What the Deuce: Les Is Not Sexy

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Les Is Not Sexy

One of the more enjoyable reads on the Interwebs is MGoBlog. Since, in his own words, The Horror, Brian created Profiles in Heroism, a segment that evaluates the individuals who are likely candidates to take over the head coaching job at Michigan after Lloyd Carr leaves. The latest edition profiles ex-Michigan letterman and current LSU head coach, Les Miles.

Miles has proven to be a polarizing figure amongst the usuals at MGoBlog's comments section. His detractors say that Miles has a penchant for running his mouth, question his success at LSU, and most importantly, cite the rumors that Miles is a coach with "loose morals," a phrase that reminds me of the legal opinions from the early 1900s that I read a few weeks ago (don't ask why).

The only reason Miles should not be considered is if the rumors of his "loose morals" come to light. There's very little evidence, besides these comments, that point to Miles running a dirty program. In fact,
many are of the opinion that a lot of negativity is coming from the old guard that's still at Michigan. On a side note, if that is true, and current members of the staff and athletic department are making unfounded claims about Miles, I don't want them to coach this team. And how does spreading unsubstantiated rumors about a person mesh with the whole "Michigan Man" philosophy? I guess it only applies when its convenient for those who are currently part of the program.

Also, commenter WolverBean made a good point. Calling Miles dirty is the pot calling the kettle black. This team has had its fair share of off the field problems, including Mario Manningham missing the EMU game for violating a team rule. So really, all of the people who keep going back to the "Michigan Man" argument, please take off the rose colored glasses and see the program for what it really is.

The remaining criticisms are lame excuses for not considering Miles. Although I also want a coach who is a better public speaker, I don't think this should prevent him from being a candidate. A lot of Miles' speaking problems appear to be a function of his passion - sometimes, Miles just can't find the words and says something inappropriate. I've seen Lloyd curse plenty of times - he's just been lucky there hasn't been a microphone or camera in his face when he did. And let's not forget Lloyd's penchant for being arrogant, dismissive, and belittling reporters in interviews.

I can't defend Miles' comments during his speech with the LSU boosters, but maybe, just maybe, it was Miles attempt to fit in. LSU fans and boosters expect information from the coaches, at least that's what I remember talking heads saying when Miles got the job. It's the norm there, not like at Michigan where information about an ankle sprain is treated like information about troop movements in Falujah.

My point is this: if the worst thing you can say about Miles is that he is not a good public speaker, you'd be an idiot not to hire him. He's not Bobby Knight. Plus, I'd rather have an coach who is an average public speaker that wins the games he's supposed to than a coach who regularly blows winnable games and, when asked a
legitimate questions about the strategy employed, stares down reporters with a "how dare you question me" look. If his ability to speak is such a concern, there's nothing stopping Bill Martin from hiring a pr coach to help Miles.

Actually, I'm excited at the potential of having a coach that is angry after loss rather than a coach who looks, sounds, and acts beat. Lloyd just doesn't seem to have the energy anymore and it shows in the way the team plays. When Carr is up for a game, so is the team and when Carr is not, you get games like Northwestern and Appalachian State. Over the last few years, the team has taken on the personality of the man who leads it - and we've all seen the results. Bill Simmons once addressed this saying that there are more young coaches in the NFL because of all the energy the job requires. These newbies want to show they belong and put everything they have into the job. To an extent, the same can be said about college coaches. Compared to coaches like Carroll, Stoops, and Belotti, Carr looks tired. He just doesn't seem to have the same fire as the aforementioned coaches and it shows in the way Michigan plays. This in itself is a reason to make a change, but that's another topic for another day.

I'm not going to address the argument that Miles is winning with Saban's players because Brian has done a great job debunking it. And for those who think Miles doesn't have enough experience, remember Bo wasn't Bo until Bo was Bo (sorry to sound like a bad Nike commercial).

Instead, I'm going to focus on Miles' decision to surround himself with great coaches. I think his willingness to do so is his biggest positive - it shows that Miles knows his limitations and won't let his ego get in the way of success. Larry Bird, while coaching the Pacers, said that he wasn't sure that he could be a great coach, so he hired guys who had the know how to be his assistant. This is a stark contrast to Carr who either has an incredibly large ego or the inability to recognize his own weaknesses and neither one is good. So far, this formula has worked for Miles. The only reason this model wouldn't thrive at Michigan is if the AD doesn't pay for guys like Bo Pellini and Jon Tenuta.

Even with what Miles' has going for him, I still feel "eh" about him. I want to feel like Homer Simpson looking at a plate of bacon when the new hire is made/announced. The question now becomes why Miles doesn't make me feel that way. The answer is simple - he's not the sexy choice. He's not Uncle Pete, he's not the young up and comer, and he's not the offensive genius (Tedford, not Weis).

I really believe but for Miles' ties to the program, fans wouldn't bring his name up as a potential candidate. There's nothing unique or shiny about Miles. He's a good coach and that's that. He's a good fit, will be a solid coach (or at least I hope so), and brings a relatively fresh outlook to this program (assuming he sticks to his CEO model). He understands Michigan better than most candidates would because he played under Bo and I think he'll keep what's good about this program(the overarching philosophy) and get rid of what's bad (play not to lose attitude and cronyism). When I look at it that way, I feel a lot better about Miles being the next head coach and I welcome it.


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