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Mike Leach memoir: ‘My biggest regret was not cutting Adam James’

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Mike Leach

Mike Leach, love him or hate him, has never been afraid to say what's on his mind.

That's why his new book, "Swing Your Sword: Leading the charge in football and life" is one of the most anticipated sports genre releases this year.

And Leach, the former coach of Texas Tech, doesn't disappoint.

He gave Sports Illustrated a taste of the book to whet the whistle of those who want to know what really went down with receiver Adam James, who was responsible for getting Leach fired from Tech and basically blacklisted from the college football head coaching ranks.

Leach talked about James' recruitment and how several assistant coaches disagreed with offering him a scholarship. He talked about how James, who is still at Tech, rode the coattails of his father's influence and thought that was enough to get him playing time.

"My biggest regret was not cutting Adam James," Leach wrote. "I kept hoping he'd develop a work ethic."
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James didn't get along with two position coaches -- Dana Holgorsen and Lincoln Riley -- and often would lollygag through practice and laughed at punishments.

But it was James' final punishment that ended up costing Leach his job. In initial reports, James said Leach locked him in an electrical closet as punishment for coming to practice in street clothes. James complained of a concussion and wore sunglasses because he said he was sensitive to light. Leach told team trainer Steve Pincock to place him somewhere dark.

Three days later, on December 17, Adam James again displayed his contempt for team rules and the coaching staff. He arrived at practice twenty minutes late, in street clothes, wearing sunglasses. He said he had a concussion. The team physician acknowledged that James had a mild concussion and limited him from physical activity until he was symptom free. The team policy dictated that all players, including injured players, attend practice in practice attire and participate in the manner permissible given the nature of their injury.

According to Steve Pincock, the team trainer, James was "walking the field" in an indifferent way. James was wearing street clothes and had a baseball cap on backwards, which, injured or not, he knew was against team rules. I asked Pincock why Adam wasn't dressed appropriately for practice. Pincock said he didn't know. This was the first he'd seen him because Adam was late. I asked him why Adam was wearing sunglasses. Pincock said Adam's eyes were sensitive to light because he had a concussion. I told Pincock to remove James from the field since he wasn't dressed properly, was late, and had a bad attitude while the rest of the team was practicing hard. I told Pincock to put him somewhere dark and have him do something.

At no point did I say to lock him in a room. I never told Pincock what he should do with Adam beyond getting him off the field and putting him somewhere dark since his eyes were sensitive to light.

Months later, when Adam James was deposed under oath, he said he found the incident "funny" and that he did not believe that I should have been fired. In fact, he texted his father about the incident while in the equipment garage because he thought he would "like" it, since they both have the same sense of humor.

Leach goes on to explain that James' father, Craig James, an ESPN analyst, called multiple people on the Texas Tech food chain claiming that his son had been locked in the electrical closet for three hours. He demanded Leach be fired.

According to Pincock's statement, he specifically told James not to go into the electrical closet by the media room. James admitted under oath that he ignored Pincock's instructions. He admitted that he let himself into that closet and that he shot a video -- a video that would start a firestorm of allegations -- because he thought it was funny.

Leach said he refused to sign a letter admitting wrongdoing and was ultimately fired despite assurances that that would not be the case.

While the Adam James section is one of the more compelling parts of the book, it isn't the entire book. The story chronicles Leach's path to coaching through law school, his unorthodox coaching traits and a look at his Texas Tech career outside of the scandal that ended it.

Since the Adam James incident, Leach has had little luck securing another head coaching position. Maryland interviewed him, but former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall got the job. Leach is living in Key West waiting for that next head coaching position.

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