GULF SHORES, Ala. — Les Miles strode onto the ESPNU set at SEC Beachfest here Saturday, looking resort relaxed in a lavender LSU shirt, khaki shorts and dark sunglasses.
His “entourage” included wife Kathy and their three youngest children, Ben, Manny and Macy.
“How could you go to the ocean and not bring your family?” Miles asked, sounding like he was next going to ask for saltwater taffy.
Picture of a guy ready to rent a condo here for the week instead of a man who next Saturday night will be standing on the sideline in Tiger Stadium, the theatre of dreams for Tigers fans thirsty for another championship season and atonement.
For some that would be crushing pressure, like the weight of the water at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. But pressure and Miles rarely mix in a volatile way. If anything, he is willing to stir the drink, to talk up the big game and sky high expectations.
More often than not, Miles has delivered. Some would have you believe Larry the Cable Guy could coach LSU to 11 or 12 wins a year. What they underestimate is the quirky ability and ambition of the man beneath the LSU hat (no hat Saturday, by the way).
“You want to be at a place where 92,500 walk into the stadium and want victory as much as you do,” Miles said.
“I want to go play at the school where they expect that school to win and win and win and play for a championship and play for the national championship. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Actually, Les, there will be about 92,500 people in Tiger Stadium next Saturday who agree 1,000 percent.
Unlike his predecessor Nick Saban, who sounds mellower these days but still soberly tried to tamp down Alabama expectations after losing nine key defensive players, Miles runs toward expectations and gives them a bear hug.
“I think in many ways this team has the potential to be better than last year’s team,” said Miles, a comment that sent a ripple of electricity through the crowd.
A classic Miles sound bite, though in the next moment he invoked the Saban mantra by talking about “the process.”
“I think there is a need for this team to understand that they can’t go by a step,” Miles said. “They’ve got to do it one at a time. Practice (Saturday) morning was a very good practice. It counted. It’s one that our guys will look back on and say, ‘This prepared us going forward.’ ”
That preparation starts with taking North Texas seriously despite the fact the Mean Green is looking like what they call in soccer a “friendly” — LSU is a six-touchdown favorite.
“All you have to do is watch the film,” Miles said. “That film will draw you to prepare. As long as do it as we’ve done it in the past and we take one game at a time, we’ll get to the back end of the season prepared.”
By that The Hat means prepared for a chance to chase championships once again.