July 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; This is a normal look for Mike Leach. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
It's always funny to see which coaches get along and which don't in college football. For the most part, coaching is a fraternity and despite the bitter rivalries on the field, head coaches tend to leave the battles behind once they step off it. There's love and hate, dust-ups and all-out wars, and along the way some odd couples emerge.
On one side of this equation is Urban Meyer, wound tight as a spool of wire and seemingly ready to burst at any moment. On the other is Mike Leach, a man who exudes "chill bro," wandering around the sideline without a care in the world. The personas each display publicly are quite the opposite, making them perhaps the unlikeliest of friends.
The anecdotes that pop up about Meyer and Leach, and the interactions they have, always make me smile. They're interesting, in that Leach has a tendency to be playful and Meyer reciprocates by using his own public-facing personality to jab back.
Take this story from Dennis Dodd, for example.
The bar is surrounded by personalized stools reserved for only the most loyal [and famous] customers. Urban Meyer is the only other coach to share the distinction.
"We used to see each other down here," Leach said. "I texted him, saying, 'Sitting on your stool so I don't scratch my own.' He said, 'Sit on your own stool.' ... I know he's wound really tight but he's a great guy."
*Read the rest of Dodd's story. It has some good stuff on Leach and on college football.
I read that in the voice of each coach, Leach joking that he's in Meyer stool and Meyer shooting back "sit on your own stool" with a seriousness and a wry smile. That one exchange says a lot about each coach, and I enjoy when two of my favorite coaches tease each other
This wasn't the first time the two have crossed paths and it likely won't be the last. In a profession where most expect coaches to hate each other, engaging in bitter recruiting battles off the field and high-stakes chess matches on it, it's fun to see how the coaching elite really interact.
Meyer, as you'll recall, has had nothing but praise for Leach and his ways. Yes, even the term "certified nut job" was a term of endearment in reference to Leach and came as a funny introduction to a lengthy anecdote about Leach's offense.
Or there was the more direct route Meyer took at Big Ten media days. In a short conversation before the scrum, the topic shifted to Leach. Meyer, personable as ever, began into a short spiel about how Leach is a genius. Eleven Warriors happened to catch it on tape.
You can see Meyer's eyes light up when he talks about Leach. In fact, this happens every time he talks about Leach. He's sincere and seems to genuinely enjoy the oddball coach who took a less-than-normal path to Washington State.
And then there's Leach. If Meyer is straight-edge, suit and tie, Leach is of meandering mind with flip-flops and cargo shorts. I view Meyer as the valedictorian who always has his serious face on -- never relaxed, never relenting for a moment. Leach, on the other hand, is more of the class clown whose curiosity leads him to forever push buttons -- all while taking care of his business and earning high marks.
It's like watch two dogs walk down the street. You know the kind -- the wise, big dog that's minding its own business and the eager puppy nipping on the big dogs ears. You can guess which is which.
But there's a mutual respect and admiration that goes both ways. In Swing Your Sword, Leach refers to Meyer as a "good friend" and talks of the different coaching techniques he picked up from the then Florida and now Ohio State head man. Meyer may refer to Leach as a "genius" but it sure seems like the feeling is mutual.
In the end, it shouldn't be surprising to see Leach and Meyer joking around and discussing their friendship. Leach, of all people, just has a way with people. Given the opportunity to hold court in front of the media, he'll quickly have them eating out of the palm of his hand. He's just that charismatic.
People just seem to like Leach -- because of his inquisitive nature, curious personality or sense of humor. Meyer is one of those people, of course, but there are many others that have struck up a relationship with the coach who's a little bit different.
Maybe Leach is, as Meyer said, a genius. And maybe he's a certified nut job, too. But he's a lovable genius and nut job, which is the biggest reason, in my opinion, to be excited about Cougar football. His relationships with other coaches and members of the media are a big deal as Washington State tries to increase its profile and gain respect along the way.
Leach has important people talking about his new job. Now it's time to see what he's got on the field.
For more about Leach's book, which is getting an update as it goes to paperback, read my quick note about Bruce Feldman, Leach and Swing Your Sword. Then buy the paperback.