Coach O to play himself in another movie - starting now

Glenn Guilbeau
LSU coach Ed Orgeron celebrates with players after an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, in College Station, Texas. LSU won 54-39. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

BATON ROUGE – Ed Orgeron has already played himself in a rags to riches movie, “The Blind Side,” based on a true story about offensive lineman Michael Oher’s rise from Memphis poverty to the NFL.

But that was a bit part. On a matinee Saturday afternoon, Orgeron, whose nickname since childhood has been Be’Be’, became LSU football’s leading man, reaching an arc in the “Ed Orgeron Story” when he was promoted from interim head coach to head coach.

“Ed’s story is like a movie,” boyhood friend Mike Detillier of WWL Radio in New Orleans said Sunday. “Hey, 10 or 15 years ago, I never would’ve thought Ed would be where he is today.”

One working title for the “Ed Orgeron Story” is “Cajun Injector,” as he took over two struggling, high profile teams at USC and LSU as an interim coach in 2013 and 2016 after the firings of Lane Kiffin and Les Miles after 3-2 and 2-2 starts, respectively, and spiced them up to 6-2 and 5-2 performances for 9-4 and 7-4 regular season finishes.

He was not retained as head coach at USC but got the job at LSU, a school he grew up dreaming of playing for as a boy in Larose on Bayou Lafourche. The “Ballad of Be’Be,’” another possible title, follows a young coach from New York to California and nearly a dozen stops in between, always desiring to one day return to the green, green grass of Tiger Stadium, where he had unceremoniously quit as a freshman center in 1979.

After finally joining the LSU staff as a defensive line coach in 2015, Orgeron became interim head coach on Sunday, Sept. 25, replacing Miles, and achieved his lifelong ambition on Saturday, Nov. 26.

“It’s so story book,” Detillier said. “I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream.”

Another working title is “Survival of the Fittest,” said former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, a teammate of Orgeron’s on the 1977 state champion South Lafourche High School team and at Northwestern State.

“He’s been through so much,” Hebert said.

There were several attempts at alcohol rehabilitation before he finally kicked the bottle 17 years ago. He needed to. An alcohol induced arrest in 1992 at a Baton Rouge bar was a story arc that led to his dismissal from Miami, where he had coached the defensive line and was part of national championship teams in 1989 and ’91.

After a year in coaching exile, a friend from the bayou got him a job off Broadway at Nicholls State, and he started his career over again, climaxing with two more national championships as an assistant near Hollywood at USC in 2003 and ’04. He parlayed that into the head coaching job at Ole Miss. That was another downward arc, however, followed by stints with more supporting roles with the Saints, Tennessee and finally USC again before LSU. In the end, though, those were just more plot devices before this most spectacular beginning on Saturday.

“This is bigger than life,” said Orgeron, who could be portrayed by John Goodman, who played Babe Ruth, or maybe Jeff Garlin, who played Jeff Greene in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Each would have to get in the gym, though, and take gravel voice lessons.

This is as big as the movies. Orgeron never drove Miss Daisy, but he drove by the old lady just off the “new” I-10 bridge in Baton Rouge countless times recruiting kids to other schools around the land.

“Driving past the stadium over the years, I just wanted to be an assistant coach here,” he said. “I just wanted to have my feet on the grass. But I knew once I got here, I could earn by way up to being the head coach. Every step I was preparing to come back home to LSU. That was my goal the whole time. Just go out, go to Miami, go to Syracuse, go to USC, be prepared, get better. I wanted to come back to be the best football coach I can possibly be when I took this job. I feel like that happened. I’m prepared to do it. I just know this: I’m trained, ready to do this.”

Orgeron will make approximately $3.5 million a year.

"When we were roommates at Northwestern State, believe me, we would never have believed we would've both made $3 million," Hebert said. "My last contract with Atlanta was 3.2. Now, Ed's making 3.5. And he's the LSU coach. Nobody would've ever believed it."

Orgeron’s last two head coaching jobs have clearly been better than his first. He was 11-4 combined as USC and LSU interim coaches after going 10-25 from 2005-07 as Ole Miss’ head coach.

“All you have to say about Be’Be’ at Ole Miss is this,” Hebert said. “Bill Belichick wasn’t worth a damn with the Cleveland Browns, either.”

Belichick, a four-time Super Bowl champion as coach of the New England Patriots, did have four losing seasons with the Browns in the 1990s, going 25-39 around an 11-5 season.

“And Pete Carroll failed in his first two head coaching jobs,” Hebert said of the Seattle Seahawks coach who went 6-10 with the New York Jets in 1994 and had only moderate success with New England from 1997-99 before winning two national titles at USC with Orgeron and the Super Bowl in Seattle in the 2013 season.

Carroll recently called LSU athletic director Joe Alleva to endorse Orgeron.

“A leader has to have a big heart,” Alleva said Carroll told him. “It’s all about heart. He said, ‘Coach O has the ability to get the most out of people. He has the ability to motivate people to do things they don’t think they’re capable of doing.’ That just stuck with me.”

Alleva was also unable to hire Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher or Houston’s Tom Herman, who took the Texas job on Saturday after not saying yes to LSU's offer on Friday. And the arc swung Orgeron’s way.

“I’ve had my chances before,” he said. “I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m ready to build a championship program along with a great staff.”

Orgeron will try to hire old friend and mega successful Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, whom Orgeron worked with at USC and for at Tennessee. He will work to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Orgeron fired special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto on Sunday. There could be more changes.

“We want guys on the same page,” he said. “I believe that we can compete for it (the SEC title) very fast. Now, that I’ve been given full rein in the future, I have a vision. We’re going to get the best staff and the best team together for the LSU Tigers. I feel the time I spent at USC as an interim coach allowed me to be a better coach at LSU. The day has come where it’s time to be the head coach and have a lot of success.”

For Orgeron, who has lived a movie life already, the sequel is just beginning.

“All my life, whatever it took to get here, it took,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s just the way it ought to be.”

Right out of central casting and just off the bayou, the Bayou Bengals have their “Cajun Coach,” another working title, complete with a husky voice that could be your swamp tour guide.

“I don’t have to explain to you what Coach O is about and what he means to LSU football,” Alleva said. “It’s part of his DNA.”

So is seafood, like so many of his Cajun kin. How many coaches in the country over the weekend said their postgame meal would be oyster dressing? Orgeron did.

“He grew up wanting this job. This is his dream job,” Alleva said.

“I’m honored to be the LSU head coach today,” Orgeron said. “I love the people of Louisiana. I’m from there. We stopped yesterday at a gas station. Everybody came up to us, ‘Coach, we want you to be the coach.’ I know Louisiana is happy today. North Louisiana, South Louisiana, Lake Charles, to Boutte, everybody is happy. And so am I.”

As he and his wife Kelly got ready for bed Friday night, she pictured the opening scene before it came out and before Alleva called Orgeron Saturday morning.

“You’re going to be the head coach at LSU tomorrow,” she told her husband.

And ... action.

LSU LIVE CHAT: Let's talk LSU football and new coach Ed Orgeron at 10 a.m. Monday. Go to your local USA Today Network newspaper website and join the conversation.

Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at