Les Miles, the Great Communicator

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
1:00
PM ET


The only thing better than Les Miles at a podium or in front of a microphone is a chest-beating Les Miles leading a team meeting.

Most of us aren't privy to such pure, unadulterated entertainment, but former LSU All-American and current Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson insists it's priceless.

"He had that walk when he'd come in, his hands in his pockets, real smooth and laid-back," Peterson said. "He starts out real low and then gets rowdier and rowdier and starts beating his chest. I mean, it's something else."

And so was what Miles had to say.

"We'd joke with each other that you'd better have your Les Miles dictionary," Peterson said with a hearty laugh. "He'd make up these mysterious words, and we'd all lean over and say, 'What in the world did coach just say? Is that even a word?'

"But he was fun to play for and made it fun every day. That's why he's able to recruit the way he does. I'd go back in a heartbeat and play for him if I had it to do all over again. He just has this special way of getting the best out of guys and making them believe that they can do anything."

The evolution of Miles as college football's "Great Communicator" goes back to his days at Michigan, first as a player and then as a coach under the legendary Bo Schembechler.

Even then, he was must-see TV, although the people who know him best say there was usually a method to his perceived madness.

"There was never a dull moment with Les," said lifelong friend John Wangler, a former quarterback at Michigan and Miles' roommate when they were graduate assistants under Schembechler.

"He's always had that goofy sense of humor about him, and he's not afraid to let his hair down and enjoy life. You can see that in the way his teams play. They play extremely hard for him."

Wangler jokes that he's licensed to recount only the "PG" stories of some of their escapades together.

One of his favorites involved a trip to the Silverdome to see a Detroit Pistons-Los Angeles Lakers game in the 1988 NBA Finals. Wangler had scored some all-access sideline passes from a friend of his with the NBA and invited Miles.

"We were moving all over the place and were right behind the Lakers' bench," Wangler said. "We might as well have been in the huddle with our heads between Magic Johnson and James Worthy while Pat Riley was talking to them during a timeout."

But that wasn't good enough for Miles, who was determined to get back in the locker room area after the game. The Pistons won to take a 3-2 lead, and Riley wasn't in the best of moods.

Sure enough, Wangler and Miles navigated their way into the news conference, and Miles piped up and asked Riley a question that rankled the Hall of Fame coach.

"It was something about rebounding or blocking out in the second half, and I'm thinking, 'Oh no, we're in trouble now,'" Wangler recalled. "All these national media guys started looking around at us like we weren't supposed to be there."

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Chris Low | email

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