FROM SEATTLE -- Yes, Seattle. We were driving when an email popped into our inbox announcing the official hires of Mike Leach's assistant coaches. And then wrote this story from the front seat of our Honda Civic while parked on Elliott Avenue. There are no surprises among the names, but read on for our unedited story on the announcement.
At long last, the hires of Washington State’s assistant football coaches are official.
There were no surprises among the 11 names released by the school late Friday afternoon, as all of them have been previously connected to WSU through media reports, and some have been working out of their offices in Pullman and on the road recruiting for weeks.
The assistants (and their official positions) are: Dave Emerick (chief of staff), Mike Breske (defensive coordinator/defensive backs), Jeff Choate (linebackers), Jim Mastro (running backs), Clay McGuire (offensive line), Eric Morris (inside receivers), Eric Russell (assistant head coach/special teams coordinator), Joe Salave’a (defensive line), Dennis Simmons (outside receivers), Paul Volero (outside linebackers), Antonio Huffman (director of football operations).
"This group of assistant coaches is hard working and one that I have a high level of comfort with,” Leach said in a statement released by the school. “Each one has had success at a high level and brings a tremendous passion to Washington State. Having worked with many of them previously, the communication element is already in place, they understand my vision and this will be a staff that works well together.”
Breske’s reported hire late last week received the most attention of any of Leach’s new additions. Breske spent the previous two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Montana after a one-year stay at North Dakota State, and a six-year stint as the coordinator at Wyoming prior to that. His first season as a defensive coordinator was 1983 (Wayne State), and his 2010 squad at Montana ranked 10th in the Football Championship Subdivision in total defense.
Seven of Leach’s hires – Emerick, Mastro, McGuire, Morris, Russell, Simmons and Huffman – have been in the same program as Leach at some point throughout the head coach’s career. All of those listed in the previous sentence except Mastro coached under Leach at Texas Tech.
Russell, who spent the previous two seasons at Tennessee, and Choate, who spent the previous six seasons at Boise State, are both natives of St. Maries, Idaho.
Emerick and Salave’a both come to WSU from Arizona. Mastro coached at UCLA last season. McGuire, Simmons and Huffman coached together at East Carolina last year before joining Leach in Pullman. Volero’s last collegiate stop was at Central Michigan in 2009, when he coached defensive linemen. Morris spent the past two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant at Houston.
Leach officially became WSU’s head coach on Dec. 1, and said early on that he wanted to wait until his staff was complete to make a formal announcement.