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Jim Mastro The Most Intriguing Of Mike Leach's Hires

As I went through this morning's reported assistant coaching hires, Jim Mastro's name immediately jumped off the page. If you've followed West Coast college football, you know should know Mastro, even if you don't realize it. His experience with running backs in the pistol, both at Nevada and UCLA, is second-to-none, or perhaps second to Chris Ault. And he has the recruiting chops to go along with his coaching ability, having worked heavily in California as the recruiting coordinator for Nevada.

We're starting to see Leach's staff fall into place, and many of the choices are centered around previous relationships and trust. In Swing Your Sword, Leach talks about the open and honest nature of how he handles meetings and interaction with his staff. Everyone has an input, there's an immense amount of trust, and the coaching staff is like one big, happy family.

So where does Mastro, a coach from UCLA with strong ties to Nevada come into play? As it turns out, Leach and Mastro can trace their beginnings back to nearly the same spot. Leach accepted a graduate position at Cal Poly under Lyle Setencich -- thanks to OL coach Billy MacDermott-- and drove across the country for a job that paid $3,000 a year. It was the beginning of his coaching career.

On that Cal Poly roster was a running back named Jim Mastro. Eventually, Mastro was hired as a graduate assistant on the Cal Poly staff, working with Leach for a short stint. Though their coaches paths have taken them different directions, the two stayed in touch. Mastro even coached at Idaho for a short time in the late 90s before heading to Nevada and working under the tutelage of Chris Ault.

If it's not clear by now, I've been leaning heavily on Leach's book as the staff begins to come together. How he handled the transition at Texas Tech, in his own words, can paint a picture of how we might expect him to handle assembling his staff at Washington State. In fact, each of the names reportedly hired on Thursday are in his book, either by way anecdotes or quotes.

One such story from Swing Your Sword, in the form of a quote from Mastro, is below the jump. It gives you an idea of how long Mastro and Leach have known each other, and the respect Mastro has for Leach.

"I'll never forget the day. I was a player and I'm in Coach Mac's office at Cal Poly. This skinny guy, looking like a surfer dude, with his t-shirt hanging out and cut-off jeans comes to the doorway. He goes, 'Hi, uh, I wanna help coach some football.' Coach Mac says, 'Sure, come on in.' They talked. I just listened. He said he had a law degree. I'm thinking 'Is this guy for real?' The next thing you know, we're out at practice and this guy's out there, every day. Everyone liked him. He was so personable. He assisted Coach Mac for the season and after the year ended, I got hired to be a graduate assistant. Coach Mac says to me, 'That guy right there is going to be a big-time head coach someday. You watch.' I said, 'You're crazy. There's no way. This guy? He doesn't know football. He doesn't look real tough.'"

"But when I GAed with him, I figured out pretty quick that Leach was out of my league when it came to intelligence. He has this insight and can see things that other people just can't. I guess it's because he analyzes things so well and asks a lot of questions. He wanted more knowledge. He analyzes everything. Nothing is cut and dry with him. He thinks above and beyond. He understands movements. In our world, Cover-2 is Cover-2, where you have two half-safeties and two rolled-up corners, but in his eyes, I don't think he sees it that way. He sees more than that. What that is, I don't know, but it's on a different level."

I get the feeling we're going to enjoy Mastro and what he brings to the table. He can certainly recruit, and his success with running backs is well-documented. Add in the trust and the relationship he has with Leach, and you can see why Mastro was brought onto the staff quickly.

More information on Swing Your Sword, including links to buy, can be found at Diversion Books.