University of Kansas

‘Mad Hatter’ Les Miles entertaining, bold during KU’s final spring press conference

KU’s Les Miles on what his team accomplished in the spring

Kansas Jayhawks football coach Les Miles explains what his team gained from its 15 spring practices. Miles spoke on April 15, 2019.
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Kansas Jayhawks football coach Les Miles explains what his team gained from its 15 spring practices. Miles spoke on April 15, 2019.

Les Miles came back for an encore.

After his most entertaining press conference as Kansas’ football coach — a 15-minute session where he alternated between comedian and quotable — Miles left the interview room before returning a few seconds later.

He spotted offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji getting interviewed by a group of reporters, then spoke up to interrupt the question-and-answer session.

“Hakeem!” Miles yelled out, his hand covering his mouth as if he was telling a secret. “Don’t tell them anything!”

The senior offensive lineman laughed, as did a few media members around him.

Miles the jokester — “The Mad Hatter” as he was known as coach at LSU — was back on Monday.

The 65-year-old, after completing KU’s 15th and final spring practice, seemed happy to be fully involved again with the sport he loved.

“I have to be honest with you: Stepping on the practice field and seeing guys work hard and do the right things ... I’ve enjoyed going to work with this team for certainly this fall, but anytime,” Miles said. “Because there’s some people on here that bust their butt to do the right thing and play.”

Though Miles had been restrained during most of his earlier press gatherings, he showed his full personality Monday.

He chided one reporter for wearing a purple shirt, saying he shouldn’t do that in the future; purple, after all, is the color of KU’s rival.

After one writer asked his fourth question, Miles leaned forward to give him a fist bump. Another scribe started a question with the words, “A spring game’s a spring game.”

“Where’d you get that information?” Miles interjected with a grin.

Miles also drew some laughs when talking about a skit he’d recorded with KU basketball coach Bill Self that was featured at halftime of Saturday’s spring game. Miles said he didn’t know the video was going to be shown until he was walking off the field with his players.

“I bet you I waited 3-5 minutes before I said, ‘What a terrible waste of a jumbotron,’” Miles said with a laugh. “And off I went.”

The bottom line with the video? Miles, who has acting experience, said he wants to remain open-minded with almost everything in life.

“You only get to go around one time. There’s no do-overs,” Miles said. “You might want to have some fun.”

The new KU coach provided some interesting nuggets on his team as well. Most notably, he said this year’s roster compared favorably to previous situations he’d inherited.

“When I look at first years at other places, I think (we’re) more talented here in my first year, if I had to go back and look at other opportunities I had to be a head coach,” Miles said. “I think I could be more talented here in my first year.”

It’s a bold statement for sure. Miles went 4-7 during his first season at Oklahoma State in 2001, then was 11-2 during his inaugural year with LSU in 2005.

When asked what he liked about his team, Miles said the Jayhawks “have great speed. They work hard. I think they have the ability.”

“I think they’re looking forward to a path that the coaching staff and this coach might be able to take them to. I really mean it,” Miles added. “I think they come to meetings with a smile on their face. I think they go in and work hard and yet enjoy each others’ company. I think there’s some real chemistry there.”

Miles wouldn’t guarantee a certain number of victories in 2019. He did, however, comment that “he’d never taken the field where I didn’t believe I could win; I think this team here has a similar quality.”

One other noteworthy item: Miles said juco transfer quarterback Thomas MacVittie “might have a slight edge” over Carter Stanley, with the competition slated to continue into the fall.

Overall, though, Miles was pleased with his team’s improvement on offense and also optimistic about what the defense could do once more additions arrived in the summer and fall.

Perhaps those thoughts helped create the over-the-top enthusiasm Monday. Miles — back into coaching for the first time since 2016 — seemed to have reason to enjoy himself after a hectic past few weeks.

“I think the most fun, though, will be being able to say that we put in a hard period of time so that our team can be something special,” Miles said. “That’s the key piece. That lightens the mood everywhere.”

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