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Sports Talk: Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 7:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

My apologies to all you West Texans and other football fans who already know this story but it occurred to me that there may be some who read this blog who don’t know Texas Tech football Coach Mike Leach.

First, Mike Leach earned his law degree from Pepperdine in 1986 so he should feel right at home here.

Second, unlike virtually all Division I football coaches, Mike Leach did not play football in college:

“Wherever Mike Leach walks onto a football field, a question naturally follows. Vincent Meeks, who plays safety, puts it this way: “How does a coach who never played a down of football have the best offense in the game?” Leach actually rode the bench through his junior year in high school in Cody, Wyo. But that was it for his playing career. When he left Cody for Brigham Young University, Leach planned to become a lawyer. From B.Y.U. he went straight to Pepperdine law school, where he graduated, at the age of 25, in the top third of his class.

That’s when he posed the question that has sunk many a legal career: “Why do I want to be a lawyer?” One day he announced to his wife, Sharon – soon to be pregnant with their second child – that what he really wanted to be was a college football coach. (“Yeah, her side of the family flipped.”) To Leach, coaching football requires the same talent that he was going to waste on the law: the talent for making arguments. He wanted to make his arguments in the form of offensive plays.”

Third, Coach Leach is an innovative coach that fields a potent, high-scoring offense. Although he recruits from the same Texas pool as the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the University of Oklahoma, he typically comes in second to those and other nationally-known colleges. Nevertheless, he routinely coaches record-breaking passing quarterbacks, receivers and receiving backs – including Michael Crabtree who just set the NCAA record for touchdown receptions for a freshman.

Fourth, Leach is a fascinating guy:

Each off-season, Leach picks something he is curious about and learns as much as he can about it: Geronimo, Daniel Boone, whales, chimpanzees, grizzly bears, Jackson Pollock. The list goes on, and if you can find the common thread, you are a step ahead of his football players. One year, he studied pirates. When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team.

Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, “Under the Black Flag,” by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates. The quarterback Cody Hodges says of his coach: “You learn not to ask questions. If you ask questions, it just goes on longer.”

Hodges knows – the players all do – that their coach is a walking parenthesis, without a companion to bracket his stray thoughts. They suspect, but aren’t certain, that his wide-ranging curiosity benefits their offense. Of all the things motivating Texas Tech to beat Texas A.&M. this night, however, the keenest may have been the desire to avoid another lecture about pirates.

More great Leach quotes:

“Leach shouted, “All right, everybody up!” Seventy players pushed into the middle of the room and bent down on one knee. (“That’s the great thing about football,” Leach says. “All you gotta do is yell.”)

And this:

“Stepping out into Jones SBC Stadium, surrounded by people wearing self-conscious looks of grim determination, Leach was even easier than usual to identify: he was the one guy wandering about, as Meeks has put it, “with this look on his face like he’s walking around an airport, lost.” True, he had shaved (“It’s a good idea to shave for TV games”) and shed his flip-flops, his “Hawaii Five-O” baggy shirts and his board shorts for an outfit that looked vaguely coachlike.

As his team raced onto the field, he gazed into the stands filled with screaming fans and wondered about the several thousand “cadets” from Texas A.&M. clustered in one end zone. They wear military uniforms and buzz cuts, holler in unison and stand at attention the entire game. “How come they get to pretend they are soldiers?” he asked. “The thing is, they aren’t actually in the military. I ought to have Mike’s Pirate School. The freshmen, all they get is the bandanna. When you’re a senior, you get the sword and skull and crossbones. For homework, we’ll work pirate maneuvers and stuff like that.”

And this:

“Leach is unusual in giving his quarterback the authority to change every play, wherever the line of scrimmage. “He can see more than I’ll ever see,” Leach says. “If I call a stupid play, his job is to get me out of it. If he doesn’t get me out of it, I might holler at him. But if you let him react to what he sees, there’s a ton of touchdowns to be had.” All Leach is really saying to Hodges when he sends in the play is, “Line up in Ace, see how they line up against it and call a good play.”

And, finally, this:

“Now Texas Tech had a 39-point lead over A.&M. and the ball and was moving forward as rapidly as ever. To minimize its humiliation, the A.&M. offense had been running plays meant to use up time and get the team out of Lubbock. The governor of Texas slipped away early and was on his way back to Austin. The guys dressed up as soldiers in the Aggie end zone had run out of military drills to perform.

Up in the sky boxes, the wife of an Aggie assistant coach insulted every female Red Raider in earshot by saying that at least she lived in College Station instead of Lubbock. (“First of all, we just beat them, 56-17,” Leach says when told of the incident. “By rights she should now be a Red Raider slave.”)

For everyone but Mike Leach, the game was over, but he jumped onto the field and called a timeout. The referees did not notice: they were too busy throwing yellow flags at the extra Texas Tech players who had tried to get into the game. Tech was penalized, and in the subsequent confusion, Leach let the clock run out. “There was 23 seconds on the clock,” he told me later. “That’s more than enough time. I think we all had a level of disappointment we didn’t score one more touchdown.

If you don’t know Mike Leach, read the entire article and don’t miss the grasshopper story near the end. And lest I forget, here’s Coach Leach:

… doing the local Lubbock, Texas, weather, and

… talking about pirates after Tech beat Texas A&M.

Swing your Swords, mates.


One Response to “Sports Talk: Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach”

  1. Sports…

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