STARKVILLE – It is safe to say that Mike Leach was one of a kind.
An innovator and a visionary with his air raid offense.
But he was also one of the funniest men… let alone coaches… you could ever meet.
Leach will be missed.
Condolences have come flooding in since news of Leach’s death.
The 61-year-old coach was hospitalized Sunday, suffering a reported heart attack.
His final game coming on Thanksgiving night against his school’s biggest rival in a game that turned out to be the final win of his career, an Egg Bowl triumph against Lane Kiffin and the Rebels.
Kiffin Tuesday on his rival but more importantly, his friend.
“Tragic loss. Someone I was very close to. Awesome person. You know, I was thinking there’s not too many people that, when you meet them, no matter who you are, when you met Mike Leach, you remember meeting him because he left an impact on people,” Kiffin said. “It’s crazy to think just a couple of weeks ago hugging him and watching him walk off as a winner. Would have never thought it was his last game.”
Other coaches, like Memphis’ Ryan Silverfield and Tennessee’s Josh Heupel also paid their respects.
Leach was Heupel’s offensive coordinator at Oklahoma back in 1999.
John Cohen was the man who brought Leach to Starkville.
The former Mississippi State Athletic Director, now the AD at Auburn, calls Leach was of the most innovative offensive minds in college football.
“I think you can go back to a time in the nineties where the two offensive minds that really changed the game in college football are probably Steve Spurrier and, you’d have to say, Mike Leach,” Cohen said. “His innovation was fearless. It was progressive, it was intelligent. He’s somebody I’m personally going to miss because he was a great man who really cared about people.”
Despite the tragic death of its coach, Mississippi State will play in its upcoming bowl game in Tampa. The Bulldogs are set to play Illinois in the Reliaquest Bowl on January second.
Acting Athletic Director Bracky Brett telling ESPN, the players are 100-percent behind playing this bowl and doing what coach would expect them to do.
Defensive Coordinator Zach Arnett has been placed in charge of the program.