Monday, December 19, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part II

This is Part II of our interview with former Texas Tech -- and soon-to-be Washington State -- football coach Mike Leach. Part I can be found here.

Q: "Did you set up all your pirate gear in another location after leaving Tech?"

A: I kind of miss some if it, you know. The pirate thing started when Michael Lewis wrote the article on me in the New York Times magazine, which is worldwide. He talked about a speech. He interviewed several players who talked about a speech I gave where I had a museum replica sword. The gist of it is that we talked about pirates, mixed cultures, and demographics working together for one cause.

In football, your body is your sword. Pirates would sharpen their swords, take care of their swords, and were fully prepared for battle.

And in football, your body’s your sword depending on your weight shifts. To sharpen your skills, you run drills. You run play after play and execute what you can. So then, I start swinging the sword around the room.

So how are you going to swing your sword? You know, I put it over my head and kind of swung it tentatively.  Are you going to swing it like this because you’re afraid? You’ll get stabbed because you can’t see what’s going on, and you’re ineffective that way. Are you going to be frantic and not execute well? Are you going to swing it very aggressively where you’re exposed? Somebody that is controlled and calm and executes well kills you. Are you going to have good execution or are you going to swing it like this?

So, it got to be part of a model to swing your sword.  After that happened, I got pirate stuff from everywhere.  [Laughing.] You know, books, shirts, hats, eye patches, skull and crossbones. [Texas Tech basketball coach] Pat Knight gave me a six-foot tall skeleton dressed up as a pirate in pirate gear. You’d walk by it, and it had a motion sensor, and it would talk.  [Laughing.]

Oh, so this is hilarious. So our film room was right next door to my office. That skeleton was in my office. This cleaning lady would come in. She’d come into the office, and we’d be in the other room watching film, and she’d walk in, and the motion would make the thing go off. His eyes would flash, too. "Oy, matey! Who goes there!" and all this stuff, and you’d hear her start screaming in Spanish. [Laughing.]

And so I got a bunch of really cool pirate gear, costumes, flags start showing up at the stadium. The band got involved in a bunch of pirate stuff out there. I only saw the video of it because I was in the locker room at the time for halftime.

Now all that stuff is stored in storage in Lubbock because [...] it doesn’t all fit in [my house].

Q: "When you watch other teams playing and they do the same-old predictable thing (e.g., "establishing the run" on 1st down and, lucky if they gain yardage), do you sometimes feel like throwing heavy objects at the television? Will this ever change?"

A: Well, I don’t throw heavy objects. I’m not really, uh, I’m more of a guy who looks at the T.V. and analyzes while thoughts roll through. Some people explode, like my wife might throw stuff. [Laughing.] She’s like the most excited football fan ever. Nah, I really don’t.

I mean, they’re a different point of view. I guess part of it is I’ll look at what they do. You know, sometimes you see things that illustrate what not to do. I’m trying to constantly sort of shape my point of view at the velocity of things.

Somebody might do something and it will occur to me, "Well, they didn’t utilize the space well."  Or, you know, I need to make sure I don’t do that or fall in a rut. I might even look at a team that doesn’t do things well and see some little aspect and think, "Well, I could incorporate that." Then, the other thing is you see teams do things really effectively and really add some things where I’ve been kind of a, you know I could learn something here.

So, I just try to analyze it. I try to follow teams that I’m kind of excited about what they do scheme-wise.  You know, I don’t want to make football sound boring. It’s certainly not at any level, but I don’t really root for teams as much as I do kind of coaches, schemes that I am interested in, you know?

Coach Leach is also the author of "Swing Your Sword" and "Sports for Dorks".

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