LSU's Miles wins AP Coach of the Year

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU's 2011 season will be remembered for challenging Les Miles' crisis-management skills over and over again.

It could also go down as the greatest season in the history of a program that has been around since 1893.

Now within one more victory of an unbeaten season and a BCS national title, Miles has been voted The Associated Press Coach of the Year.

Thirty of 56 votes cast went to Miles. Bill Snyder of Kansas State was second with 16, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State had six, Brady Hoke of Michigan got three and Lane Kiffin of Southern California had one.

As Miles reflected on the various trials he dealt with this season in an interview with the AP this week, he spoke in a hushed tone and recounted a talk he had long ago with his father in the kitchen of his childhood home.

When Miles was around 12 years old, he was worried about his dad, Hope "Bubba" Miles, who'd been passed over for a promotion and subsequently laid off, all while dealing with the death of his own father.

"We'll be fine," the LSU coach recalled his father telling him. "It's the reaction to the difficult times; it's always those days when something does not come your way and you have to make the best move — that's what's going to make your life rich."

However LSU's season ends in the BCS title game against No. 2 Alabama on Jan. 9 in the Superdome, it will go down as one of the more memorable chapters in the history of Louisiana's most storied college football program. The events that could have derailed the 2011 campaign were numerous and diverse, yet the Tigers dominated just about every team they faced.

There was a preseason bar fight that led to starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson's early season suspension. There was preseason coaching shuffle brought on by former offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe's Parkinson's disease diagnosis. Starting receiver Russell Shepard was suspended three games because he talked out of turn about an NCAA probe of a scouting service. Then there were the midseason, one-game suspensions of three key players — star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, starting running back Spencer Ware and nickel back Tharold Simon — for failing school administered drug tests.

Through it all, the Tigers won big, starting with a season-opening 13-point triumph over then No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field in Dallas, barely more than a week after learning they'd be without Jefferson or Shepard.

Of their 13 victories, 12 have come by double digits and seven by 30 or more points. The lone exception was a tense 9-6 overtime triumph at Alabama highlighted by spectacular defensive plays.

LSU won its first eight games with pocket passer Jarrett Lee taking most of the snaps, and the rest with Jefferson getting the bulk of the work, often running option plays.

Miles said he was proud of his staff for being adaptable enough to design game plans around different styles of quarterbacks, and proud of his players for their "no-excuses" approach to every game.

"They didn't see (the suspensions) as something they could not overcome in any way," Miles said. "They recognized that we've got two veteran quarterbacks and some guys that can step in for anybody if they happen to miss their start, and that we were not going to let those things that were on the perimeter of this program affect us."

The AP coach of the year award has been handed out since 1998. This is Miles' first time winning it and he is the second LSU coach to take the honor. The first was Tide coach Nick Saban, who won it for the Tigers in 2003.

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