Mike Leach doesn't begrudge the two years he spent away from coach following his firing from Texas Tech. If anything, Leach said the time away gave him a chance to branch out, find some new adventures and reflect on his time in college football.
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"I wanted to be as productive with my time as I could and I did have the opportunity to do a lot of things I never thought I'd be able to do," Leach told Yahoo! Sports. "I broadcast games, I was on Sirius Radio for two years, I went to England and was a consultant for a couple teams over there, they flew me around public speaking, wrote the book. It was busier than I expected. It was a very busy period of time. But I think the variety of stuff I had to do was pretty exciting."
It took a long time for Leach, one of the great offensive innovators in the game, to get back into college coaching following an incident at Texas Tech with receiver Adam James. In 2009, James and his family, which included his father Craig James, who was a broadcaster with ESPN, filed a complaint against Leach saying their son was mistreated.
James was diagnosed with a concussion on Dec. 16 and missed practice on Dec. 17. According to James, who later recanted his statement under oath, Leach locked him in an equipment closet to get him into the "darkest place possible" because James was complaining of sensitivity to light and headaches. James took video of his time in the closet and called his father from there, which sparked the outrage.
Leach refuted the report, but Texas Tech fired him anyway. Leach brought suit against both Texas Tech and ESPN for slander, but little came from it.
However, the whole episode seemingly blackballed Leach from the college ranks despite a misinterpretation of the facts. Leach instantly became a fan favorite for his protests against the James family and ESPN and did quite well as a radio host and broadcaster.
But then he started getting the itch to coach again. So he wrote a book telling his side of the story and attempting to clear his name. It seemed to work as athletic directors started talking to him again, courting and eventually Washington State took a chance on Leach and quickly became one of the most fan-revered schools in the country.
"Clearly I was a part of a big smear campaign and I wanted the truth out there to set the record straight," Leach told Yahoo! Sports. "I thought that was important. But given the fact that I hadn't done anything wrong, that's the most important thing to me was the truth."
Since his hiring, Leach has done everything he can to maintain the image he developed while away from the game. He's become accessible to fans and media — moreso than he ever was during his tenure with Texas Tech — and has even taken to social media to interact with the public.
In May, Leach made an appearance on Reddit, an interactive fan site, to answer fan questions. He was wildly candid in his answers, including explaining to fans just how much he disliked Craig James and how he thought Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was a sorcerer.
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"I think when I was in the media with Sirius Radio and CBS, I was drawn into social media because that was part of the business," Leach said. "And then from there I was asked to do a number of things and then really, more or less, did what I was asked.
"I was amazed how far those tentacles reached. I'll answer about anything, so it was really fun."
But as football season nears, Leach is eager to prove that he hasn't lost his drive to field successful teams. Leach was 84-43 during his 10 seasons with Texas Tech and during that time he never won fewer than seven games and never had a losing season. In 2008, the Red Raiders won 11 games and finished No. 12 in both major polls.
Leach is hoping he can spark the same magic at Washington State, which hasn't had a winning season since 2003. At the very least, his offensive style should provide some excitement and quiet some naysayers who think Leach's spread offensive style can't go from the dusty plains of Lubbock to the snow-covered fields of Pullman, Wash.
"It's kind of like when Green Bay did it winning the Super Bowl, Buffalo, the weather's wild in San Francisco, University of Montana won a national championship doing it, BYU's done it for years, especially back in the golden age," Leach said. "This offense, for good or for bad, has done more in cold and snow than any other."
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