For about half an hour, Mike Leach held court in front of an excited audience in the CUB Ballroom. Leach was personable, funny and had the crowd in his hand, but we didn't expect anything less. Washington State went all out, bringing in the band, cheerleaders and even the mascot to generate excitement, and it was clear Leach was enjoying simply holding court in front of a captive audience.
After Dr. Warwick Bayly, filling in for President Elson Floyd, who was under the weather on Tuesday, warmed up the audience with a reminder to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day next year, Bill Moos took the podium to introduce his new coach. Moos hand-picked Leach, saying "I only talked to one man. I only wanted one man." And then there was the money quote.
"I came back to Washington State to go to the Rose Bowl," Moos said near the end of his statement. "That's where we're gonna go."
With the small-talk out of the way, the man of the hour took the podium, opening with a joke. "I know what you're all thinking," Leach said, gesturing to his suit. "Yes, this is exactly how I dress in Key West every day." And with that, he captured an already adoring crowd.
Paying homage to coaches of the past, Leach went out of his way to thank Paul Wulff, Bill Doba, Mike Price, Dennis Erickson and Jim Walden. He wrapped his opening statement with two comments that quickly drew laughs.
"People ask me Why Washington State?," Leach said before hitting his punch-line. "Once I get past thinking in the back of my mind, 'Well that's a stupid question...'" Showing off the wisdom he's learned in his years of coaching, Leach closed with, "I've never been a big opening statement guy. I always find the media asks what they want anyway." Truer words have never been spoken.
Leach got down to business when fielding questions from the media. In fact, he shined, diverging into an array of anecdotes that were both hilarious and apt. At one point, after being asked about the pirate thing, Leach had his arm over his eyes while making mock sword-fighting gesture. At a podium. At an introductory press conference. In a full suit.
He followed the quick venture into sword-fighting with stories of the pirate gear he's received. Pat Knight gave Leach a six-foot tall skeleton, complete with a motion sensor that triggers lights and pirate sounds. He said the cleaning lady would come in at night and frequently set it off. One minute he's in his office in peace and quiet, the next he hears a loud "Ahoy, Matey!" from the next room, followed by the screams of the cleaning lady.
When asked about a five-year plan, Leach said he deals in one-day plans. His plan? To win one game a week. Seems like a pretty solid game-plan to attack. Leach also wants his team to be excited about what it does, and do it well.
"It doesn't matter what you do, be it the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker," Leach said. "Be excited about what you do."
Leach has already made a hire, bringing on David Emerick as his "chief of staff," he said. Emerick will be involved in organizing the staff, as well as working heavily on the recruiting side.
Speaking of recruiting, Leach will be in Seattle on Tuesday night before heading back to Key West for a few days. He'll return to Pullman this weekend, hopefully with pieces of his staff, and will then begin to tackle recruiting. Your money quote is as follows:
"Going to hit the road hard," Leach said. "Hopefully get some new Cougars."
When asked about whether he'd bolt for another job, Leach said, "I'm excited to be here and excited to stay here." He said he won 29 games over his final three years at Texas Tech and didn't want to leave.
The lesson from Tuesday's press conference? Mike Leach is going to be fun to watch and follow during his time in Pullman. He has stories, a massive personality and is engaging. One minute he's acting like he's sword-fighting, the next he's talking about his theories on coaching and educating young men.
Enjoy the ride.
A few leftover quotes I found funny. Maybe you will too!
"Don't worry Katie, they're not booing me. That's Mooooos" -- Bill Moos is still awesome
Leach to a reporter, way off to the left side of the stage: "Oh, that's where you are. You're out of bounds"
"I'm from Cody, Wyoming, which is practically local by the standards of this part of the country"
His kids were excited about Pullman, specifically the snow. While gesturing out the window, Leach said, "If you can't see the snow, go get your eyes checked"
"When Bill came to town, we agreed to meet and he was gonna go to a hotel. But I find out the day before it's at the top of the island; I live at the bottom of the island. So bright and early in the morning I saddled up on my bike and I peddled four miles. And despite that I guess not too much perspiration and he went ahead and hired me anyway.
Update: Now with 25 minutes of video from the official WSU Cougar Athletics Youtube channel.