PULLMAN – So just what is Washington State getting in new football coach Mike Leach?
Who better to ask than the first hire for his football staff, David Emerick, whom Leach said will be chief of staff, basically making sure everything runs smoothly in the football office.
Emerick first crossed paths with Leach as a football operations intern when Leach was offensive coordinator at Kentucky, then joined Leach’s staff at Texas Tech, moving his way up to the chief of staff position. The past two years he’s worked in football operations for the recently fired Mike Stoops at Arizona.
That change opened the door for Emerick to move north.
“There is no better guy in the country to work for than Mike Leach,” Emerick said Tuesday following Leach’s introduction to the Washington State faithful. “It’s just such a fun environment to be around. He’s got such a great reputation of winning. It’s just fun, more than anything. You saw it in the press conference a little bit.
“Every day’s an adventure. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Leach has been known to use off-the-wall references to motivate his football team, the most well-known his reference to pirates in a pregame speech before a game early in his 10-year Texas Tech tenure. Thanks to a New York Times Magazine article, Leach said in his press conference, that “kind of took on a life of its own.”
But don’t let the pirate motif fool you. First and foremost, Leach is a football coach, one who was 84-43 in 10 years at Tech.
“He likes to get after it a little bit,” Emerick said, although Leach’s style is not the same as all coaches, from his spread-the-field, pass-first offense to the way he runs practices.
“It’ll be a little different,” Emerick said. “There won’t be full pads as much as there used to. Coach Leach likes to keep their legs fresh, that’s a big thing with him. But the defense is going to get after it. That’s the mentality he wants to bring in and continue here.”
Just getting back into coaching after a two-year hiatus would probably be enough to make Leach smile, but Emerick knows that he’s been thinking about Washington State for a while.
“I haven’t seen Coach Leach this happy in a long time,” he said. “He’s genuinely excited. There were some other places he could have been, and he was the one who wanted to come to Washington State. We talked about a lot of jobs that opened up and I said, ‘What about this job, what about this job, what about this job?” and he would always come back to Washington State.
“This is the place he wanted to be. This is a place where he thinks he can win. With all the commitment to the facilities and everything else, I think it’s a great time to be here.”
The players are excited to have him. They met with Leach for the first time in the early afternoon.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a lot of victories in Pullman,” said defensive end Travis Long, who will be a senior next season and has been following WSU football for years. “I just want to win. That’s all it is, I just want to win. If these changes can help us win, then I’m all for it.”
The Cougars, 4-8 last season, seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough. At least that’s how it was perceived at Emerick’s last job.
“They’re on the right track, they have good players,” he said. “It’s a deal where there are a lot of young guys coming back, so everyone throughout Arizona, anyway, thought Washington State, now, compared to Washington State four years ago, it’s not even close.
“There’s some talent out there and I think they’re close to being a really good team in the Pac-12.”
They better be.
“He won’t accept that they can’t win,” Emerick said of Leach. “That’s not (the way its been) anywhere he’s ever been. He’s always won. It’s just not an option to lose.”