Take it from Bob Stoops: “Nobody like him”: Mike Leach was unique | Opinion
Short phone conversations were not Mike Leach’s style. Bob Stoops discovered this many years ago.
Stoops anticipated Leach’s inevitable late-night call and knew what to expect: pick up the phone, be entertained for hours on end by talk about who knows what.
Leach would talk about anything if you answered that phone and would keep talking.
He’ll call you around midnight, and if you answer, you might not hang up until 1:30 in the morning, according to friends who know and love him. Before Leach passed away on Monday at the age of 61, former Oklahoma coach Stoops remarked, “And then, occasionally, if you’re too exhausted, you don’t answer, because you know it’s going to be 1:30 or 2:00.” The conversation will go for one and a half hours.
BEST QUOTES AND FUNNIEST MOMENTS OF LEACH:
- Bigfoot, candy corn, and wedding advice
And when speaking to a man with so many interests, the conversation may have taken any turn.
- Following Leach’s hiring by Stoops as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator prior to the 1999 season, Stoops remembers dropping by Leach’s office.
- Stoops stumbled into a conversation with Leach about the Apache chief and medicine man Geronimo since the latter had a picture of him hanging in his office. After an hour, Leach was still talking about Geronimo.
- Stoops described Leach as being “obsessed with Geronimo.”
On Monday, when his friend was still in the hospital, Stoops told me a couple stories about Leach and kept using the term “unique” to describe them. Leach, the third-year head coach at Mississippi State, passed away late on Monday due to complications from a cardiac issue, the school reported. He was 61.
Leach had an interesting coaching career that took him from Pori, Finland, to Pullman, Washington.
Stoops chose Leach for his first Sooners coaching staff because he was personally familiar with how difficult it was to stop a Leach offense.
Leach led Kentucky’s attack under Hal Mumme while Stoops oversaw the defense for Florida.
Stoops asked about Leach, Mumme’s assistant coach, knowing that Mumme wouldn’t quit his job as an SEC coach to oversee Oklahoma’s offense.
Could Leach lead Oklahoma’s offense on his own for Stoops?
Mumme replied, “Absolutely,” to Stoops.
Leach only spent one season at OU before leaving to become Texas Tech’s head coach, but he had a significant impact in helping Stoops revive a dormant giant of a school.
Along with bringing Mumme’s air raid offense to Oklahoma, Leach also helped the Sooners land a quarterback who would be a valuable asset for many years. When Leach was still on the coaching staff, Oklahoma signed junior college transfer Josh Heupel, high school grad Jason White, and Georgia transfer Nate Hybl during that one offseason.
Leach’s offense and recruitment drive were key factors.
The man was he. That is why they came with us,” Stoops said of that year’s class of OU quarterbacks.
In 2000, Heupel finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy, and the Sooners went on to win the title. Hybl won the Rose Bowl MVP award. In 2003, White would be the Heisman winner.
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Leach’s favored recruit from Snow College in Utah was Heupel in particular.
Josh was not at all well-recruited, but Mike adored him, according to Stoops. ‘This is our guy,’ he said, and I believed Mike. Josh was entertaining to watch on camera, so I decided to put my trust in him. We’ll carry it out if that’s what you want.
Heupel and Leach struck up a conversation while they sat on the floor of Leach’s office in the new football building at OU and reviewed game footage.
Leach admitted to the USA TODAY Network’s Vols Wire in 2021, “We didn’t have furniture yet since we were just going into the Switzer Center. We discussed offense while sitting on the floor and watched film after film on VHS at the time.
Leach made a career out of succeeding at challenging venues like Texas Tech, Washington State, and Mississippi State after leaving Oklahoma. He brought his pass-happy offense with him. In his 21 years as a coach, he has had 16 winning seasons, including an 8-4 record this year.
Texas high school offenses were affected by Leach’s productive ten-year stay at Texas Tech.
Leach had been given a larger stage to present the air strike by Oklahoma and Texas Tech. It was popular.
The majority of high schools in Texas—roughly 80% of them—had some variation of his offense, according to Stoops. He had a significant impact during his time with us and at Tech.
The coaching pedigree of Leach is extensive as well. Just take a look at the Heisman Trophy voting from this year.
Three of the top five Heisman vote-getters—Caleb Williams of Southern California, Max Duggan of TCU, and Hendon Hooker of Tennessee—play for coaches who either played under Leach or served as his assistant coach.
Coaches for Leach at Texas Tech included TCU’s Sonny Dykes and USC’s Lincoln Riley. Heupel is in his second year as Tennessee’s head coach.
Leach is a coach with a variety of interests, so to categorize him as a maestro of offensive is to box him in.
The year Leach served as a member of Stoops’ coaching staff, the Oklahoma coaches would occasionally congregate at Mark Mangino’s residence after work. As the hours passed, coaches would stop working while Leach persisted, ever the night owl and ever inquisitive.
Mike would be watching “Howard Stern” while Mangina would be getting ready for bed, according to Stoops.
“Unique,” added Stoops. “I promise you there’s nobody like him.”