PULLMAN - Mike Leach is just your average college football coach who loves talking about pirates, goes inline skating, dives in the ocean for lobsters and occasionally tries out plays created by his players on PlayStation.
Pullman, get ready to rock. The new coach of the Washington State Cougars is a bit of a character.
“When you first meet him,” former Texas Tech player Jarrett Hicks once told “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis, “you think he’s an equipment manager.”
“He’s so different from every college football coach,” Leach’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, told Lewis, “it’s hard to understand how he’s a coach.”
Leach never played college football. He didn’t even play football his senior year in high school. He played rugby at Brigham Young, graduated with honors, then graduated in the top third of his class from Pepperdine’s law school.
Leach did not last long as a lawyer. Sharon Leach was pregnant with the second of the couple’s four children when her husband informed her that he was giving up law to become a graduate assistant coach at Cal Poly for $3,000.
Sharon said $3,000 a month sounded just fine.
“No,” Leach said. “Three thousand a year.”
Soon, Leach’s coaching career took off. The innovative plays he used to draw in class in college gradually evolved into offenses that led the nation in passing yards and total yards over and over again during Leach’s highly successful run as head coach at Texas Tech from 2000-09.
Leach once ordered a team meeting the morning after an overtime loss to Texas A&M. For three hours, Leach discussed nothing but pirates.
“You learn not to ask questions,” quarterback Cody Hodges told Lewis. “It just goes on longer.”
“He tells very long stories, and you’re never sure what they mean,” said Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Daniel Loper, who played for Leach at Texas Tech. “But he’s a genius.
“When we leave the locker room, we all know that we’ll have three receivers wide open every play.”
Leach has worked as a college football analyst on TV and radio since being fired at Tech after being accused of mistreating a player with a concussion. Leach, who had already engaged school officials in many a battle, called them “liars” and has filed lawsuits against Tech and ESPN in connection with his dismissal.
Plenty of Tech players loved Leach, but he had his enemies, too. He’s loud, eccentric and plenty confident, and he demands a great deal of his players and coaches.
He also wins. A lot. Washington State fans can’t wait to find out what winning feels like again.