Inside the eccentric, outspoken and truly unusual mind of Washington State head coach Mike Leach
Washington State's Mike Leach is the most peculiar college football coach in America. And he's proud of it.
His sprawling office overlooking Martin Stadium is filled with Native American and pirate historical artifacts. His trophy case is equal parts awards and figurines from around the world. He makes headlines around the country for his continued support of the controversial president-elect Donald Trump. His methods for picking the sole team captain involved his appearance on the TV game show "The Price is Right" and his apparent luck with coin tosses.
Entire YouTube videos are dedicated to his tangents and readily given opinions on things like dating and technology.
Leach spent the better part of his press conference in early October talking about his continued support for Trump despite the recently released video where Trump can be heard making misogynistic and lewd comments about women. After the election results came in, Leach texted Trump's son to congratulate him. He also told them he would be his "Secretary of Offense" according to ESPN.com.
Trump and Leach have known each other since 2004, when Leach read one of Trump's books and called his office. Leach spoke at a rally Trump held in Spokane, Washington in May.
The famous picture in his office of Trump is autographed and placed underneath another picture of President George W. Bush. Trump's antiestablishment and anti-political correctness mantras appeal to Leach, who has never been afraid of expressing unpopular opinions.
"When I was in junior high school and high school we condemned other countries for burning books," Leach said in a press conference. "Now, all of a sudden we are in a country where we're burning books, and not just burning books, we're burning words."
When Leach pointed to the picture, he noted that he is allowed to have his opinion, and added that no one would fault people for having a picture of Hillary Clinton in their office.
He is not shy about his support, but then again shy should never been used to describe Leach. He is famous for his tangents on social media being the end of the world, on his fascination with history, on his famous locker room speech after Texas Tech beat Baylor. Leach speaks his mind and never apologizes for it.
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He graduated from BYU with a degree in American studies before going to law school at Pepperdine School of Law. He said he assumed he would go back and practice law eventually, but football swept in and stayed. After graduating from law school he received his masters from the United States Sports Academy in sports science and coaching.
Leach never played college football, but rose to the top of college coaching at Texas Tech. He coached Little League Baseball when he was in high school, and credited that experiencing with his desire to coach. He drew up his own plays while he played on his high school football team, keeping them in a file for the future.
"It had always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to coach something, be a part of coaching something," Leach said.
He has now beaten every team in the Pac-12 faster than any other coach in the conference. WSU began the season at 0–2, where Leach compared the team's performance to that of a "JV softball team," which apparently means the team is performing poorly. Now the team is 8–2, including a win against then-No. 15 Stanford in Palo Alto. They have yet to lose a conference game and are riding an eight-game winning streak.
Despite WSU's stumble in the opening games of the season, Leach has righted the ship and sent it skyrocketing into the top-25. As fans watch his team week after week, and are nearly always entertained by weekly press conference footage, Leach remains one of the most interesting and emblematic coaches in college football.
He is a practicing Mormon, and his favorite books include the Bible and On Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. Pictures of his children and grandchildren sit on his desk, dwarfed by the massive size of the desk.
From the large singing skeleton wearing a pirate outfit that stands in the corner of his office, to the intricate pirate ship replica in the opposite corner, the office looks like a wing in an eclectic museum. It matches the personality of the man everyone has an opinion about. He is all at once one of the most beloved and despised figures at WSU.
Students plaster his face to signs saying "I believe" at the games. They do so because Mike Leach wins football games, because Mike Leach remains quotable ("Why Washington State? Well that's a stupid question!"), and because football on the Palouse—on and off the field—would be so boring without its pirate captain.
Kelsey Jones is SI's campus correspondent for Washington State University. Follow her on Twitter.