BATON ROUGE, La. -- Whenever a coach spends a decade in one location, he is bound to leave behind a wealth of memories.
However, Les Miles isn’t any ordinary coach. His 11-plus seasons at LSU -- a tenure that ended on Sunday, following a controversial 18-13 loss to Auburn -- made him one of the most memorable coaches in SEC history.
With the "Mad Hatter" around, it was not just the way he consistently won ballgames, it was the flair he displayed while carrying out his job. Eating grass, coming up with unusual Les-isms, calling gutsy trick plays and clapping like a weirdo -- all of that made him as unique as the impressive 77-percent clip at which he won games since becoming LSU’s head coach in 2005.
Here are some of the most memorable moments and trends from Miles’ time at LSU:
Strange clock management: Sometimes Miles’ “creative” use of the clock worked out in his favor -- think the 2007 Auburn game, where Matt Flynn hit Demetrius Byrd with the game-winning touchdown pass with one second to play, or when LSU got a successful second chance to beat Tennessee in 2010 when the Volunteers were flagged for having too many men on the field on the game’s final play -- but LSU fans constantly griped about their coach’s clock management skills. Saturday’s devastating loss to Auburn was only the most recent example, although the most egregious instance was probably when LSU failed to get off one final play inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line in a 25-23 loss in 2009.
Gutsy calls: Never let it be said that Miles didn’t have some gusto. The 2007 Auburn touchdown was but one example. In his LSU tenure, he was well known for taking chances. Whether it was the 2007 Florida win where the Tigers went 5-for-5 on fourth down, the reverse to tight end DeAngelo Peterson that helped the Tigers beat Alabama in 2010 or a seemingly endless series of trick plays (see here, here and here, although Florida fans might not like to dredge up these bad memories), Miles always managed to keep things interesting.
Viral sensation: Speaking of the 2010 reverse against Alabama, Miles made one of his most heavily discussed moves just before that play. He kneeled down and pinched off a few blades of Tiger Stadium grass and put them in his mouth. That unusual habit became a trademark of sorts for Miles, who referenced eating grass in multiple commercials afterward. Throughout his LSU tenure, Miles was never afraid to let his goofy flag fly, whether it was explaining what makes Columbus Day special, leading a team-wide Harlem Shake, trading barbs (and shoes) with ESPN broadcaster Scott Van Pelt or answering reporters’ cell phones during press conferences.
Katrina season: Miles dealt with his share of natural disasters at LSU, including historic flooding in Baton Rouge just before the 2016 season started, but his first season at LSU was especially memorable in that regard. Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, turning the school into a temporary shelter and hospital for storm victims. The school was forced to reschedule its opener against North Texas and played the following week’s game at Arizona State instead of at Tiger Stadium as originally scheduled. Somehow, though, Miles’ first team won nine straight games -- two in overtime -- to claim an SEC West title, serving as an inspiration for the many Louisianans who desperately needed a post-Katrina distraction.
Crazy press conferences: Miles’ most famous LSU press conference probably was the impromptu one he called before the 2007 SEC championship game where he addressed reports that he was preparing to leave for his alma mater, Michigan. His line as he left the podium -- “Have a great day” -- became so famous that LSU’s equipment staff added it to the back door of its 18-wheel hauler. That said, you never knew what might happen when Miles was in front of the cameras. Take his profane rant after a narrow 2012 win over Ole Miss where he discussed appreciating the team’s seniors -- a speech that climaxed with him advising those listening to “find them, you throw your arms around them you give them a big kiss on the mouth … if you’re a girl” -- that drew extensive laughter in the press room.
Winning: For all his quirks and odd decision-making, Miles also deserves recognition for becoming one of the most successful coaches in SEC history. It starts with his 2007 BCS championship, two SEC titles (2007 and 20011) and three SEC West titles (2005, 2007, 2011), although those doesn’t tell the full tale. Miles’ 114 wins at LSU place him 16th in SEC history, and his 77-percent rate of victory sits seventh among SEC coaches. He is also the most consistent winner in LSU history, even if he remains second behind Charlie McClendon in total victories (137 to 114) and bowl appearances (13 to 11), and his total of seven bowl victories ties McClemdon for the school record.