A quotable Leach and an insightful Moos

PULLMAN – Mike Leach comes to Pullman with a reputation for filling up reporters' notebooks, and he did not disappoint at his first two press conferences. Between his Pullman and Seattle appearances, Washington State's new football coach entertained more than 1,500 reporters, alums, students and other interested parties with a variety of inspiring, informative and/or humorous remarks Tuesday.

In Pullman, Leach drew some of the loudest laughs of the afternoon when he discussed his interest in pirates. Leach said fans were quick to respond after he wielded a sword while giving a speech to his Texas Tech players ("It was a really cool sword"), and it was chronicled in a 2005 New York Times Magazine article by Michael Lewis.

"When he talked about that in his article and it went worldwide, I got some of the greatest gear that you can imagine," Leach said.

"I got a bunch of flags. I got books. I got Mickey Mouse ears with pirate stuff on it. Some lady in France mailed me a thing that looks kind of like a skull and crossbones: ‘Hey, I just thought you'd like to have this.'"

Leach was especially fond of a 6-foot-tall skeleton that Pat Knight (Bob Knight's son) presented him when Pat coached basketball at Texas Tech.

"It was a skeleton dressed in pirate gear that had a motion sensor," Leach explained. "So when it was dark, you walk by it at night, the lights would light up and it would start talking to you.

"We'd be in the room next door watching film late at night and the cleaning lady would come clean the office. All of a sudden, you'd hear that pirate in the next room, ‘Aye, matey!' And she's screamin', ya know. Yeah, she enjoyed the pirate, too."

Leach also had plenty of interesting things to say about football.

  • On who he'll hire as his defensive coordinator:
    "Understandably, you know the last thing in the world I'd do is share that with you," Leach said in Seattle, drawing serious laughs. He noted that for competitive reasons he wouldn't want to limit his options by sharing names.

  • On what he learned being out of football the last two years:
    "It's what you learn after you know everything that counts," Leach said, quoting John Wooden. He said his book writing, speaking, broadcasting and other endeavors opened his eyes to new ways of thinking and viewing the game and world. His radio show gave him the chance to talk with experts throughout the world of sports and that was illuminating, he said.

  • On recruiting in the West:
    "The home state is always the most important," he said in Pullman and then added in Seattle that Northern California, where Paul Wulff made large inroads, will continue to be a focus and that he plans to make deeper gains in Southern California. He also talked about the plethora of athletes coming out of Hawaii and American Samoa and said that would be an area of considerable focus.

  • On former Skyline High School sensation Jake Heaps, who is transferring from BYU after two seasons:
    "He hasn't contacted me. We'll have to take a look (though he's uncertain he will pursue Heaps) ... he's a good player."

  • On WSU's returning players:
    "It's a hard-working group. I think it's a young group that's improved. The quarterbacks are really good starting points. It's a group that has a lot of potential and a good foundation, and I think the enthusiasm is really encouraging."

  • On the previous coaching staff:
    "They were passionate coaches. They worked hard … I can't help but applaud their efforts."

  • On what he says to people who question his record-breaking, five-year, $11 million contract:
    "I don't say anything. I just go out and work hard and do the best I can. I don't worry about it at all."

  • On the enthusiastic welcome he has received from WSU fans:
    "The entire thing's been incredible." In Seattle, he was informed that the Pullman gathering stretched the CUB senior ballroom to beyond capacity, to which he retorted, "It doesn't sound like I'll be an honorary fireman anytime soon."

  • On his controversial departure from Texas Tech in 2009:
    "If it's controversial to have the highest graduation rate in the country and to go to 10 straight bowls and to improve every year and win a bunch of bowl games and not have your players get in trouble and not get NCAA violations, then I'm controversial. I'll just have to live with it."

  • On allegations he mistreated a Texas Tech player with a concussion:
    "The truth is the truth, and that's not going to change. Those that don't understand it are uninformed, but I think most people do understand it."

  • His first-year goals for the Cougars:
    "Do the best we can. Improve every day. A lot of times people are just doing stuff and it's stuff. You want to achieve results. You want to get everybody on board so they're committed to improvement."

  • On riding his bike 4 miles from his Key West, Fla., home (Leach chose not to have a car in Key West) for his initial meeting with WSU athletic director Bill Moos last month:
    "Not too much perspiration. He went ahead and hired me anyway."

  • On his favorite Husky joke:
    "I'm not big on engaging the opposition like that, but I am looking forward to playing the Apple Cup ... (The rivalry is) incredibly exciting -- I can't wait to play it." On that same topic, Bill Moos was all smiles when he told a small group of alums after the event that the first incentive clause he wrote into Leach's contract was $25,000 for winning the Apple Cup.

    NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Moos said since his days at Oregon he's had Leach on the top of his short list of football coaches he'd want to pursue if he ever needed to hire a new one. Leach, by the way, is the first football coach Moos has hired in his entire career. At Montana and Oregon, he inherited two guys who were outstanding: Don Read and Mike Belotti. In the foyer of the Fairmont Hotel in Seattle last night Moos told a group of alums gathered round that when he met with Leach in Key West there was the handing off of a resume. "It wasn't Mike's. I gave him my resume before I left."

  • Moos said the over-flow audience in Pullman for Leach's introduction was unlike anything he's ever experienced. The number of bodies -- "we had to make a human tunnel to make our way to the stage" -- and the unbridled enthusiasm bordered on something akin to an old-time religion tent revival.

  • Jim Moore, the shortest-lived columnist in CF.C history and the talented co-host of the Calabro Show on KIRO Radio in Seattle, was moved after the Seattle event to tell Moos that the Leach proceedings made Tuesday "one of the five greatest days in WSU history."

  • Aw, the best laid plans. In Seattle last night, when CF.C noticed that Drew Bledsoe, Rueben Mayes, Mark Rypien, Jack Thompson and Robbie Tobeck were all standing within 10 feet of Leach, we asked the Throwin' Samoan to pull these luminaries together for a quick photo with the new head man. Within seconds, every camera in the ballroom was turned toward the group. Alas, CF.C had an equipment malfunction and was skunked. The Seattle Times, though, ran a beautiful shot of it this morning. By the way, Ryan Leaf was there in spirit. He's in California right now as part of the follow up on the brain surgery he underwent earlier this year, but Leach had a copy of Leaf's new book, 596 Switch, tucked under his arm.

    CF.C executive editor Greg Witter contributed to this report.

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