PULLMAN, Wash. — I remember when rumors of Mike Leach's hiring began.
I’d like to say I was home watching a huge sporting event. Alas, I was in a movie theater with my future wife being forced to watch one of the Twilight sequels. I received a text about halfway through the movie - the vibration woke me up - informing me Washington State University was hiring Leach to be its head football coach.
I was intrigued, so I began a quick dialogue with my source to the minor irritation of the lovely and very patient woman sitting next to me. After offering her a sigh and the old “it’s work honey, I have to deal with this,” I began to realize this Leach hiring could happen.
I knew then-Athletic Director Bill Moos wanted and needed to make a splash with this hire after watching the program muster up just nine wins the previous four years under Paul Wulff. The school needed to raise money for stadium renovations and new facilities and needed to have some firepower.
Leach’s weapon of choice was a sword at the time. He swung it with fury as he entered the PAC 12 and put Pullman back on the football map.
I won’t go into the history of his success at Washington State, but I will say his recruiting of quarterback Gardner Minshew and the record setting 11-win season that followed was easily the peak of Leach’s success.
Last season, was a step back and it ended with some nastiness in Leach’s final Apple Cup press conference after he had lost his seventh straight matchup to Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.
At that point, I started to think maybe this was finally the end of Leach’s run through the Palouse. You could see cracks in the foundation during the season. Leach’s public shaming of his players may have made for “shock jock” sound bites, but they didn’t do anything for the morale of his team. Remember, these are 18-21 year old students who counted on him for leadership, not showmanship at their expense.
While he was tremendous for the program during his eight seasons, Leach was constantly being brought up as a candidate for coaching jobs across the country. WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun spoke highly of Leach after his departure, not surprised this day had finally come.
As a side note, just as Moos was the right AD at the right time eight years ago, Chun is the right person now. He’s a sharp man and will no doubt make a solid hire.
As for Leach, the ride of every great coach eventually has to come to an end. The Huskies saw it with Petersen, the Seahawks with Mike Holmgren and now the Cougs with Leach.
From the moment I picked up my phone in the theater that night, I’ve enjoyed the journey with Leach. Thankfully, he was more Jack Sparrow than Bella, Edward and Jacob.