The Resurrection of Mike Leach
Credit: Photograph by Jose Mandojana
The next day, Leach is in his office with a couple of assistant coaches, talking about recruits. They're way ahead of where they expected to be so far ahead of signing day. Leach's special-teams coach, Eric Russell, feels his cellphone vibrate. It's a recruit.

"You better give me some good news," he says. The kid talks on the other end. "You're a Coug?" says Russell.

"That's awesome. We're fired up." He hands the phone to Leach, who tells the kid what an honor it will be to coach him and how much fun they're going to have, and then hands it back. "All right, bud," says Russell. "If you need anything, just give a shout, that's what I'm here for. Tell your folks congratulations – I look forward to meeting your mom." 

He hangs up the phone. "Shit. I hope his mom's not dead."

Recruiting is one of Leach's big worries at Washington State. The closest town of any significance is Moscow, Idaho, a few miles east on Highway 270, but it may as well be Moscow, Russia, to an 18-year-old. He's hoping a current $80 million stadium expansion will help. So will the windfall from a $3 billion TV deal the Pac-12 recently signed, which will provide WSU an extra $12 million a year to play around with – a big chunk of which went toward Leach's $11 million contract. Which is another great irony: The same TV network that Leach is suing for helping run him out of his last job is partially responsible for landing him his new one. 

Leach spends the rest of his day attending to the peripheral responsibilities that make up the bulk of a coach's off-season. He has some player meetings, gets his photo taken for a bobblehead doll. He sits in on a demo for an impressive new 3D-video system, developed by a WSU engineering professor, which the university hopes might revolutionize the way coaches and spectators see the game. (Leach, talking to another coach about it later: "You can check out the tuba player over here, zoom in on this hot chick over there….It's kind of an incredible deal.")

In a lot of ways, Washington State looks like the kind of place in which Leach might thrive. The administration seems to be hands-off, committed to winning but also giving him free rein. From early appearances, the stage may be set for a perfect comeback story. Leach says his goals for 2012 are the same as they are every year: Work as a team, do your job, and be the most excited to play. But listen to him talk with players and coaches, and it's clear that he's aiming a little higher: He wants to go to a bowl, he wants to break Pac-12 records, and, most of all, he wants to win, and win by a lot.

But first, he has one last vacation. He and Sharon are flying to Key West in the morning; they have to take three flights, and they're leaving at 4:30 am. They'll be there all month, until practices start up in August. As a matter of fact, Leach says, come on down and visit. "It's awesome," he says. "The snorkeling is off the charts." They've got a nice little bungalow near the middle of town; it's an easy bike ride to the movie theater or to his favorite bar. It's really easy to find. "So you know where Schooner Wharf is?" he says. "OK. So from Schooner Wharf, you go three blocks…"