By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
HOOVER, Ala. — The Hyatt Grand Regency was still the Wynfrey Hotel the last time Ed Orgeron addressed the main ballroom at Southeastern Conference Media Days.
That was back in 2007, which would be the final appearance of Oregon’s three-season tenure at Ole Miss.
The fiery Cajun was back in Hoover for the first time in a decade Monday as the now-permanent head coach of LSU, and as one would expect, he was fired up about it.
“It’s great to be back at SEC Media Days,” the coach bellowed upon taking the podium after a warm, personal introduction from Commissioner Greg Sankey.
About an hour sooner Orgeron bounded into the hotel lobby like a hurricane come ashore. Pressed for autographs by a throng of purple-and-gold clad fans awaiting his arrival, the coach wrote “Geaux Tigers” on footballs instead of his John Hancock.
Speaking with the intensity of a man who had Monster and Red Bull pouring through his veins, Orgeron proceeded to roll through a 16-minute opening statement in which he recalled a 1971 rout of Notre Dame and broke down the entire two-deep depth chart without so much as pausing for a breath.
Having spent 10 years shuffling between assistant and interim gigs to get back to that podium, to get another shot to prove he has what it takes to be a successful SEC head coach, Oregon spoke about the long road back.
“I feel like I’m experienced,” Orgeron said. “I’m grateful for the chance that I had at Ole Miss; it put me in the position I’m in today. Obviously I made a lot of mistakes. I learned what to do and what not to do as a head football coach.
“I think I corrected those mistakes as an interim coach and now I’m ready to take on the big job of being the head coach at LSU. I’m ready for it.”
That’s been a recurring theme since Orgeron’s promotion to interim coach late last September. He’s never hidden from that disastrous 10-25 stint in Oxford, instead focusing on what it taught him and how much he’s changed in the years since.
Orgeron opened things up for questions at the end of his marathon opening statement, finally taking a deep breath as the crowded room full of gathered media chuckled.
That infectious, unrelenting energy has been there since Orgeron was a local legend at Northwestern State and a ferocious d-line coach at Miami. Now, however, he’s learned to hone it.
The first question, posed by a reporter from Oxford, asked what differentiated Orgeron now from the coach who failed spectacularly a decade ago.
“I had a great job, a job in the SEC. I was given a great chance. I wasn’t ready,” Orgeron responded. “I went there as a defensive line coach. I did the things that I did at the defensive line coach and was very successful over the years. It didn’t work at Ole Miss.”
Orgeron reflected on the day he was let go and a subsequent phone call to his mentor to try to figure out what had went so wrong. He visited with several different coaches and conducted an extensive self-examination to figure out what had to change if he wanted to get another chance.
He came up with two.
“Number one, I was going to treat the team exactly how I treat my sons, no different,” Orgeron said. “And I was going to treat every coach on the coach’s staff with respect and let him coach his position as he knew it. Ever since those two minor changes, we’ve been 12-4, so that’s the difference.”
Orgeron’s next plan is to make sure these July speeches in Hoover become an annual occurrence.