BATON ROUGE, La. — Les Miles seems to miss the days when expectations were a little lower.
Sure, Miles said he looks back fondly on his days at LSU, where every game week felt like a must-win game. But in the next venture in his journey, Miles isn’t looking for another LSU, another school that demands immediate success. Nor is it likely that those schools will want him either.
Instead, Miles is trying to recapture the feelings of his youth, the days when he was an assistant at Colorado and Oklahoma State, when winning wasn’t yet the norm but he helped make it that way.
“I probably had as much fun as anything when I was at Colorado watching Bill McCartney orchestrate a build,” Miles said Friday morning at Jamal Adams’ NFL declaration press conference. “After that, when I went to Oklahoma State, I was fortunate to be with some assistant coaches and players who wanted to win for the first time. Then we took the next step. But I think there’s always, it’s more the relationship with the players and then to increase the wins and to win championships. I think we can do that in a lot of places.”
Miles returned to LSU’s athletic administration building Friday, four months after he was fired as LSU’s head coach and replaced by Ed Orgeron. Still unemployed, Miles is actively looking for jobs, but said he’s enjoying the time spent with his family as well, making good on the off time he wasn’t afforded after 17 years as a Division I head football coach.
The man who was affectionately known as “The Mad Hatter” said he’s traveled the country interviewing for coaching positions, meeting “nice people” and seeing “really great schools.” But he hasn’t found a match yet. Miles doesn’t want to abandon his life as a coach, but he doesn’t want to rush into a job he doesn’t fit either.
“It’s something that I want to do, but you want an athletic director and a person that want you,” Miles said. “If they don’t want you, then you’re good.”
Miles has missed out on a few notable job opportunities this offseason. Houston hired Major Applewhite. Baylor hired Matt Rhule. Purdue hired Jeff Brohm and Oregon hired Willie Taggart and Texas hired Tom Herman and today, Minnesota hired P.J. Fleck. All of these schools opted for up-and-comers instead of the 63-year-old veteran, despite his 141-55 career record and national championship victory.
And Miles said he understands the choice, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
“Here’s the interesting thing: The experience that you’ve had in 17 years of head coaching experience, you can’t put it into an interview,” Miles said. “It’s impossible to try. So what you do is you do the best you can to display these great number of experiences that you’ve had… If they don’t want an experienced coach and a guy that’s been through a number of situations, I understand it. I really do.”
Miles was quick to emphasize his experience. He’s a coach. He doesn’t think of himself as anything else. Which is why he still has a hard time saying he’d be content joining the media as ESPN’s heir to Lee Corso or Lou Holtz or any of the wacky coaches they’ve trotted in front of a camera through the years.
When asked if he’d be comfortable switching sides and working as a media member, Miles scoffed, grabbing a reporter’s cell phone and pretending to interview another, mimicking the action to prove that it’s not for him.
And even though it was pointed out to Miles that all he’d be doing is sitting behind a desk, that’s still not what Miles wants to do. He might be 63 years old, but he’s still a football coach.
“I’m a coach,” Miles said. “I have so much experience with the things that I’ve done that it’s hard for me to put that behind me. In other words, I don’t know how to [be in the media]. But I can [coach].”