Leach was a unique coach, person

Published 11:29 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

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Kentucky Today

Mike Leach had a way with words. He could turn a press conference into a history lesson and offer life advice without even being asked his opinion on any given topic. It could happen at any time.

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He was simply entertaining, and you never knew what was going to transpire next with the late Mississippi State football coach.

I never had the opportunity to cover any teams coached by Leach and was just beginning my journalism career when Leach coached for two seasons under Hal Mumme at Kentucky from 1996-97. He helped Mumme install the Air Raid offense and brought excitement to Kentucky football.

His teams at Texas Tech, Washington State and his last ones at Mississippi State were known for throwing the football and turning short passes into long gains. He didn’t carry around a big playbook or use his managers to help hide the play calls from the sidelines.

Leach was simple. He carried around a small notepad and pencil. It didn’t appear Leach had two or three or four plays in his playbook. If he did, he must have had small handwriting.

During his last visit to Kroger Field this season, Leach offered an opinion on how irritating it was to see how his experienced team handled success following a 27-17 loss to the Wildcats.

“They somehow better figure out what type of player they want to be,” he said. “Everything is on film, I mean, if someone sees this on film 200 years from now and compares it to the other films, they are going to like the other films a lot better than this one.”

Leach, who died Monday at age 61 following a health episode at his home on Sunday, also offered his opinion on why his Mississippi State teams had scored just 19 points in two appearances as a head coach at Kroger Field. The Bulldogs scored on a safety in his first game back to Lexington.

“I do not think it is anything schematic,” he said following a 27-17 loss to the Wildcats on Oct. 15. “It is just us. We just have to focus and play, and I do not know if we get distracted by the trip, which we should not, or if we are distracted by the stadium, which we should not, and we should not get distracted by anything. You know how they played their defense this year? Exactly like they did last year. Even a number of the people were the same.”

He even referenced Jerry Rice when describing his team as trying to be “cute as if we had arrived or as if we had done something which obviously, we have not.”

“I mean you never arrive – you never arrive at anything … you never arrive like it is a destination, you keep battling and you keep competing and we did not do that.”

Leach was definitely a one-of-a-kind football coach, and he will be missed. It won’t be the same.