Monday, December 03, 2007

Things Fall Apart

The slow drumbeat of the coaching search process had been announcing Les Miles as the next coach of the Michigan Wolverines for the past week. It was an open secret. LSU fans were preparing themselves to lose their defensive coordinator and their head coach. It reached a crescendo on Saturday morning when Kirk Herbstreit announced it on ESPN. Then all hell broke loose.

What happened? Where did things go wrong? I think Michael Rosenberg in today's Free Press has it right, and Brian's take is as good as his work usually is. It doesn't make sense to claim that Miles was never interested in Michigan. Everything he said up until Saturday had been a carefully crafted non-statement. He never said he didn't want the Michigan job, but he couldn't say that he did.

The press conference on Saturday is hard to read. I don't know how he usually addresses the press, but this one was full of bluster and anger, the sort Lloyd Carr usually reserves for the refs. It makes me think this was a snap judgment and an emotional decision from Miles. Something pissed him off and made him jump.

There's the talk out there about Martin and Michigan asking Miles to dance to their song and go through the interview process, there's the story of LSU presenting Miles with an ultimatum to commit to them or be fired on the spot, and there's the fact of the dumptruck full of money they backed up to his house. I don't know. All season we've watched Miles go for it on 4th down, ratcheting up his risk for the promise of a much bigger reward. Michigan's desire for Miles to go through a real interview process may have seemed demeaning to a man of his ego and accomplishments, but I don't think it's enough to make him snap like he did, not with his ultimate prize out there. Overnight his public statement went from "I haven't given it any thought" to "Oh, hell no."

The only thing that changed was the ESPN story. Within a few hours of Herbstreit shooting his mouth off, Miles had suddenly agreed to an extension with LSU and was calling a press conference. I think it points to a big, emotional reaction. Maybe Les heard the story and tried to get in touch with the athletic department, but Bill Martin was taking in a matinee of the hilarious comedy Hitman and turned his cell phone off. Maybe he just assumed Desmond leaked it to Herbie. Everything sounds like this was a snap decision from Les to spurn Michigan and go where he knows he's wanted.

With the dust settling, Michigan still has three days to beg Miles to take the job. That's not going to happen. Bill Martin placed a token phone call on Sunday and Miles's agent said he isn't interested. By now, though, Miles has to know that he's never going to wear Bo's windbreaker, barring some seismic shift in Michigan's athletic department (and it would take an apocalyptic run for that to occur). And while he may be financially more secure, the only winner here is LSU.

Meanwhile, Mitch Albom needs to shut up*. His piece this morning is petulant and reeks of the arrogance Michigan fans are always accused of carrying. Yeah, good riddance to a guy who is unquestionably one of the best candidates Michigan had available to it, even if he wasn't universally anointed by the athletic department. Whose team is playing for a national championship, Mitch?

*I didn't even bother reading Drew Sharp, but I'm confident that he also needs to shut up.

1 comment:

Al McCord said...

A good coach is almost always going to make more $ in the SEC than in the Big Ten, so if Miles really wanted to go to Michigan he wouldn't have been either so easily boxed into a corner by LSU. On the other hand, he has a smart agent who was doing his best to box LSU into a corner ... in the end the dollars spoke. I do think that Michigan's "play it straighter" approach may have sent signals that they didn't want Miles *that* much.

Despite all this hooplah, I haven't been overly impressed watching LSU in several of its games this year, including the Tennessee game. I don't see their defense being able to stop people consistently, and I don't see an offense that consistently puts other teams on their heels and relies on fourth down gadget plays. So perhaps this will all be better in the long run, assuming that Bill Martin's list is really good and he's really serious with the other candidates.