Long Live The Pirate: Mike Leach Leaves An Umatched Legacy
STARKVILLE, Miss. – “Alright, I’m not a big opening statement guy and plus you guys are going to ask whatever you wanna know anyway, so let’s just go ahead and get started, are there any questions?”
These were the opening words from Mike Leach at his first-ever SEC Media Days press conference.
Mike Leach was a legend way before this moment, but this is when I knew him coming to the SEC was going to be everything I had hoped for and more.
I still use this tactic when doing any public speaking engagements. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/HqjLBW6PKY
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) December 13, 2022
“The Pirate,” as he was affectionately known by the college football community, had been hired by Mississippi State following stints at Texas Tech and Washington State, where he went 139-90 between the two programs.
Those opening words let everyone know that the SEC had just become even more fun — and it was also when the Egg Bowl took on an entirely different life with Leach at the helm of the Bulldogs and Lane Kiffin up the road in Oxford.
Mike Leach was truly one of a kind.
His press conferences rarely stayed on topic, frequently venturing into the territory of candy, marriage, and even Sasquatch.
Mike Leach’s wedding advice.
R.I.P. to a true king.pic.twitter.com/51ngMP31HU
— Jerry Christmas 🎅🏼🎄 (@JerryDunleavy) December 13, 2022
Mike Leach was in peak form on a Pac-12 mascot battle.
Do Sun Devils have mythical powers? And if a Ute has a rifle, there's some definite problems. pic.twitter.com/FCE96RXawe
— Alyssa Charlston (@Alyssacharlston) September 16, 2019
Perhaps just as notable as his press conferences were his on-field moments. He never missed an opportunity to give viewers an amazing sound byte.
No football coach has stronger opinions on weddings than Mike Leach
After we talked about the win, I got some advice straight from the source..
Coach Leach, big elopement guy 😂
Hi @TampaBayTre pic.twitter.com/C9pvrFsm0t
— Alyssa Lang (@AlyssaLang) October 2, 2022
"Coffee tastes terrible anyway… just put it down one sip at a time."
Your weekly life advice from @Coach_Leach 😂 @MartySmithESPN pic.twitter.com/oCC1IoNIhZ
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 8, 2022
The content we all need. Mike Leach talking about candy. pic.twitter.com/y6H42hMhJe
— Matt Burns (@Burnsy381) October 23, 2021
But the most memorable thing about Coach Leach was his impact on those around him. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather. He had a passion for education which he passed on to his players. Mississippi State players excelled academically under Leach.
And despite his quick wit, he was always ready with inspiration as well.
“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.“
State head coach Mike Leach
That is perhaps the single most important and memorable statement I ever heard from Mike Leach. Going through a struggle with a serious accident and injuries, for me, personally, that quote reminded me to keep pressing forward — to never quit fighting.
And because of that motivation, I am stronger today than I was then. I have no doubt that Leach, despite being well-known for being the ‘funny guy,’ was truly a builder and leader of the men he coached. And not just those he coached, but those involved with the program in other ways.
Tons of funny Mike Leach videos. But this moment is the best.
Look at the joy he brought. pic.twitter.com/BvhVRXrGQQ
— Jake Query (@jakequery) December 13, 2022
The suddenness of Leach’s passing is a sobering reminder of how fleeting life is, but it is also a touching reminder to make a positive impact on those around you while you are here.
Leach is no doubt leading an Air Raid football attack in Heaven now and offering his opinions on what candy is best.
Rest in peace, Coach Leach. May we all be blessed enough to be remembered as fondly as you have been. I hope to make even half the impact that you made. When I get to Heaven one day, if they have Haribo gummy bears, I’ll be sure to share some with you.
Long live The Pirate.
There will never be another one quite like Mike Leach.
A true college football original. pic.twitter.com/ZnpJwMXT2q
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 13, 2022
Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.