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Guerin Emig: Les Miles' unique history with Mike Gundy the best part of Miles' return to the Big 12

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Then OSU head coach Les Miles (left) and then offensive coordinator Mike Gundy take a photo in preparation for the 2004 Alamo Bowl. Tulsa World file

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STILLWATER — The story goes that the Oklahoma State football team was at a 2004 Alamo Bowl outing, and...

Well here, let Mike Gundy tell it...

“It was an outdoor rodeo eat-outside, drive-around-on-hay-wagons deal,” Gundy said Tuesday night. “All of the players and coaches were there for OSU. They called Les up to speak, like they do at bowl functions. The guy’s up there and says, ‘Coach Les Miles!’”

Gundy mimed looking around curiously.

“Coach Les Miles!”

Same.

“Well, he ain’t there,” Gundy continued. “He’s interviewing with LSU. He didn’t know he was speaking. That’s just Les.

“I was sitting in the back with my wife. My kids were little and I was running around changing diapers. Somebody said, ‘He’s not here.’ I said, ‘Whaddya want me to do about it?’ I said, ‘I got a bigger problem. We’re playing Ohio State. We can’t block anybody on their team.’”

Strange as it is to have Les Miles back in the Big 12 Conference, weird as it is to realize he’s coaching at Kansas, it is also terrific. It means you get to ask the guy who was the Big 12’s most eccentric coach about the guy who just reclaimed that title.

You get to drive over to Stillwater and ask Gundy about Miles and their time together on the OSU staff from 2001 through that Alamo Bowl.

Another story from the Cowboys’ Alamo Bowl prep, where Gundy was breaking down film of opponent Ohio State with receivers coach Todd Monken and Miles walked in.

“He’s got a piece of bagel that’s half-eaten by a rat or something. He’s chewing on it. Some coffee,” Gundy said. “He sits down and he says, ‘What do y’all think?’

“‘I tell ya what I think, whoever the hell put us against this team, we’re screwed.’”

Gundy singled out A.J. Hawk and Ted Ginn Jr. in particular. He told Miles punting to Ginn likely meant surrendering six points.

Miles’ response?

“I’m from Michigan,” Gundy said. “We don’t mind punting it to Ohio State.”

Hard to believe it’s been 14 years since those strange days in San Antonio, with Miles running a shell game with reporters, OSU administrators and OSU coaches over his interest in LSU.

“We laugh about it now,” Gundy said Tuesday after the Cowboys’ Liberty Bowl practice.

Gundy laughs a lot about Miles, the man who hired him off the Maryland staff to be OSU offensive coordinator in ’01. All of that tension from San Antonio, all of that variance over game planning — Gundy: “He’d tell me what he thought was good, I’d tell him what I thought was good, he would convince me why I was wrong and I would convince him why he was wrong... then we’d pretty much do what he wanted because he was the head coach” — has softened with time.

As Gundy put it Tuesday: “Just a different way of doing it. But he and I had a great working relationship. He trusted me, I trusted him. I’d call them (plays) during the game and we’d roll with it until it got inside the 5.”

Then Miles took control. Because nobody knew how to grind out 5 tough yards to the end zone like he did.

“He motioned tight ends and did some stuff,” Gundy said. “He taught me a lot of really good football. He’s an excellent offensive coach.”

He’s an excellent coach, period. Gundy makes sure you understand that when you ask about his old boss. He makes sure you know Miles owns a better winning percentage than Nick Saban among LSU coaches.

“He’s number one,” Gundy said.

He makes sure you know the ’04 Cowboys beat UCLA despite completing two passes, something that might have driven ’04 Gundy nuts but now draws a head-shaking chuckle.

It is all sorts of neat. It reminds you that when Miles launched his “Les Is More” podcast last year, he invited Gundy onto his first show.

They talked about their kids and their players. They talked about OSU’s time-capsule game in Norman.

Miles: “I can tell you one thing, the ‘sluggo’ that you called in that first Bedlam when I was the head coach was a damn nice call, Mike Gundy, to Rashaun Woods.”

Gundy cursed and referenced Huck Finn and shared that offensive line coach Josh Henson was Miles’ spitting image. The two of them could have been tapping mugs at a bar.

Miles finished by saying he’d like to come visit soon, maybe “go chase a rattlesnake.”

“You’re always welcome up here,” Gundy responded. “We’d love to have you.”

It’ll happen next Nov. 16 when Miles’ Jayhawks travel to Stillwater. Won’t that be something.

“I really enjoy Les. Les is a character,” Gundy said Tuesday night. “He’s always been a character.”

So has Gundy. It makes their history together unique.

It makes the fact they get to continue it, and we get to hear about it, the best part of Miles’ return.

Guerin Emig

918-629-6229

guerin.emig@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @GuerinEmig

 

 

This article originally ran on tulsaworld.com.

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