“Gone but Not Forgotten”
Electric and Eclectic.
That’s the only way I can describe football coach Mike Leach, who passed away of a massive heart attack at his home, at the age of 61.
Mike Leach, his career described by statistics and storytelling. A very different type of football coach.
From Iowa Wesleyan Community College, to Valdosta State-Georgia, to assistant jobs at Oklahoma and more, then the head coaching jobs at Texas Tech, Washington State, and Mississippi State.
Leach, a disciple of wide open passing attacks, polished-refined-stole then named it ‘The Air Raid’ offense.
He resurrected problem programs in Lubbock, Pullman and Starkville. He left a trail of very good success at each location. Hired, fired, pressured out, he was loud, defiant, creative, combative.
He was an independent thinker, highly educated, well read, off beat . It was almost as if he was a beatnik person and coach.
He was cut from such a different cloth. He could be combative, creative, off the charts.
His football smarts about creating mismatches on the field, was the equal to Sid Gillman-Don Coryell.
He was at the opposite end of the spectrum of a fanatical Deebo Samuel or a robo leadership guy like Nick Saban.
But all you need to look at are the accomplishments, and the quarterbacks he groomed and the stats they put up during the Saturday Air Raid drills.
6-of the top 10-single season passing records in the NCAA record book were Leach-coached throwers. Kliff Kingsbury, BJ Symonds, Grahame Harrell, Gardner Minshew, Anthony Gordon. We are talking about 4-and-5,000 yard passing seasons.
Defense was optional at schools Leach coached at. All he cared about was 5-receiver sets, beating the guys downfield, and making you cover all the open zones he could find with his offense.
Leach was equally impressive off the field, his knowledge all things he was interested in, staggering.
His press conferences and his conference calls zigged and zagged. He would stop mid-stream talking football and veer off topic about things he liked. His life living in Wyoming. Craft beers and wines. Team nicknames. The history of the Indian nations. World War I and II.
He could tell you, and he would, why he supported Donald Trump. He would describe his thoughts on Viet Nam or astronauts trips to the Moon.
His funniest comments came while at Washington State, he wondered who would win a brawl between the mascots of the schools in the Pac 12. Would the Sun Devil, with his pitch fork, beat the Arizona Wildcat or the Bruin of UCLA in a fight. Would a Duck have a chance against a Husky. Would the Trojan horse have an unfair advantage in a USC fight. Would the Stanford tree survive? He went on and on and on.
He once asked me my favorite type of music, I said Rolling Stones. That launched a lecture on music, from Classical, thru Bob Dylan and back to Frank Sinatra.
He spent alot of time at a favorite bar in Key West, a hangout where Ernest Hemingway hung out in the 1930s-40s-50s. He liked his rum for sure. And this week, they put a Candle, flowers and a shot glass in his corner chair at the bar.
He turned programs around, then he developed quarterbacks from backwater schools, he was fascinating and frustrating to deal with.
He was cut from a different cloth, so much fun to cover with and exchange verbal gunfire with.
RIP-Mike Leach-an MVP personality and coach. Electric and Eclectic.