BATON ROUGE, La. – Wacky, improbable finishes became a hallmark of the Les Miles era at LSU. Why should his first spin on the coaching carousel be any different?
After being fired four games into the 2016 season, 17 other FBS coaching jobs came open and were filled by people other than Miles. There appeared to be one final chance when he was a finalist for the Minnesota job after Tracy Claeys was unexpectedly fired last week. Alas, the job went to P.J. Fleck from Western Michigan, opening one more potential landing spot for Miles in this cycle. (Miles should not be considered a candidate to replace Sonny Dykes at California.)
So now, the Broncos are looking for a new leader and Miles is open to the challenge. Appearing on ESPN’s First Take, Miles would not rule out coaching a Group of Five school. And if he wants to coach again, he may not have a choice.
“Certainly there are the top-division schools that can play for a championship year in and year out; certainly I fit there. But when you sign up for coaching, here’s what you do,” Miles said. “You say, ‘Listen, I’m going to take a group of guys and I’m going to make them better. I’m going to take what I have and improve and direct and pull together, and there’s an enjoyment with the process.’
“I enjoy the grind. I enjoy coming in early, I enjoy seeing guys that are working hard. It’s a part of my culture, it’s a part of the culture of the teams I’ve coached. We like to work hard. We approach the game in a matter-of-fact way, and we figure that we’re going to win.”
If Western Michigan AD Kathy Beauregard is looking for a reference, Joe Alleva might deliver a glowing one. Miles’ LSU buyout is reduced by the amount of his new contract, wherever he may work. Translation: Miles getting a new job saves LSU lots-o-cash.
Miles’ Michigan roots are well-known and WMU is on solid footing. After going 1-11 in his first season, Fleck led the Broncos to three consecutive bowl appearances, including the Cotton Bowl in 2016. A MAC championship trophy might not sit prominently among Miles’ personal collection, but it would be a championship nonetheless.
In an odd sense, Miles taking the WMU job would be somewhat refreshing. In a grass-is-always-greener era of coaches leapfrogging from job to job, for a coach with Miles’ résumé to potentially humble himself for love of the game is admirable. Sure, he could sit out a year and work in TV, recharge the batteries and make a run at a bigger job next year, but that just wouldn’t be Miles.
A ho-hum end to the coaching season wouldn’t be Miles, either. One thing 11-plus seasons of Miles at LSU taught us all is to expect the unexpected. And a “WMU” logo atop The Hat might be his wackiest finish yet.
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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