The Resurrection of Mike Leach
Credit: Photograph by Jose Mandojana

One morning in Pullman, Leach is giving a speech to the team's incoming freshmen. He lists three violations that will get them kicked off the team immediately (stealing, hitting a woman, and smoking pot). He talks about his own philosophy of the game. (To one defensive lineman: "Oh, that's the funnest one. You get to go out and just wreck stuff.") And to his surprise and delight, he has nothing but praise for the Washington State athletic department. "I've dealt with academic institutions for years," he tells the kids, "and a lot of them are merely banana republics." Blank stares. "Um, that would be disorganized governments, for those of you who haven't taken History of the Caribbean." Leach, naturally, has taken History of the Caribbean. Seriously – he audited a class on it when he was a coach at Valdosta State.

It's one of many subjects he's taken an interest in (including, most recently, Davy Crockett, bear hunting, modern art, vegetarianism, and Geronimo). The silver lining to Leach's forced sabbatical was that it gave him time to explore some of the things he's curious about. He did color commentary for CBS and hosted a radio show for Sirius from his home. He thought about using his journalist credentials to finagle his way into Cuba, but he never got around to it. He hunted wild pigs from a helicopter in South Texas and consulted for a football team in France. ("I've always thought the French were a little misunderstood," he says. "Even the snotty ones are odd enough to be interesting.") He also spent a week on the set of the movie 'Battleship' – he'd met the director, Peter Berg, while working on 'Friday Night Lights' – and recently Berg said that he was basing the plot for the FNL movie on Leach's firing.

His new home has already embraced its oddball coach. When the university first announced Leach's hiring, demand for tickets crashed the website. The campus bookstore can't keep his memoir, Swing Your Sword, in stock. When he goes out, kids constantly ask him for photos, and he obliges every one, usually quizzing them for a few minutes about where they're from and what they're studying – rarely, if ever, talking about football.

Leach has said that Tech still hasn't paid him for the 2009 season, and his lawsuits against Craig James, the school, and ESPN are still working their way through the courts. Earlier this year James ran for U.S. Senate in Texas' Republican primary, and Leach, on a book tour, couldn't help but sneak in a few digs. He autographed one book "Anybody but Craig James for senator," and another with "Craig James is a douche." In any event, it's clear whose side most Texans are on. When the 'Dallas Morning News' conducted a poll asking voters whom they'd prefer as their senator, James or Leach, they chose Leach by a margin of 20 to one. James eventually finished with four percent of the vote.