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Deke Bellavia

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Deke: Love him or hate him, Les Miles' greatness is undeniable

His teams are always "capable," his opponents are "always of quality," and his players enjoy the "want to win."  Say what?  Those are just a few of the things that we've heard come out of Les Miles.

As he enters 10th season as head coach of the LSU Tigers, the most made-for-TV coach in college football is set to prepare for another season at the helm in Baton Rouge.  Les Miles begins the 2014 season as the third-longest tenured coach in the program's history.

Only Charles McClendon (1962-1979) and Bernie Moore (1935-1947) have coached more seasons at LSU. And by seasons end, only Charlie Mac will have coached more games as a Tigers head coach.

Still, with all of his 119 games coached and having netted an impressive 95 wins, Les Miles is somewhat disrespected. When you open a pre-season college football guide and read about who are the top coaches in the game today, his name rarely shows up on anyone's list.

He is criticized more than he is praised; some analysts claim that he wins with his talent and not his coaching. And no one will ever let Miles forget what happened on November 21st in Oxford, Mississippi. But in my opinion, he's perfect for LSU!

For a fan base that loves to tout how loud and proud they are, what coach would better fit the Purple and Gold crazies than the Mad Hatter himself?  As much as he gets bashed for saying all the wrong things that seemingly make everyone scratch their heads, Les Miles has said and done far more things right than he has wrong.

When it comes to talking about playing in Tiger Stadium, no coach has pumped up his fans and his home venue quite like Miles does.  When the media tries to come down on one of his players, or calls out his team, he's the first to jump up and defend those players and his team.

For all the negative things said about his coaching style, the way he speaks, and how he handles his program, Les Miles must be doing something right. How can a bad coach win so many games?

It's because he has more talent than most.  It's because he's at the right place and the right time. Or is he just flat out lucky most days?  The more so-called analysts, experts and people who don't know him try to categorize him, the more games he just keeps on winning.

Football is just like life, and sometimes things done differently are not bad, dumb or uncool - they are just different. And I think regardless if you're a Les Miles fan or a Les Miles hater, you would all have to agree that he's different. And often, different is better.

For the last nine years, I've had the opportunity to interview Coach Miles every Monday during the season after his weekly "Lunch with Les" presser that takes place on the campus.

In those nine years lot of things have happened.  There have been happy interviews, serious interviews, uncomfortable interviews and memorable interviews.  And honestly, I can remember every one of the over 150 interviews I've conducted with Coach Miles.

Over the course of nine years, you get to know someone.  What that person likes, what they dislike, what they don't mind talking about and things that are better left unasked.

I can remember Monday, December 3rd when I walked into Michael Bonnette's office and found an excited Miles that saw his Tigers team go from being ranked #5 after a triple overtime loss to Arkansas the week prior, to jumping three spots in a matter of hours to land a spot in the BCS Title Game in New Orleans. Sure, Coach was hyped, but I think deep down inside, he was raring to have a shot at Ohio State. After all, Miles loved the Buckeyes as a player and Coach for the Maize and Blue. LOL!

And then there was the Monday after what many dubbed the "Meltdown in Mississippi," when the Tigers suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of rival Ole Miss.  It was during the 2009 season and Coach Miles just got done with his weekly presser and he was peppered by the media on why he handled the end of the Tigers' game against the Rebels the way he did.

Coach just walked in and sat on the couch and looked right at me with a kind of intimidating look. I was a little nervous, as less than 48 hours before, I too was hammering how he handled the end of the game.

Still, Miles just looked at me and asked me something I never would have thought. "Deke, how'd I do out there?" I told Coach Miles that what he had just told the media was some of the things they wanted to hear. But like everyone else who was at the game, watched on TV or listened to the radio, Miles too was a part of something that he had never witnessed before.

After we talked a few minutes more, I hit record on my mp3 player and remember Les saying to me "Deke, this is a hard week for the Tigers. We've got to find a way to regroup and go out there and get a win." Sure enough, he did just that as he guided LSU to a gut check 33-30 overtime win over Arkansas.  

Now, don't take what I'm writing the wrong way.  I've never been to dinner with the coach, and don't consider us close friends.  But I can say that Coach Miles speaks from his heart, and I truly believe that when he says something, he means it.And the more he speaks from the heart, it seems like the more people misunderstand what he's saying.  But ultimately the proof is in the pudding and Les Miles is a winner.

I believe that parents trust Les Miles, they are impressed with how he deals with his players, and they like how those players at LSU become better people having been around him.

Whichever way you break it down, the man has won 95 games and he has embraced a very difficult-to-please fan base.  Les Miles may not be a good game day coach, he may not be among the so called top-tier coaches in college football, but you can't dispute that he is one of the most successful coaches in the game today. And when it is all said and done in Baton Rouge, the Mad Hatter will go down as arguably the greatest coach in LSU history. And only one person is the greatest.

They say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  And LSU has Les Miles.  One day Tigers Fans may get what the wish for, and then maybe they will wish they had someone like Les Miles leading their Tigers.  Well right now they have him.  And what they have is far more than less!  

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Locations : ArkansasMississippiNew OrleansOxford
People : Bernie MooreCharles McClendonCharlie MacLes MilesSure

07/29/2014 3:00PM
Deke: Love him or hate him, Les Miles' greatness is undeniable
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