GUILBEAU: 10 days that shook Miles' world

He was coming off his one-and-only losing season as a head coach – 4-7 in his first year at Oklahoma State in 2001.

But that was the least of his problems.


A regular exerciser, Miles took a jog one morning that mid-December. He returned home with a tremendous headache and was nauseated. When the headache did not go away, he saw a doctor in Stillwater, Okla.


Then he saw a doctor in Oklahoma City for an MRI. He was told that there was a cyst on his brain causing intracranial pressure and a buildup of fluid. Surgery was needed to remove part of the cyst. Was it cancer?


"Well, first of all, you deny it," Miles said. "I mean they told me that, and I shrugged my shoulders. ‘OK, so what? Let me go.' And I went recruiting. I mean, I left the hospital and I went recruiting."


The pain came back, though, and Miles had his moment of clarity. He stopped recruiting.


"It was creating a blood circulation problem," Miles said. "All they had to do was remove it and everything would be fine."


Miles called his role model, retired Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, a fellow Ohio native whom he played offensive guard for at Michigan in the mid-1970s and coached under from 1980-81 and from 1987-89. Through Schembechler, Miles found Dr. Alan Cohen in Cleveland to perform the surgery.


Cleveland is 25 miles from Miles' hometown of Elyria, Ohio. It was where Les and his friends occasionally went for fun. There they saw the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin in the World Series of Rock concerts at Municipal Stadium on Lake Erie in the mid-1970s.


"It was great. I can remember what I was wearing to the Stones concert," Miles said. "It was summertime. You know how you can remember the feeling of being in the sun? I just remembered the day. Oh, isn't everybody a Stones fan? It was hilarious. It was great fun. It was a great concert. They were dynamic. We went to a few of the World Series of Rock concerts, but the one that I remember most was the Rolling Stones."


This was not a fun-in-the-sun time, though. It would be a tense Christmas. The surgery was scheduled for Dec. 24. There was some worry between that jog and Christmas Eve.


"On Dec. 12 or 15, I found out about it. It was a period of about 10 days. The first seven or 10 days, it was pretty scary," Miles said.


"That was probably the most intense moment of our married life," Miles' wife, Kathy, said. "You were scared because you didn't know how serious it was going to be until they kind of had a handle on what they were going to do. It was a very scary, scary time."


Les met Kathy while he was an assistant at Michigan in 1987 and she was an assistant coach for the women's basketball team. They were just friends for more than a year.


Then a date was scheduled, but Kathy was late. Miles thought he was stood up. Fellow Michigan assistant coach Cam Cameron, who shared an office with Miles, stepped in and got the two back on track.


They dated for nearly five years before getting married in 1993. Cameron, who recently replaced at the Miami Dolphins the man Miles replaced at LSU, was a groomsman. So was former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, who met his wife partly through Miles while Miles and DiNardo were assistants at Colorado in the 1980s.


The Miles family included three children by the time Miles became Oklahoma State's coach in 2001.


The kids stayed at the home of their grandmother, Martha Miles, in Lodi, Ohio, near Elyria, that Christmas Eve while Les and Kathy went to Cleveland for the surgery. By Christmas Day, it was all over.


"I had it on Christmas Eve, got out of the hospital on Christmas morning," Miles said. "I was fine. There were no speech differences. I was the same."


Miles was released and went to his mother's home. He didn't tell his wife, who had taken the kids to Miles' sister's home to open more presents.


"I remember being amazed," Kathy Miles said. "I thought he'd be in there another day or two, but when I got back to his mom's house he had sweats on and was ready to go. That's when I remember being relieved."


There was no cancer.


"That was never an issue," Miles said. "And after it was removed, it was declared then again not an issue."


The headaches have not come back.


"I think two weeks later, he was running," his wife said.


"The good news is that it was treated, so there was never any doom and gloom," Miles said.


There is little need for any monitoring of doom and gloom in Miles. He in many ways remains that young kid at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the sun. Miles smiles a lot. He jokes a lot. He is very approachable. There is not a lot of aura.


"He's a real personable guy," senior offensive guard Will Arnold said. "He's not hard to talk to. He likes to laugh. Some coaches you can't talk to. He's one you can, and he'll listen to what you have to say. He'll joke around with us before a meeting or before a practice. We don't have to be like, ‘Oh my God,' when he walks in a room. We know when we have to be quiet or go to work."


He got this from Schembechler, who died last November.


"Bo had a great sense of humor," Miles said. "But at certain times, there was no BS, and no one questioned that line ever."


Miles' father, Hope Miles, was a towering, hulking man who died not long after heart surgery in 2000.


"Both of them, Bo and my dad, were damn intimidating," Miles said. "Hey, when the old man was mad, ‘Whoa!' When Bo was mad, I'm telling you, 'Whew!' But both men were loving men and passionate about things that were important to them. There's a lot of similarities between the two."


Miles inherited more of the love than the intimidation. His young sons arrived during an interview, and he kissed both of them.


"I see things and I bark when I need to," he said.


"He's not afraid to joke with us and laugh with us," senior quarterback Matt Flynn said. "He's not an intimidating guy. But I've seen him get mad."  


Nothing much really gets to Miles, though. He rests easy. He's not moody.


"It's amazing how he can just sleep and not let things worry him," said Kathy Miles, who had her fourth child four years ago.


Game days are big, but they must not compare with brain surgery day.


"Sure, he was very concerned when the surgery was scheduled, but we felt very comfortable with the surgeon," Kathy Miles said. "That's the thing. He felt comfortable with him and left it up to him. I always like to say, ‘He likes to control what he can, and what he can't he doesn't worry about.' He's not like the guy that worries about things. He's really good at looking past. I think he keeps his level of stress down because of that. I have to say I marvel at his ability to go past something that didn't turn out exactly the way he wanted and move forward."


Miles, 53, visited doctors periodically after his surgery to check for any growth. Then he stopped.


"I had it monitored for a couple of years," he said. "Then they said there was no reason to. Apparently, they're in a lot of people. Some have them in a real bad area. Others, you never even know about them. We found out about it. If they hadn't removed it, it could've been very serious. I'm lucky."




Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU and the Southeastern Conference for Gannett News Service. Read him at  or in the Shreveport Times, Monroe News-Star, Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Lafayette Advertiser, Opelousas Daily World and occasionally USA Today. You can contact him at

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