*originally posted on a message board on December 14th, 2022.*
I haven’t felt this way about a celebrity death since my favorite singer died in 1999.
Leach was someone my brother was wild about in the late nineties during his stint with Hal Mumme at Kentucky. I was still big into football at the time, and when he took over at Texas Tech I really took notice. It was like he took the passing attacks of some of my favorite coaches like Bill Walsh and Steve Spurrier and weaponized them in the Air Raid. For a guy who came up playing football in the old-school mold of three yards and a cloud of dust it was a marvel to behold. And the guy was just unbelievable on a personal level, coming across as a nut or a savant or some combination thereof. The man was a hoot, and he got results.
I sort of lost track of him as he left TT unceremoniously and took up with Washington State, and I didn’t take notice again until their 11-2 season, and I was thrilled when I heard he’d been poached away for my alma mater. After the mess Dan Mullen left them in and the hole Joe Moorhead dug in his tenure, State needed a proven winner to turn the program around and give them the juice to ascend to their wanted level. After some big wins and a season where they should have been 10-2, MSU was flying high.
It all came crashing down Sunday night.
And it’s interesting to see something I didn’t know could happen in this overly cynical and polarized day and age: people almost universally heralded and celebrated the life of a football coach, from fans to players to other coaches. As whiny and bitchy as people tend to be, seemingly looking to top each other in eloquent extremity and crass commentary, you read stories about his impact on people from his commentary on marriage planning and Halloween candy to his mentorship of former players and coaches to everyday interactions where he just treated people like they were the only persons in the world. Mike Leach was a good man on top of being a visionary coach and protean mind.
Mike Leach was someone I’d have loved to have a long rambling conversation with. Maybe I’ll get the chance some day far away.