ARLINGTON, Texas — Les Miles was ready for his more than two-year hiatus from patrolling college football’s sidelines to be over.
As the first-year Kansas head coach revealed Monday, so was another important party.
“I want you to know something: I love my family and we have a great relationship, (but) the truth of the matter is I was not brought closer to my family,” Miles joked at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. “In fact, if anything, my wife (Kathy) wanted me to get a job.”
Miles, 65, accepted the Jayhawks’ offer last November following an extended break after his firing at Louisiana State University, where he won a national championship and made another title game in a 12-year stint that saw him compile a 114-34 record. Front and center Monday, Miles said there was no question about his desire to coach again, even in the immediate aftermath of his messy split with the Tigers.
“No, no. There really wasn’t (any doubt). I wanted to be with the right guy," Miles said. "It could’ve happened that it was not the right AD or the right situation, but when Jeff Long came to Kansas, I was pleased.”
Long, who is wrapping up his first year at KU, worked with Miles at Michigan in the 1980s, and that relationship played a pivotal role in convincing Miles to sign on to what is undoubtedly still a mammoth rebuilding effort — the Jayhawks have gone 23-97 in the 10 years since their last winning campaign and have been picked to finish last in every Big 12 preseason poll since 2011.
Miles’ pair of seasons watching college football from home — he and daughter Smacker spent some Saturday afternoons dashing from living room to den to catch various games dotted across the country — only strengthened his coaching bug, he said.
“I can only tell you it’s the thing I want to do,” Miles said. “I want to take a team to the field, prepare them to play and then take that team, that same team, and put them on a game field and play for victory. That, that to me is what I want to do, and it really is who I am.”
Addressing media from an elevated platform positioned at midfield on the sideline of AT&T Stadium, Miles couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic.
He explained one particularly vivid memory from his time at LSU, when the No. 4-ranked Tigers were preparing to take on No. 3 Oregon in the 2011 season opener held inside this very facility. As Tyrann Mathieu and other standout players got rowdy behind him in the tunnel, Miles stood at the forefront of the group that would moments later race out and off to a 40-27 victory at the outset of an eventual national runner-up campaign.
“You see them move away when I put my hand (out), and I want you to know something: That moment just kind of is something I fall back on in how much I enjoy taking the field with a team that is ready to play," he recalled.
If Miles can take the downtrodden Jayhawks to AT&T Stadium — home to the Big 12 championship game — it would only solidify his Hall of Fame résumé.
Miles candidly said he could see a "comfortable five-year stint" with KU, though he stated success might foster a desire to stay beyond that estimate. Miles' agreement with KU is a five-year deal worth $2.775 million annually, with additional retention bonuses due in 2020 and 2022.
As for his age — he turns 66 this November — and his status as the Big 12’s oldest head coach, Miles quipped he’d prefer that distinction over the alternative.
“I have surely enjoyed my days,” Miles said. “To think that I’m 65 is really not necessarily how I see it, you know? I’m having fun, and that to me is hard work, early-’til-late, but an opportunity to go win ballgames, which I look forward to.”
Regardless of how his high-profile, high-stakes stint with the Jayhawks ends, Miles wasn’t prepared to put into words how he’d measure success when that day comes. The same could be said of his thoughts on what this team can accomplish ahead of what many national pundits expect to be a challenging Year 1.
“I will never put a cap on my team, on any team that I coach,” Miles said. “So go to a bowl game, that’s certainly a positive step, right? I think if you give yourself that opportunity to continue to improve you can win some very significant games on the back end of a season, and if you win significant games in the back end of a season, you maybe have the opportunity to play for a championship.
“So I’m not going to put a top on it, OK? It’s going to happen one game at a time, it’s going to happen after a good summer camp, a camp where we stay injury-free but we continue to build on what will be Kansas Jayhawk culture.”
With his focus now firmly on football, Miles appears to feel whole again — and his family seems to have a sense of normalcy back.
Continuing on his earlier point, Miles recalled instances over the last two years where he micromanaged his now 16-year-old daughter Macy, coaching her up at all hours of the day.
“So my wife said, ‘Listen: I can handle this house thing. I know where the kids are going. Give me a break,’ ” Miles recalled. “I think that she meant that to be, ‘Go find yourself a good football job and this family will be back in stride.’ ”