Why WSU Coach Mike Leach is awesome

Dec 7, 2011, 3:32 AM | Updated: 3:31 pm

LeachNew WSU Coach Mike Leach rolled into the state with a red carpet rolled out for him in Pullman and Seattle.

Every college or professional sports team that hires a coach talks about how amazing their choice is and how he’ll undoubtedly turn their program around. Mike Leach gets the same press, but I wanted a different take on the new coach. Below are two perspectives on Leach.

Sean Quinton, sports writer for Washington State University’s student newspaper The Daily Evergreen, says, “He is our coach, and hopefully, our football team’s savior. Expectations and hope of a team seeking revival now seem to rest on one man.”

He’ll be compensated for that pressure-filled position with a $2.25 million annual salary. Here’s Quinton’s guest commentary:

It isn’t often that news from the Washington State Cougar football team leaves Eastern Washington. Not many people are interested in teams that win nine games in almost 50 tries. Needless to say, Cougars are not used to the recognition.

That all changed at season’s end when the Cougars parted ways with Paul Wulff and hired former Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach as WSU’s next head coach. The little town of Pullman out in a forgotten corner of the state finally had its chance to bask in the warm glow of the national spotlight.

Though I give credit to Paul Wulff for building depth and recruiting promising talents like QB Jeff Tuel and WR Marquess Wilson, Leach brings something Wulff could not hope to.

A coach only three years removed from a National Coach of the Year award and ten straight winning seasons at Texas Tech in his back pocket will now coach the Cougars. For the first time in years, I can honestly say I feel optimistic about the future of this football program.

The Cougars are tired of perpetual failure. We are tired of having a yearly reservation in the cellar of the Pac-12. With an $80 million stadium renovation in the works and Mike Leach on his way, WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos is proving the Cougars are committed to winning.

“We have to run with the big dogs or just admit we are doormats,” Moos said in a press conference last week.

It sure doesn’t look like Moos is ready to accept defeat just yet, and neither is Mike Leach. This is exactly the kind of mentality that has Cougar Nation buzzing once again.

Already, expectations and hope are overflowing from the Palouse across the nation. Everyone wants to see if Leach can duplicate the success he had in a similar small town of Lubbock, Texas. I speak for the Cougar faithful when I say, he can.

Despite what some believe, Leach is not starting from scratch here at WSU. Leach has all the tools to take this football team to a bowl game as soon as next season. This football team has been growing exponentially for years, gaining talent and experience all the while. Wulff took the first leg of the race, now it is up to Leach to take the Cougars on the home stretch.

Aside from Leach’s upside on the recruitment front, he brings one of the most feared and dynamic passing-style offenses to Pullman. They call it the “Air Raid” because Leach constantly attacks defenses with four and five receiver sets that have defensive backs tied up and confused. From what I’ve heard, game planning is a nightmare against Leach’s offensive attack.

Regardless of what people say about Leach, no one can dispute the fact that he has made the state of Washington relevant in the football world. Huskies may fear what the Cougars can become under Leach, but I think UW fans should embrace Leach all the same. For the first time in years, bragging rights may not be the only thing at stake come next Apple Cup. With Leach in the fold, the battle for state supremacy begins again.

The spotlight is on Pullman and Leach now. He is our coach, and hopefully, our football team’s savior. Expectations and hope of a team seeking revival now seem to rest on one man. Welcome to Pullman, Mr. Leach.

Now for an outside view of Leach. John Bohnenkamp is a Midwest sports writer friend of mine who says one thing we’ll appreciate about Leach is his honesty.

It’s something I learned when I sat down with Leach last summer for an interview on a day when the coach was back in the news.

He was back in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, working a clinic for high school players at Iowa Wesleyan College, a place where he was once an assistant coach and where he began putting together pieces of his fast-paced, pass-first offense.

On this day in July, Leach, who had been out of coaching since his controversial ouster from Texas Tech, was back in focus because Bruce Feldman, who then worked at ESPN and had helped Leach write his book, “Swing Your Sword,” had reportedly been suspended by ESPN for working on the book.

Before I could sit down with Leach that day, ESPN officials had denied the reports that Feldman had been suspended. Leach, though, wasn’t buying it.

And so, when asked, Leach talked about it, and held nothing back. In a conversation that lasted more than 30 minutes, Leach talked and talked, and I got the feeling that he would have kept talking if he had more time.

He talks with passion, and he doesn’t hold anything back. Which is exactly what Washington State needs. Leach is the perfect choice for a program in a conference where it has gotten lost in the shuffle. His offense will be appealing to fans, and he has proven his ability to build a winning program.

Mike Leach wanted to coach again, and wanted Washington State as much as the school wanted him. That’s what he said in the his press conference on Tuesday, and there’s no reason not to believe him.

He will talk, and say what’s on his mind. That’s not a bad thing, because honesty is his policy. And it won’t be a bad thing for Washington State.

AP photo Dean Hare of WSU football coach Mike Leach arriving at Bohler Athletic Complex, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, in Pullman, Wash.

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Why WSU Coach Mike Leach is awesome