ESPN.com is reporting that Les Miles has won The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award and will receive it on their air tomorrow night. It kinda makes sense then that they’d know who won the thing.
Miles is also up for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award o rhis work this season.
But Miles has done more in 2011 than just put himself in line for some major awards. He has re-written his legacy.
On October 2nd of 2010, Miles — known as the Mad Hatter for his wild gambles and often-questionable clock management — was squarely between the talk radio crosshairs of many a Tiger fan. Unbeaten LSU had almost dropped a home game to struggling Tennessee thanks to botched game management on the part of the Tigers. Luckily for Miles, Tennessee out-flubbed him and had 13 men on the field for the game’s next-to-last play which allowed LSU an extra play to score the winning touchdown in a 16-14 mess of a game.
In the week that followed, every Miles’ gaffe was remembered and dissected from Baton Rouge to ESPN to national talk radio shows. But the Mad Hatter — watch him cringe every time CBS’ Tracy Wolfson calls him that to his face — rebounded to lead LSU to an 11-2 finish and a Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M. Fine work.
This season, however, has been Miles’ best work. His team has been dominant from the start of the season to the end. He has knocked off ranked foes Oregon, West Virginia, Georgia and Alabama away from Tiger Stadium.
His victory in Game of the Century I in Tuscaloosa might’ve put the kibosh once and for all on the talk that Miles simply inherited a good program from Nick Saban. Sure he landed a plum gig, but seven years later LSU’s program is as strong or stronger than it was when Saban departed for the NFL. That’s say quite a bit.
This season he had to keep his team focused through a litany of off-field issues that would have derailed many a team: player arrests, player suspensions, NCAA probation, NCAA questions, a new offensive coordinator diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and staff responsibilities juggled just prior to the season. In addition, he coaxed the max out of two senior quarterbacks — both of whom have done fine work this season — who most Tiger fans didn’t want to see on the field in the first place.
But perhaps most important is not what Miles has done, but what he hasn’t done. Have you seen any Mad Hatter moments this year? Any bizarre gambles that did or didn’t pay off? Any clock management bungles?
Miles may still speak like a guy who’s trying to utilize his “Learn a Word a Day” calendar, but in terms of on-the-field stuff — the stuff that built Miles’ reputation into that of a goofball with a great recruiting base — the coach has been squeaky clean this year. He’s not been a dice-roller, he’s just been a winner. Right down to that conservative chess match win over Saban in early November.
Folks will still call him the Mad Hatter, but Miles was anything but mad this past season. In fact, he was great.
This year’s work has changed the way folks look at LSU’s coach. Talk to a Tiger fan today and he’ll tell you he never questioned the man who eats grass on the sidelines. Yeah. Right.
And that in itself should tell you what kind of job Miles did in 2011.