The call that would make Ed Orgeron LSU's full-time head coach went to voicemail. Sleeping in his bed at his Mandeville, La., home for the first time in eight weeks, Orgeron was awoken by LSU AD Joe Alleva's 5:30 a.m. call. He missed it. The coach dialed back immediately, and Alleva informed him his presence was requested in Baton Rouge.
"I was going very fast, I was listening to some of my favorite music, I had the window down and I was hollering the whole way," Orgeron said of the 75-mile drive down Interstate 12 that separated him from his dream job.
Orgeron met with Alleva and the LSU board, and not long after a deal was struck. LSU announced it had a new coach at 7:02 a.m. local time, and FootballScoop broke the news shortly after that.
"Coach O was never going to play games with us," Alleva said. "We know where his heart is. We know where his passion us. At the end of the day, only one coach got an official offer from us, and it was accepted this morning."
To hear the two men tell it, the bond between Orgeron and Alleva was formally forged not after LSU's five wins as the Tigers' interim head coach, but after the two losses.
After LSU fell 10-0 to Alabama on Nov. 5, the Tigers responded with a 38-10 spanking of Arkansas in Fayetteville a week later. Five days after losing 16-10 at the goal line to Florida, LSU answered with a 54-39 whipping of Texas A&M in College Station. "That is what real leadership and motivation is all about, and that is what this man symbolizes to me," Alleva said.
"Full support when things were good and, more importantly, when things were not so good," Orgeron said. "The phone calls I got from (Alleva), 'Keep going, keep going, keep going,' gave me the motivation to keep going."
Orgeron said every stop throughout his coaching career -- a journey that took him to Miami, to Syracuse and to USC before finally brining him home -- was to get this job. "He grew up wanting this job," Alleva said. "This is his dream job."
He plans to keep it by doing what he does best -- recruiting. In fact, during an emotional close to his long, well-earned opening statement in which he teared up while thanking his mother and father, Orgeron spun the press conference back on subject by talking about recruiting.
Before he can build a roster to catch Alabama, he must build a staff to catch Alabama. Orgeron was insistent LSU will keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on staff, though he knows new Texas coach Tom Herman -- a colleague of Aranda's at Cal Lutheran in the early 1990's -- will come calling. "Dave and I have a great relationship. He's one of the top guys in the country, and we understand people are going to be after him. We had a great conversation and we expect him to be with us," Orgeron said.
Orgeron also alluded to his pursuit of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin by stating only: "We're going to look at recruiting the best offensive coordinator in football and bring him to LSU."
Beyond that, Orgeron was non-committal on what his future staff will look like.
Saturday was a great moment for Orgeron, the culmination of a 55-year climb, the planting of a flag on a peak that must've seemed unattainable when he was fired as the head coach at Ole Miss, when he was let go as USC's interim head coach and when he spent the 2014 season out of football. But that's what it was: a moment.
The task he was hired for, the reason Les Miles was fired in the first place, is to close the gap with Alabama. Quickly.
"My goal is to build a championship program fast. Very fast. I understand the expectations at LSU, and I invite them," Orgeron said. "I've learned from my mistakes. I'm ready to win championships."