One of my favorite pieces of sports writing was Michael Lewis' 2005 profile of Mike Leach for the New York Times Magazine. It's a fascinating portrait of a fascinating figure. People like Mike Leach--complex, thoughtful, funny and weird--are who make sports fun. But most of all, more than any characteristics that made him a great subject for a 10,000 word magazine profile, you got the feeling that the man was, in some way, at least, a truly special mind. Against landscape littered with banal coaches and coaching styles, he seemed brilliant.
But maybe he's just another bully.
That little rant (seen in full here) seemed out of character, sure, but it was just good-humored enough to be considered okay. Maybe he'd just had a rough day, and that's why he sounded like every other a--hole coach that's ever mistaken a podium for a pulpit. With his inventive offense and charming pirate pep talks, he'd earned the benefit of the doubt.
But this? If the allegations are true, Mike Leach is about to suffer a serious hit to his reputation, and it'll most likely cost him his job. And if true, it probably should. At a time when the media's already on high alert about bullying college football coaches, he's gone and locked a player in a closet. Oh, and the reason? Apparently, it was because the player was reluctant to return prematurely after he'd suffered a concussion. Literally, the only thing that has the media on higher alert than coaching abuse is coaches pressuring players to downplay concussions.
And the player in question is reportedly the son of ESPN announcer Craig James? Is this like, an elabroate, Pete Carroll-type practical joke? The only way this could be more disastrous for Leach would be if he'd ordered the player into the closet because of a concussion AND issues with his sexuality. I mean, jeez. Maybe he was just trying to get fired? It makes no sense.
For now, it's still too early to condemn Leach or call for his job, but it certainly looks bad.