You might call me crazy after this, and that’s OK. For some reason I found myself wondering - were Les Miles’ comments after taking the Kansas job any different from previous head coaches? I think so, and I’ll explain more in a minute, but first, judge for yourself.
The No. 1 change is going to be what I call attitude. I’ve always been amazed how individual players try to control winning. What I want them to worry about is individual improvement. As long as they improve, winning will take care of itself.
Glen Mason, December 1987
There are two things I ask of my coaches - to be honest with the players and to care about them as individuals. And to do that, you have to get to know them, not just as athletes, but all aspects of their lives.
To me, that means developing a trust and knowing the person, being interested in their success as students and as athletes.
Football for KU can be a great outreach program for the university. It’s an opportunity to keep in touch with alumni and to keep the name of KU visible across the country in a positive way.
Terry Allen, January 1997
Our goal is to be the best team in the Big 12.
I have viewed the University of Kansas for 11 seasons from the other side of the field. I have worked with people at Kansas State and Oklahoma and there have been many times when we’ve said, ‘Why? Why aren’t they better? They have resources. They have a beautiful campus, a great place to recruit to, close to Kansas City.’
I’ve talked to different people who have coached in this conference and there wasn’t one coach I talked to that didn’t believe that KU had everything, with the commitment we have here now, to be a successful program.
Mark Mangino, December 2001
Here are our top priorities: recruit, beat Missouri, recruit, win the North, recruit, win the Big 12, and in most cases if you win the Big 12 then you’re playing for a National Championship. And then we’re going to recruit.
Our criteria to recruit student-athletes are character--that will be the number one thing we’ll look at, we’re going to research, talk to as many people as possible to make sure we get the right people to fit KU. I’ll only be interested in people that want to come here. Not coerced, not talked to, but they must be passionate about wanting to be a part of one of the greatest universities ever.
I’m also going to teach them how to visualize excellence. They have to visualize how to do things in a proper way. Our coaching staff will teach those life skills and life strategies again on and off the football field.
Turner Gill, December 2009
The University of Kansas this year was 2-10. The other major school in the state is Kansas State, who was 10-2. I only have one question to ask: Why? Why is the University of Kansas 2-10, and why is Kansas State 10-2? I don’t have that answer, but that is what I am here for... That is not acceptable in any way, shape or form.
It is not going to be pleasant around here in the spring time. There are not many things I can promise, but I can promise you that. I have already told them to enjoy your holidays and have fun, because when you get to the middle of January, it is not going to be very pleasant.
Charlie Weis, December 2011
We’re going to earn the support of our students, our fans, the high school coaches of this great state, from east to west, north to south, and the recruits in this great state. We’re going to earn them one person at a time, one relationship at a time.
That segues me really easily into the area of recruiting and the lifeblood of any program and getting the right guys to your place, surrounding your team with the right guys. The way we’ll do that is through the usage of our relationships.
The goal is very simple. It’s to bring you a program, the state of Kansas, the University, everybody involved with the University of Kansas a program that they can be proud of.
David Beaty, December 2014
When I first came to Kansas, I came by way of Oklahoma State, I came by way of Colorado, and we drove down into the stadium and I looked around and I said, man, it’s beautiful. I said it’s green, it is a spectacular place. I said, why aren’t they more successful? And I promise you, I looked at that and carried that thought with me as we went.
But we’re going to approach that (recruiting) aggressively and look forward to having a great recruiting class. This to me, this place is a recruiting class or two away from being a very special football team.
Les Miles, November 2018
The expectations are that we will win and not be bashful to tell people that our view is winning football.
Les Miles, March 2019
Miles’ comments most closely resemble Mark Mangino’s, which to me, is encouraging. I think Mangino believed he could win here - didn’t think he could win, wasn’t going to try to win - he believed it. And I think pretty clearly Les Miles feels that way as well.
Mason talked about attitude, which while not specifically mentioned by Mangino, Weis, or Miles, I think was definitely implied.
Weis talked the talk and said some right things initially, but it just never materialized for him for a variety of reasons. The quote above talks about losing not being acceptable (aka attitude), but then goes into the platitude of we’ll work hard to get better.
Allen, Gill, and Beaty all talked a lot about trust, unity, and personal relationships. Gill and Beaty talked a lot about recruiting, specifically recruiting in-state (which of course neither found much success with). Allen and Beaty talked a lot about pride, about giving fans and alumni something to be proud of and representing the University. Sure, that stuff all sounds good, and it is important to an extent. It definitely wins the press conference, but it sure doesn’t win any games.
Contrary to pride, Mangino talked about having a goal of being the best in the Big 12. Gill talked about character and visualizing excellence, while Mangino and Miles set firm goals of winning.
Mason, Mangino, and Miles didn’t offer the platitudes of pride, character, or hard work. They immediately set the expectation of winning. And I think that’s why you’ve seen two of them be successful in Lawrence, and why you’ll see Miles succeed as well.