Mike Leach is fighting to clear his name and working to rebuild his reputation.
In the process, he's hurting his chances of coaching football again.
There's no way around that fact. None. He is suing his former employer, Texas Tech. He is suing sports' biggest media conglomerate, ESPN. And now, he is telling his no-punches-pulled, no-holds-barred story in a new book, “Swing Your Sword.”
Stuff like that doesn't endear potential employers. Leach knows it, too.
“It's had a chilling effect,” he admitted.
“I don't know what my alternatives are really.”
Some coaches might've gone quietly about their business after being fired amid scuttlebutt and scandal. They might've shrugged off the suspicion they were targeted by a jealous chancellor. They might've turned a blind eye toward the evidence they were smeared by a resentful parent.
Leach couldn't do that.
“When you consider that I've been the victim of being smeared nationally, if I leave it out there, there's a presumption that it's true,” said the candid coach, who will sign copies of his book Saturday in Oklahoma City. “If I clear my name, then it's like, ‘Oh, you made ESPN mad,' which I'm not sure that's a world any of us really want to live in.
“So, when you're at that fork in the road, what's the right thing, what's not the right thing?”
“The right thing, obviously, is to tell the truth.”
That's what Leach hoped to do with his book. He started thinking about writing a memoir after the 2008 season. It was going to be about his background, his influences and his path into coaching.
Then, the path went off a cliff. In Dec. 2009, Leach was suspended amid allegations of player mistreatment and rumors of infighting between the coach and some university officials. When Leach fought back and hired an attorney to challenge the suspension, Texas Tech fired him.
He suddenly had a new chapter or six to add to his book.
“The aftermath at Tech, I didn't want to leave that hanging out there,” Leach said. “It would be conspicuous if it wasn't there.
“I'm not a guy that really hides stuff.”
In the book, Leach describes Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance, for example, as a guy who “loved the microphone” and who “could get jealous of others getting the spotlight.”
“As a coach, you understand that politics are a part of the job,” he writes, “but I was surprised at the level of ruthlessness, and at the lying, just for the sake of obtaining power at Texas Tech. The pettiness and the pointlessness of it was shocking.”
That sort of openness makes for a great book but makes for trouble when you're an unemployed college football coach.
What university leader wants to hire a guy who's so open in his criticism?
Leach is also fighting the perception that he mistreated players, most notably Adam James, son of ESPN analyst and former NFL running back Craig James. He writes at length in the book about that, but as a man with a law degree, Leach takes an evidence-based approach. He uses subpoenaed email exchanges and sworn court depositions.
“I think what makes that section really powerful is, it's not my words,” Leach said. “It's all in their words. There's an appendix there that includes the actual documents.”
Clearly, the way that his time at Texas Tech ended hasn't turned Red Raider fans against him. His book signing in Lubbock sold out the day before. He signed 1,200 pre-sold books and would've signed more if there had been any more in town.
In Dallas a week later, he signed 2,000 books.
“Sold more books than Sarah Palin and just a few less than Ozzy Osbourne,” Leach said.
The Pirate always keeps interesting company, doesn't he?
But when will he be hanging with a football team again? When will he be sending out six wide receivers and spreading the offensive line from hash to hash and causing ulcers for defensive coordinators? When will he be back invigorating college football?
Leach is ready to start anytime, but college football has been through two major hiring phases since he was fired.
Still, Leach is unemployed, cooling his heels in Key West.
“You look at the coaches who've been hired, and they're good coaches and fine people,” he said, “but they don't bring as much to the table as I do.”
He rattled off a laundry list of talking points, everything from winning percentages and bowl appearances to graduation rates and increased revenue.
But from the look of things, these court cases will have to be settled before anyone even takes a serious look at Leach, much less offers him a job. Will that be next year? Will that be longer? It's impossible to know.
Leach knows he could speed his return to the sidelines. Drop the lawsuits. Calm the waters. Put the focus on his future instead of his past.
“I can't pretend it didn't happen,” he said. “I'm not going to validate a lie and pretend that.
“But when it comes to coaching, my body of work speaks for itself.”
Right now, whatever it's saying is unfortunately being drowned out.
Mike Leach Book Signing When: 1 p.m. Saturday Where: Barnes & Noble, 6100 N. May Ave. Former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach will sign his recently released book, “Swing Your Sword.” The book will debut at No. 6 on the New York Times best sellers list next week in the hardback advice and miscellaneous category.