If you had asked Early July Matt Luke to list what his career goals were, it seems reasonable to assume becoming interim head coach at his alma mater due to his boss resigning over conduct that checks all the boxes for improper, which was discovered by an Ole Miss compliance blogger and relayed to a former head coach suing the school, was most likely not on that list. Yet, roughly one month later, here we are.
Luke, who probably imagined his first shot as a head coach would be finding his footing in a Sun Belt-ish job, is now in charge of an SEC West program coming off a 5-7 season and uncertainty related to the NCAA potentially sending everyone in Oxford to federal prison. In short (TOO LATE), he’s dealing with things most coaches don’t deal with their entire careers.
The good news for Luke is that if he presses all the right buttons, he could at least find himself interviewing to remove the interim title. And if he gets that interview, you never know what could happen. Just ask Ed Orgeron and his PowerPoint presentation that dazzled and amazed Robert Khayat and Pete Boone, who were probably still using Windows 2.0.
So what does Matt Luke need to do to press all the right buttons? I’m so glad I asked that question. Let’s break this down in a convenient list format.
1) Don't turn a smoldering fire into a whirlwind of fire that consumes 25 city blocks
Fairly obvious. Throwing up an impressive record is not a requirement, as Ole Miss, even pre-TAMPASEXYTIME, wasn't going to lay waste to the SEC. At best, Ole Miss was looking at something in the 7-5 range, and if everything broke their way (LOL HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER), maybe 8-4.
However, dropping an Orgeron or Houston Nutt imitation season certainly shuts down any chance of getting the job. However, if Luke does his best Houston Nutt imitation, maybe he could get $4.35 million to not coach at Ole Miss again, followed by whatever he could earn from a lawsuit that is not as sad as the one filed by Nutt.
2) Despite probably losing, show competence
Whether he achieves the mediocre perfection of 6-6 or dips to 5-7, as long as Luke displays competent coaching, prepares the team well, and keeps the team engaged for the entire season — which will be the biggest challenge — he gives himself a chance. Most people could stomach a 6-6 or 5-7 season if the losses are the result of a talent gap due to recruiting failures (shout-out to our boy, Mike Sheridan, and his quest of sneaking around to get the cheatin' Bears, which helped kill going on two recruiting classes now).
But if the 6-6 or 5-7 is a result of dumb coaching decisions, or any sign that Luke is in over his head, his long-term chances are done. And while it's not fair to him, if the NCAA decides to let loose the TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD OF JUSTICE FOR CROOTIN’ CRIMES THAT ROUGHLY EQUAL ONE WILL REDMOND USED MUSTANG PER YEAR FOR FIVE YEARS, his job becomes almost impossible.
Although, if Ole Miss catches a two-year bowl ban, he’ll probably be offered the job, but most likely in a caretaker role. He guides the program through hell, keeps it somewhat alive, and then is eventually replaced when all the bag men get out of prison.
3) Act like you ain’t no caretaker
Without trying to sound like a #SPROTS ARE SUPER SERIOUS writer, when people do dumb things, like trying to get free Kaboom or Comet to clean the industrial waste area that is a college male’s shower, you inform them that they shall pay the price for such stupidity.
Until the last weekend in November, this is Matt Luke’s job. Whether it’s an easy decision like the Ken Webster and Detric Bing-Dukes suspension, or decisions with more layers (like OUTLINING BAG MAN TERRITORIES), he has to make them as if he’s running the show without the interim title.
Of course, if someone gets a DUI, just follow the lead.
4) Let the coordinators coordinate
All indications are that Luke is taking the CEO approach and letting his coaches do what they do. Whether he gets the job or not, I will consider Luke’s tenure a success if he never ambles over to Phil Longo and says, "When we get inside the 10, let's take Shea out and put the non-best offensive player on the team in the game." That also goes for suggesting a wide receiver reverse pass on a second and 7 from the opponent's 18-yard line.
And the good Lord above only knows what suggestions he could offer Wesley McGriff, but unless it's not "blitz the hell out of them 'cause we ain't stopping them anyway", LET'S KEEP THAT IN THE OLE INTERNAL MONOLOGUE, COACH.
5) Don't call escort services or massage parlors
CONTROVERSIAL, I KNOW. But something to think about. It’s also just a good rule in general to have throughout life.
6) Don't tweet
Another good rule for everyone out there. And I mean no birthday retweets, Bible verses, words of inspiration, referrals to firstname.lastname@example.org, and blessed engagements with staggeringly stupid and bitter people flooding his mentions. NOTHING. NEVER TWEET EVER NO I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU FEELING GOOD ABOUT PRACTICE JUST DELETE THE APP RIGHT NOW AND PREPARE FOR THE NEXT OPPONENT AND CROOT.
6) If he is tempted to tweet, he should take these steps
7) Finally, CONSULT YOUR INNER NBA JAM
One of the great features of that arcade/video game was the ability to push an offensive player to the ground, steal the ball, and BOOMSHAKALAKA. The game encouraged you to go for broke on defense, in the name of creating offense. And if you missed on creating turnovers, no big deal, your offense could still destroy people.
Barring a significant improvement, Ole Miss’ defensive squad is going to struggle for long stretches. In response, you would like to see a more aggressive defensive approach, which results in havoc plays/turnovers before the inevitable touchdowns that either happen in four plays or nine plays.
Granted, I say this as a Phil Longo fanboy (pls stop posting his offensive philosophy/cut-ups to YouTube because I will watch them all), but Ole Miss’ offense has the potential to be really good. Like, burn-defensive-coordinators-alive good.
So, the general theory here being, if you know you can throw up points, yet can’t stop teams, take risks on defense. What do you have to lose?
I equate it to the Loyola Marymount basketball philosophy under Paul Westhead, who got a college team (COLLEGE BASKETBALL TEAM) to average 122.4 points per game in a season. They pressed, tried to turn teams over, and then dared teams to run with their absurd offense. Poor defending national champion Michigan took a shot and lost 149-115 IN REGULATION.
I could see Ole Miss attempting something similar, either out of necessity or Luke taking a shot at making something appealing about his #brand. Odds are he’s not getting the job, but even if it doesn’t work out at Ole Miss, him putting on a good show means he’ll be a head coach somewhere in 2018.