There’s little doubt that first and foremost, Les Miles will be remembered for leading the LSU football team to the 2007 BCS national championship, the third in program history.
But the 62-year-old Miles, who was fired Sunday just four games into his 12th season with the Tigers, will long be remembered for myriad things — many of them on the field, some off.
His tenure, which began on Jan. 3, 2005, when he was introduced as LSU’s 32nd football coach, was punctuated by highs and lows — mostly highs — en route to becoming the winningest coach in school history at 77.0 percent.
Still, he became a polarizing figure despite winning 114 games, second only to Charles McClendon’s 137 victories, by infuriating many fans with his stubbornness to change his offensive scheme as well as his play-calling decisions and poor clock management.
Then, there were a couple of flirtations with his beloved alma mater, Michigan, leading some locals to wonder if he bled maize and blue rather than purple and gold.
But no one, LSU defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams suggested Sunday after a 20-minute team meeting with Miles and interim head coach Ed Orgeron, should question his love or loyalty for the school and community which he and wife, Kathy, and their four children embraced.
“He just said he loved us, that he loved his time here,” said White, who turned down a chance to enter the NFL draft last spring to return for his senior season. “He said he’ll be rooting for us in the weeks to come.”
“He gave it his all every day, and he loved his players,” Adams said after the meeting in the LSU Football Ops Center. “Coach was just so passionate about LSU and wearing purple and gold. He’s definitely going to be missed around here.”
Off the field, there were his widespread community efforts, especially in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita during his first season in Baton Rouge, and during the recent floods.
Then, there was Miles’ penchant for snacking on the grass in Tiger Stadium, the way he wore his ever-present white LSU cap, and, of course, his quirkiness in the spoken language.
Multiple sources told The Advocate that Les Miles was fired Sunday, a day after LSU, ranked …
Writers who covered LSU during his time in Baton Rouge jokingly referred to it as “Miles-speak.”
For example: “When I wake up in the morning and I turn that film on, it’s like reading a book and it’s exciting,” he said. “I don’t read books. But if I read books, it would be like reading a book.”
One of his best quotes came in a fiery postgame news conference after a thrilling, but error-filled, 41-35 Senior Day victory over Ole Miss in 2012.
“A spectacular group of men,” Miles said as his voice began to rise in the interview room beneath the Tiger Stadium stands. “You go find 'em, you throw your arms around them and give them a big kiss on the mouth … if you’re a girl.”
Another thing that stood out for Miles the coach during his LSU reign: He became a father figure to many players he recruited and grew to be a players’ coach who this season has 44 former players on NFL active rosters and various reserve lists.
Many of those players, as well as current ones, were outspoken in November when Miles was nearly ousted after a three-game losing streak that sent LSU tumbling from a top-five ranking and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff to the Texas Bowl.
White said the mood, understandably, was somber during his brief chat Sunday afternoon — just hours after he was informed of the decision.
“For me, he recruited me, he came to my living room,” White said. “Our relationship was different, but I can’t speak for everybody.”
Adams said Miles treated all of his players as if they were his own family.
“Most definitely, he cares not only about football … but you as a human being and you growing as a man,” he said. “That was definitely a key for my commitment to come to LSU. It’s a real family here, and that’s not going to change no matter who’s here.
“I hurt for coach Miles right now. I do, because that’s my coach, and I love him to death.”
“His legacy speaks for itself,” said White, who was a little shaken as he spoke with reporters. “He’s the winningest coach in LSU history, so that speaks for itself. He was a player's coach and everybody loved him.”
Photos: LSU coach Les Miles' top 10 wild-and-craziest night games in Tiger Stadium
LSU coach Les Miles is 46-4 in Saturday night home games. The only losses were to two top-ranked teams -- No. 1 Florida on Oct. 10, 2009 and No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3, 2012 -- to another that became No. 1 in Mississippi State on Sept. 20, 2014 and to No. 5 Alabama on Nov. 8, 2014. LSU’s last non-conference home loss was to UAB on Sept. 23, 2000. Flip through the photos to relive Miles' biggest moments at night in Tiger Stadium.