College Football

Former WSU football coach Mike Leach dies at 61

Former Washington State University football coach Mike Leach died Monday following complications from a heart condition, Mississippi State University officials said Tuesday in a statement. He was 61.

In a statement released by the university, Leach’s family remembered him as “a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather.”

“He was able to participate in organ donation at UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center) as a final act of charity,” they said. “We are supported and uplifted by the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, Mississippi State University, the hospital staff, and football fans around the world. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father’s life.”

Leach was named as Mississippi State’s head football on Jan. 9, 2020. He previously coached for 10 years at Texas Tech University and for eight seasons at Washington State University.

“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” MSU President Mark Keenum said in a statement.

“Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.”

WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun released the following statement: “Washington State University mourns the loss of Coach Mike Leach. We send our deepest condolences to Sharon and the entire Leach Family. Needless to say, there will never be another Mike Leach ever to walk this earth. He was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, football coach, teacher, lifelong learner, innovator, conversationalist and a pirate. WSU will forever be indebted to Coach Leach for the legacy he left with us in Pullman.”

WSU Men’s Basketball Coach Kyle Smith released the following statement: “I was lucky enough to have my career cross paths with Coach Leach. He was always helpful and always had an encouraging word for me transitioning to Wazzu. Sometimes it was a food recommendation and other times it was a good out of bounds play. He enjoyed coaching and was not afraid of competition. I told him I read ‘Swing Your Sword’ and he inspired me to make the jump to Pullman. I doubt he believed me, but it was the truth. Rest in peace.”

Jason Puckett, a WSU alum and co-host of ‘Puck & Jim’ on 93.3 KJR Sports Radio said Leah was “the best hire the school ever made.” Adding, “Probably going to be the best signing ever because of where the state of Cougar football was at that moment. He was the perfect personality for that school. He made them relevant again. It was a long time since that football team had been relevant.”

Puckett’s co-host, Jim Moore, a WSU alum too, remembers WSU being “in the dumps. We were horrible. Then Mike Leach got there, and we were not only relevant in the Pac-12, but we were relevant on a national scale, too. He was always genuine. He was always authentic. Unique gets tossed around way too much, but it applies to Mike Leach because he was a different kind of guy.”

University officials said Sunday that Leach had a “personal health issue at his home” that prompted him to be taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Officials did not elaborate on the nature of the issue, although the Clarion Ledger on Monday reported that Leach had suffered “a massive heart attack.”

In his 21 years as head coach, Leach led teams to 19 bowl games and captured two conference division titles, according to Mississippi State officials. He had an overall 158-107 record.

“College football lost one of its most beloved figures today, but his legacy will last forever,” MSU interim athletics director Bracky Brett said.

“Mike’s energetic personality, influential presence and extraordinary leadership touched millions of athletes, students, coaches, fans, family and friends for decades. Mike was an innovator, pioneer and visionary. He was a college football icon, a coaching legend but an even better person. We are all better for having known Mike Leach.”

Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their children, Janeen, Kimberly, Cody and Kiersten.