A familiar figure will be staring across the field at Dave Aranda when he makes his head coaching debut for Baylor on Saturday.
His former boss.
Kansas’ Les Miles was the head coach at LSU when he hired Aranda to be the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in January of 2016. They only worked together for about nine months, as Miles was fired Sept. 25 after a 2-2 start.
Still, Aranda said the admiration he gained for Miles during their time together was enormous. Miles — who won a national championship at LSU in 2007 — sat out of coaching for two years before being hired at Kansas, where he’s now in his second season.
“Les is one of my favorite all-time just people,” Aranda said. “The immediate take away from him is just how generous he is, how real he is … (he’s) just an authentic person.
“Sometimes coaches balloon into these caricatures of what they’re supposed to be or what people think they should be. So to see Les just be who he is, and to have a family that’s as close and as loving as his and be as real as they are, in today’s world it’s really pretty cool. It will be good to see them again.”
Even though his time with Miles at LSU was limited, Aranda realizes the opportunity he was given helped catapult him to where he is today. Miles’ replacement, Ed Orgeron, elected to retain Aranda as defensive coordinator, and over the next three-plus seasons the Tigers went a combined 40-9. That includes a 15-0 finish in 2019, when LSU won the national championship.
Aranda was hired three days later to replace Matt Rhule at Baylor.
“I owe coach a lot,” Aranda said of Miles. “I have so much respect for him. He does it the right way. I know coaches on that staff that really respect him. They love working for him. I owe him quite a bit.”
Miles said the respect is mutual.
“He was very confident in things that he did,” Miles said. “I was thankful to work with him. The time we spent together was fruitful. He did a great job. One thing about him, he has a great sense of having his feet on the ground. His instincts are good. I think he will be a great coach for a long time.”
Aranda’s debut at Baylor has been postponed twice because of COVID-19. The Bears’ Sept. 12 game against Louisiana Tech was called off when 38 Bulldogs players tested positive. And Baylor canceled last week’s game against Houston less than 24 hours before kickoff because of COVID-related issues.
Baylor and TCU are the only Big 12 schools who have yet to play a game.
Kansas went 3-9 in Miles’ first season in 2019 and is off to an 0-1 start this year following a 38-23 home loss to Coastal Carolina on Sept. 12.
Baylor has won its last 10 games against KU and is an 18-point favorite Saturday.
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