When Mike Leach became the head coach at Washington State, he brought with him a renewed sense of excitement to Pullman that had been missing since the early 2000s. Howie Stalwick of the Kitsap Sun recently conducted an interview with the new Cougar head coach and got to speak to him, getting his thoughts on the Palouse, the state of Cougar football and college football in general, and some interesting tidbits about the Palouse Pirate’s personal life.
The biggest takeaway from the interview is perhaps how excited Leach is to be in Pullman. He describes the Palouse as “a gorgeous place,” and marvels at the environment WSU has created. “It’s really a true, true, true college town,” Leach says, remarking how truly unique that is. Other places may claim to be, but Leach says they can’t match the genuine feel of being a college town that WSU presents. He loves the remote, authentic WSU experience and wouldn’t trade it even for an easier recruiting process with an airport that had direct flights to anywhere. He thinks that would be nice, but it would “change Pullman,” letting others in on the great secret that is Washington State.
Leach was attracted to the Pullman job because he sees it as a great opportunity. He recognized that WSU has had some football success in the recent past, with two Rose Bowl appearances since 1998. He understands that things haven’t been so good recently, but he accepts the challenge to revitalize the Cougar program, and he is bolstered by the school administration that he gets to work with. He describes Pullman as a place “not encumbered by bureaucracy,” and enjoys that he works with just two men, athletic director Bill Moos and school president Dr. Elson Floyd, without any outside hangers-on meddling in the program.
If there’s one thing commonly known about Leach, it is that he works best without a lot of rules. He’s a tried and true pirate, working best when allowed to swashbuckle about and worry about little other than football. Leach knows better than anyone how complicated things can get when layers get added, as he saw five presidents and three chancellors come through during his time at Texas Tech, which he said threw off the focus and was damaging to the university as a whole and ended his time in Lubbock on a sour note. The simplicity of Pullman is a welcome change for Leach and one of the biggest draws in him taking this head coaching job.
For 2012, Leach has a very simple goal for the WSU program: “We need to just steadily improve,” says the coach. He recognizes that the team isn’t going to be picked as a favorite on paper. They’re a young team without a great deal of depth, but Leach isn’t worried about any of that. He’s just worried about getting better each and every day. At the end of the day, Leach just wants to “Win one game a week.” He’s worried about that next first down, trying to avoid getting to far ahead of himself.
Beyond football in Pullman, Leach also had some thoughts on college football in general. He’d like to see the playoff system extended to 16 teams or more, but would also maintain the bowls. Leach enjoys the bowl system, and would like it to see it extended. As Leach sees it, college football is more popular than ever, so the more college football the better. To people who say there are too many bowls as is, Leach responds “that’s crazy,” and has some advice for those people who don’t enjoy watching bowl games: “don’t watch them.”
Stalwick also got an opportunity to touch on some more personal questions of the coach. Leach, a noted and avid reader and history buff, was asked about his choice in literature. His favorite book: the Bible. As Leach explains, “When you take God into things, He’s kinda got an unfair advantage.” Currently, Leach is enjoying one of his other favorite genres, a historical chronicle of the real life adventures of David Crockett by WSU professor Buddy Levy. Leach hasn’t even coached a game yet, and he’s already making friends at the school.
Mike Leach is a perfect fit for WSU. The school presents the best possible home for a coach that is a circle peg in a profession of square holes. He’s found a place where a pirate can be a pirate, and the Cougar faithful have found the right man to make football on the Palouse relevant once again…by winning just one game a week.
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