LAWRENCE — Les Miles, Kansas’ 65-year-old new kid on the block, has delivered a kind of local hype and national buzz that for the last decade has only been made possible by the university’s prosperous men’s basketball program.
One day after Miles’ hiring as KU’s latest head football coach, Bill Self weighed in on his suddenly shared spotlight.
“I’m supposed to announce,” Self said at the outset of his weekly news conference Monday, “we’re going to run the triple option next year.”
Well, Miles is looking for an offensive coordinator, after all.
Joking aside, Self joined a list of prominent area figures to speak on the Jayhawks’ high-profile hiring of the former national championship-winning coach at LSU, introduced Sunday as the latest fixer to attempt to turn around the ailing football program.
Miles’ credentials, Self said, are “off the chart.”
“This guy is competing with Alabama each and every year for the right to play for an SEC championship and have a right to go to the (College Football Playoff),” Self said. “So to be a part of that, I think that is terrific. He’s brought home the gold before. There’s not too many guys out there, recruits, that get to play for a national championship coach that are presently coaching.”
Self estimated that group of active, championship-winning head coaches to be made up of no more than 10 or 12 individuals, but his approximation was too generous — only Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher (and, in the minds of some folks in Orlando, Fla., Nebraska’s Scott Frost) make up the current crop.
Miles and Self complete the only institution combination of championship-winning head coaches in FBS-level football and Division I men’s basketball, a fact well publicized by KU since Miles’ hiring.
“I’m excited. I think everybody that supports us should be excited,” Self said. “It’s kind of a very happy thing but it’s also bitter for a guy (in outgoing coach David Beaty) and a staff that you’ve come to know well over the last four years, but you know, hard decisions have to be made in this profession, and certainly I think it’s not (just) a good choice, it’s a home-run hire.”
Monday also brought the first public remarks on Miles from Beaty, fired by first-year athletic director Jeff Long on Nov. 4 in a move effective after the Jayhawks’ season-ending contest at 11 a.m. Friday against No. 11 Texas at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
“Obviously it wouldn’t matter what I think, but I’ve heard nothing but terrific things about him,” Beaty said of Miles on the Big 12 coach’s teleconference. “I haven’t spoken with him and we probably won’t speak, and that’s OK. I’m going to be the coach here for the rest of this week and then it’s going to be time for a changing of the guard.
“I hope and pray for the Jayhawk nation that they will get behind him and give him the things he needs to be successful, the things he needs to build upon his own pedigree so he can come here and take this thing to the next level.”
Miles’ meeting with the football team Sunday lasted all of five minutes, the Jayhawks’ new leading man not wanting to distract the current crop of coaches or players. While Beaty is focusing all of his attention on the Longhorns, he acknowledged sensing “a lot of excitement in Lawrence right now” for his successor.
“I’m excited for KU as they move forward. That’s really the extent of it,” Beaty said. “Our job is to go win this game, to help these guys that are going to still be here to be able to recruit better and put better players around them as they continue to grow. So I think that’s how we can help.”
The Big 12 coaches teleconference also produced positive reviews of the hire from Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, both of whom applauded the move.
“I think it’s a good hire,” Snyder said. “I like Les a great deal. I think he’s an awful good person. Obviously he’s had a great deal of success and he’ll be good for the program.”
Gundy, who was an offensive coordinator under Miles from 2001-04 before succeeding him as the Cowboys’ head coach, labeled his former boss’ hiring as “really good for the league.”
“Les is a smart football coach and he’s been around forever,” Gundy said. “I guess he has the itch to stay in it. I was a little bit shocked. He’s 65 years old. He’s got a lot more energy than me. I don’t think I’d be willing to take on a challenge at 65. But it’d be good for him to get back into the game, and if that’s what makes him happy, then I’m happy for him.”
As always, though, Self’s words carry the most weight around Lawrence — as does his stamp of approval.