Former Washington State University football coach Mike Leach died Monday of complications from heart disease, Mississippi State University officials said in a statement Tuesday. He was 61 years old.
In a statement released by the university, Leach’s family remembers him as “a generous and caring husband, father and grandfather.”
“He was able to participate in organ donation at UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center) as the ultimate act of charity,” they said. “We are sustained and uplifted by the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, Mississippi State University, hospital staff and football fans around the world. Thank you for sharing the joy in the life of our beloved husband and father.
Leach was named Mississippi State’s chief footballer on January 9, 2020. He previously coached for 10 years at Texas Tech University and eight seasons at Washington State University.
“Coach Mike Leach has cast a tremendous shadow not only on Mississippi State University, but on the entire college football landscape,” MSU President Mark Keenum said in a statement.
“Mike’s sharp intellect and outspoken candor have made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, the Southeastern Conference, and all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s deep curiosity, honesty and open approach to the pursuit of excellence in all things.
WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun released the following statement: “Washington State University mourns the loss of Coach Mike Leach. We send our deepest condolences to Sharon and the entire Leach family. Needless to say, there will never be another Mike Leach on this earth. He was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, football coach, teacher, lifelong learner, innovator, conversationalist, and hacker. WSU will forever be indebted to Coach Leach for the legacy he left us at Pullman.
WSU Men’s Basketball Coach Kyle Smith released the following statement, “I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Coach Leach. He was always helpful and always had a word of encouragement for me as I transitioned to Wazzu. Sometimes it was a food recommendation and other times it was a good out of bounds game. He loved coaching and was not afraid of competition. I told him I had read “Swing Your Sword” and he inspired me to make the jump to Pullman. I doubt he believed me, but it was the truth. Rest in peace.”
Jason Puckett, a WSU alumnus and co-host of “Puck & Jim” on 93.3 KJR Sports Radio, said Leah was “the best recruit the school has ever made.” Adding: “It will probably be the best signing ever because of the state of Cougar football at that time. He was the perfect personality for this school. He made them relevant again. It had been a long time since this football team had been irrelevant.
Puckett co-host Jim Moore, also a WSU alum, recalled WSU being “in the dumps.” We were horrible. Then Mike Leach came along, and we weren’t just relevant in the Pac-12, but we were nationally relevant as well. He has always been genuine. He has always been genuine. Unique is way too shaken up, but that applies to Mike Leach because he was a different guy.
University officials said Sunday that Leach had a “personal health issue at home” that prompted him to be taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Officials did not elaborate on the nature of the problem, although the Clarion Ledger reported on Monday that Leach suffered “a massive heart attack.”
In his 21 years as a head coach, Leach led teams to 19 bowl games and won two conference division titles, according to Mississippi State officials. He had an overall record of 158-107.
“College football lost one of its most beloved figures today, but his legacy will last forever,” said MSU acting athletic director Bracky Brett.
“Mike’s energetic personality, influential presence and extraordinary leadership have touched millions of athletes, students, coaches, fans, families and friends for decades. Mike was an innovator, pioneer and visionary. He was a college football icon, a coaching legend, but an even better person. We’re all better off knowing Mike Leach.
Leach is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their children, Janeen, Kimberly, Cody and Kiersten.
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