Of course, Miles said unambiguously on Saturday that he would be LSU's coach next year. Forget his terse press conference hours before the game, where he did not unambiguously say he was staying. Look at his one-on-one interview with Tracy Wolfson at the top of CBS's broadcast, where he did. Unfortunately, I don't see a YouTube of it to show people.
He made a statement that, if he turned around and went to Michigan, would have been his personal Nick Saban "I'm not going to be the next coach at Alabama" moment. Yet still, a small but vocal contingent of the media continued to sell the Miles-to-Michigan story as something other than dead, even though Michigan officials had also declared it dead.
Now it's dead. I am pleased. Let me point you to an article in the LSU Daily Reveille. It appeared on Tuesday.
LaFell said he has always trusted Miles, and Saturday was no different for the sophomore receiver.
"[Miles] came and told us like a man that he wasn't leaving," LaFell said. "Since I've been here, he's never lied to me, so I took his word. We all took his word, and we just went out and played for ourselves."
LaFell has two more years of eligibility remaining at LSU. He said continuing to be instructed by the coach who landed him at LSU is meaningful.
"[Miles] is one of the guys that recruited me and brought me in, came and sat in my house and ate with my family," LaFell said. "He means a lot to me. He recruited a lot of good guys, a lot of good players. It means a lot to know that our coach is going to stick behind us. His alma mater is offering him a good job, but hey, he's taking the best job down here."
Miles has forged ties with LaFell and many other football players. Two Tigers Miles specifically mentioned as being dear to him were Steltz and senior running back Jacob Hester.
"The sincerity of the relationships between coaches and players, they're real," Miles said. "Jacob Hester, Steltz, these are great kids. To think that there's anything less sincere than the relationship that I have with my team, there's nothing more important."
Hester agreed with his coach's sentiments, saying his relationship with Miles is genuine.
"He came to me the other day, and he just apologized. 'I'm sorry this is even interfering with your game,'" Hester said. "And I just told him, 'Coach, I understand.' He said, 'No you don't. I want to be here.'"
"That just means so much. We have such a great relationship with our head coach. We feel like we can just go up to him and talk about anything. It's one of those relationships, and for him to pass up his dream job just to stay with the guys here, that means a lot to us."This passage points, I think, to Les Miles' greatest strength as a head football coach. He has a wonderful ability to forge relationships with young players because he is genuinely on their side. He genuinely cares about the young players and wants what's best for them. The players sense that, and respond in kind.
That's his approach to coaching. He's a players' coach, trying to get the most out of his players by forging positive relationships with them. As the team gets more and more players who initially forged relationships with him on the recruiting trail, we will see more of his personality shape the team. As it is, it is clear he has won over players who were not recruited by him.
One thing that has always impressed me about Miles is his seeming lack of ego. Les Miles has never once been accused of playing his own recruits at the expense of his predecessor's players. He has never done what Curley Hallman did by falsely claiming his team was "young and inexperienced" while playing his own freshman and sophomore recruits over more polished older players. One can discuss the wisdom of playing Justin Vincent as much as he played last year, but no one can say Les Miles was throwing Saban's players under the bus in favor of his own.
In fact, no one can accuse Miles of ever throwing a player under the bus, period. Even when Brandon Lafell was struggling so much in the middle of the season, he was never criticized publicly by the coaches. Miles simply trusted Lafell to work his way out of his problems, and Lafell has, making a big catch against Tennessee that was eerily similar to the one he batted up for an interception against Bama. LSU would not have been well-served if Miles had benched and publicly reprimanded Lafell, and he didn't do it.
Players trust Miles, understand he will be honest with them, and want to succeed for him. This is what makes the continued rumors of him going to Michigan so senseless after Saturday. The man's greatest asset as a coach is the trust he develops in players. He could have said nothing and quietly left for Michigan after the SEC Championship Game, but if he did that after what he said on Saturday, he would have been sacrificing that trust. No player could ever say of Miles, "He's never lied to me," as Lafell said, because he would have lied to the player right there on network television for all the world to see.
It would have been like Samson wanting to get a job with the Yankees and cutting off his hair to comply with the grooming policies. He would never be able to be the same coach he is now if he had done that. But I guess the media just doesn't watch these people this closely, or just needs to fill up some column inches or television minutes and needs to talk about whatever they can talk about.