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PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State head coach Mike Leach was winding down in his office after football practice this week when a reporter posed questions about a number of potentially squeamish subjects, including North Korean nukes and the Bible.

Almost any other major-college football coach likely would dodge and deflect. But this is Leach, the eccentric college football disruptor who has a law degree and has authored a book about Geronimo, the great Apache warrior.

Here are his random answers to random questions — about what he thinks happens to people after they die, his future in the NFL (or not) and that picture on his wall of him with President Trump. The interview is edited for clarity and brevity:

What about North Korea?

“The answer lies in China,” Leach said, meaning the Chinese must play a big role in taming their neighbor’s threats of missile attacks against the United States. He said the international community let the North Korea problem fester for decades because it was easier to just not deal with it. “The whole world wanted to go about their life, and live a happy life, and tend to their families and things like that. But that doesn’t change the fact the garbage is accumulating in the garage.”


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What one thing would you change about college football?

“The (NCAA) rules committee could only meet once every five years,” said Leach, whose team opens the season at home against Montana State Sept. 2. “We keep tinkering with the product, and we have these screwdriver adjustments that everybody has to adjust to, and it’s really frustrating. If there’s an emergency thing, fine, you can convene on something. We have too many knee-jerk reactions. If you get placed on a committee, you have too many people thinking `I have to do something. I have to make a difference.’ Well maybe the best difference is not doing anything because nothing needs to be fixed. Rather than create a ripple effect and put a wrench in the works, the best thing is to do nothing.”

What about more money for college players?

“I’m not against it as long as it’s the same (spending for schools). Don’t get in a bidding war. But this notion of making them professionals, well then what? You’re going to have a draft (for players)? If the walk-on player plays and you don’t (as the paid player), are we going to take your money and give it to him (the walk-on player)?

“Here’s what I’d love (in a professional-player culture): If you don’t go to class, all right fine, I’ll fine you. If you’re late, you get a fine. And the No. 1 running back in the country wants to go to all these big-name schools? Well guess what? Molly Putz has the first pick in the draft.”

When’s the last time you turned on a computer?

“Does my phone count?”

What about that desktop computer on your desk over there?

“Never. Not one time.”

Why not?

“I’m more interested in people than machines. Then as time went on, as I started working with younger people, virtually everyone in the room was better at it than I am. Why have the amateur do it? It’s a combination of lack of interest and the availability of better people to do it.”

How many times have you read the Bible? (Leach is a Mormon who went to Brigham Young but is known to enjoy coffee and tea. He also has been known to say not-so-holy words sometimes with his players.)

“Four. I read the entire Old Testament and New Testament. I’m on my fifth. Despite some of my bad habits along with those four times, I read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Yeah, I’ve got bad habits, and I’m sure I’ve got a red dot next my name.”

When and how do you do this?

Leach says he reads the King James version of the Bible chronologically and often reads it in church. He also says he reads about 10 pages the night before games and other times throughout the year. It’s not exactly light reading.

“I’m not going to tell you sometimes I’m not kind of pushing and forcing, thinking I’ll be glad when I get to the end of the 10 pages. It’s a shame to say that, but, you know.”

What do you get out of it?

“Really, I would describe it as kind of a relaxation, a calmness and clarity to your thoughts. There’s enough conflict to be aware of in the Bible, but then also, just kind of the biggest point of all, which is that there’s more to this, and life’s a process. You keep working through it, and there’s going to be ups and downs. And it’s not like `Oh goodie, I get a big reward at the end.’ I don’t view it that way. I think that when you die, you continue to progress. You continue to grow in kind of an elevated state, but I don’t think you sit there and wallow around and play the harp. I really don’t.”

Who’s the best football player of all time?

“I’m going to say Walter Payton,” the former Chicago Bears running back.

The best player you’ve ever coached?

“The best one is always the next guy, because you don’t know what’s going to come out of the next guy,” Leach said referring to the thrill of developing a player and watching his potential unfold.

Who is the best U.S. president in history?

“George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I’ve read quite a bit about George Washington. No. 1, there wouldn’t be a United States as we know it without George Washington. He never flinched, never varied from his vision of things.”

Who was the worst?

“OK, I’m comfortable in saying (Martin) Van Buren. How about that one?”


“Bureaucratic, narrow-minded, egomaniac.”

Do you think you’ll ever coach in the NFL? Leach is entering his sixth season at Washington State.

“I’m happy here. Never say never. Both are good. Both are fantastic. What’s fantastic here in college is it’s such an exciting time in a person’s life. What’s good about the NFL is it’s all football. What’s good about here is I get to make personnel decisions. I get to decide who plays, who doesn’t play, how practice is going to be.”

You know Donald Trump and appeared at a campaign event for him last year in Spokane. You have picture of you and him together in your office here.

When’s the last time you talked to him?

“It would have been at that campaign event.”

What do you think of his term so far?

“It’s still unfolding. There’s still going to be more sparks fly. It’s going to happen in both parties, too.”

Leach declined to get into detail about specific controversies. He said he respects Trump and wants a more dynamic federal legislature, whose members, he says, should have limited terms.

“What me and an awful lot of Americans wanted was something more dynamic,” he said of last year’s election. “The right and left wanted this, and that’s why this thing has shaped up in the fashion that it did.”

He’s also big supporter of free speech and wants better civil discourse in this country in general — in which it’s OK to attack ideas but not the people expressing those ideas.

“First of all, there needs to be mandatory civics classes. If you’re going to be educated in this country, you should be required to know and understand your government: how it’s set up, what your constitution says, what your rights are, how the government works and how to create and affect change. You should be required to study it. Freedom of speech should be wide open as long as it doesn’t incite violence.”

What’s your favorite TV show?


Do you like the eccentric TV show Twin Peaks. There’s an old version and a new one on Showtime.

“The old one’s good. The new one, I don’t like very much. His whole thing is like the dude’s on acid. I’ve seen some good episodes, but have your fast-forward ready. There are scenes where the guy just wanders.”

Is that a photo of Billy Martin (the late baseball manager) on your wall here?

“I loved Billy Martin. Growing up my favorite coach was Billy Martin. I started coaching baseball when I was 15. I had a picture of Bart Starr (the former Green Bay Packers quarterback) over my bed. My favorite player growing up was Bart Starr. Billy Martin was my guy. I’ve read almost everything on Billy Martin. His teams always overachieved.”