Mike Leach called back the other day. The pirate had just finished his satellite radio show and was pondering a bike ride in Key West, Fla.
Key West is a long way from Lubbock, Texas. Literally, culturally and any other 'lly you can think of.
Oklahoma State plays at Texas Tech on Saturday, and for the first time since last century, one of our teams heads to the South Plains without Blackbeard awaiting.
Leach's offense terrorized the Big 12 for a full decade but was made to walk the plank last December, not for football crimes but for getting crossways with his superiors.
Leach and Tech are entangled in a lawsuit over compensation, so he can't talk much about his departure.
But Leach can talk football.
"We'll see what happens" Saturday, Leach said. "Texas Tech has more people back. But Oklahoma State's playing a little better right now."
Leach figures Tech is missing just five key players from his 2009 team, though the actual numbers reflect the Red Raiders lost four starters on offense and five on defense.
"They have more talent than the other Tech teams we had," Leach said, an apparent indictment of Tommy Tuberville's inaugural Tech season. Leach said his staff believed, even during the high-riding 2008 season, that the 2010 team "was going to be our best group."
Hasn't happened. Tech is 3-2, and while you can accuse Leach of unsportsmanlike conduct, recall that Tuberville has had a few choice comments about the Leach regime. So consider them all square.
Leach's former first mate, Dana Holgorsen, now directs the OSU offense.
Leach talked to a bunch of guys on headsets over the years. He talked to none more than he did Holgorsen. And, he says, none better.
"He does a real good job," Leach said. "He's the best I've had.
"He's a guy who's able to sift through volumes of stuff. Gets to what's important quickly."
Leach and Holgorsen hooked up at Iowa Wesleyan, where Leach was a low-paid offensive coach and Holgorsen a talent-challenged receiver.
"It's accurate to say he was a better basketball player than a football player," Leach said.
But Holgorsen's football acumen caught Leach's attention.
"He's really smart," Leach said. "Played the game from the neck up. We did a lot of different things because of his ability to adopt.
"Very calm under pressure. That's important to me, especially of a guy up top (in the pressbox). You gotta be calm under pressure. He was always very strong at that."
Leach visited Stillwater in the spring and came away impressed.
"What's exciting for him is Kendall Hunter and the receivers," Leach said. "They're big and fast. They're bigger than the ones we had at Tech. Probably faster."
Leach's first Tech offense, in 2000, was his worst. Holgorsen's first OSU offense is far ahead of those 2000 Red Raiders.
"It takes a little time," Leach said. "Tech was in the middle of probation when we got there.
"Oklahoma State's got a little better starting point; they've gone to a bunch of bowls. They've done some things over the years.
"The skill players at Oklahoma State are respected around the conference."
Leach's players weren't so much respected as feared. But now the pirate is calling games — North Carolina State at East Carolina on Saturday — instead of plays.
That won't last forever. Get this lawsuit behind him, and Leach plans to coach again.
"I figure I will," Leach said. "I enjoy what I'm doing now. It's fun. It's different. But by the same token, I'm ready to get back in."
Most everyone in college football who doesn't have to play Leach is ready for his return.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.