be petty, to get caught up in bitter feelings. How awkward it might be for him to stand on a field he once patrolled and to look at one of his lieutenants, now taking his spot as general.
Miles gave 11-plus seasons to LSU. He gave them a national title and two SEC titles while playing for another of each. He gave them 114 happy Saturdays after Tigers wins. He gave them an iconic wardrobe, an unorthodox hand clap and laugh-out-loud quotes. He gave his time to almost every charity that asked of it. The entire Miles family wrapped its arms around Baton Rouge, and the city loved them back.
In return, he was pink-slipped four games into his 12th season. That came after his job status turned into a spectacle the previous November. Week after week, he was asked about his job. Week after week, he took the high road.
This isn’t to say that Miles’ program had not slipped. It is only that after all he had given, he deserved a better exit than he got.
Now, with LSU honoring Miles’ greatest professional achievement, he has the opportunity to reject the people that rejected him. He could blame it on a broadcasting gig. He could blame it on wanting to watch one of his sons — the same boys who grew up tossing the ball on the field at Tiger Stadium after LSU games — play college football. He could blame it on, well, almost anything.
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“I just want to be real,” said Miles’ wife, Kathy, on the debut episode of the “Les is More” podcast. “We can act like it’s not hard, but it is hard. We live (in Baton Rouge) because we loved it here. We live here because we felt loved by the people here. Les was tremendously loved by the people here. I think he still is. People get pictures with him. People want his autograph. I have people ask me every time I go out, ‘How’s Coach doing?'”
Instead of being bitter, Miles is going to take his own advice. He’s going to find a spectacular group of fans, throw his arms around them and give them a big kiss.
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