Canzano: Thoughts on Mike Leach -- and what he'd want right now
Football coach in critical condition.
Mike Leach had trouble sleeping late Saturday night. Before he drifted off on the sofa at his home in Mississippi, he sent some text messages to friends.
Leach is 61.
He’s now in critical condition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He was airlifted there Sunday. It’s been reported that the Mississippi State football coach suffered “a massive heart attack.” That may or may not be true. His family isn’t even certain of that yet, I’m told. But I do know that Leach has been suffering from heart failure for a while.
Fluid around his heart.
Fluid around his lungs.
He’s battled pneumonia this season, too. You may have noticed, Leach has had a persistent, hacking cough.
I’m told that Leach didn’t exactly collapse at his home, as some reported. He’s not dead, as others have indicated on social media. The football coach was found on the sofa, unresponsive, after what some think was 10-15 minutes. EMTs showed up and did their jobs. Doctors then worked all day Sunday to sedate Leach, stabilize him, and are now beginning to assess his condition.
Does it sound bad?
Very much so. But as one member of his inner circle said late Sunday night: “He’s still with us.”
I’ve interviewed Leach dozens of times, on and off the record. Our conversations often drifted to aliens, cowboys, Ernest Hemingway and dinosaurs. I’m sure they weren’t that different from the ones the football coach had with other reporters who covered his team daily.
When Leach was coach at Washington State, he often called into my radio show. Most of the time he was multi-tasking. I offered up questions as the coach walked to campus, or rode his bicycle, or pumped gasoline and dropped into a campus coffee shop for a beverage.
Leach stopped to make small talk with the barista.
“How’s it goin’?”
The rest of us eavesdropped.
During an election a few years ago, I asked Leach if he’d want to be President of the United States.
Leach said: “The hardest thing about that job is getting that job. It’s like my job, everybody sitting at home thinks they want my job. You know? That’s also a job, like my job, that everybody thinks they know how to do that job better than the guy who has it.”
One of my favorite conversations with the coach came one night several years ago when he dialed me up to ask “What’s the best pizza spot in Portland?”
He was visiting one of his daughters, who happened to live in Vancouver at the time. Leach was in town and wanted to take her on a daddy-daughter date. I have three daughters myself. We ended up discussing the similarities between parenting and coaching.
Said Leach: “With both things, seems to me, you gotta be present and genuine. Kids can sniff out a fake a mile away.”
When I launched this independent writing endeavor, Leach was one of the first people to reach out and wish me luck. He encouraged me to continue to write about the Pac-12 Conference, among other things, and go where the stories took me.
He texted: “You unfiltered will be outstanding!”
Leach is opinionated. He is polarizing and contrarian. His act isn’t for everyone. But I appreciate his willingness to authentically talk about anything, anytime, anywhere. He also cares deeply about his colleagues and the kids they coach.
That’s scary stuff. But let’s pump the brakes on the rush to be first to report the news of Mike Leach’s condition and instead focus on what Leach would want right now — a thoughtful, engaging, honest conversation.
Look your spouse in the eyes.
Hug your children.
Text your best friend.
I don’t know what is going to happen to Mike Leach. The next 12-24 hours feel critical. I’m praying for him and his family. Doctors are evaluating his condition and will soon have some answers. But it’s Leach I want to interview on the subject someday.
It’s his voice I’d like to hear again.
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What always draws me in John, is your empathy. I am very impressed in that part of you. I know you are a lightning rod for some. Quite honestly, I dont get that. A great writer, and empath. I think it would be great to have lunch with someone like you one day. Merry Christmas John, to you and your family!
Thank you for giving us this update. This is devastating. Prayers to Mike Leach and his family for strength through this ordeal and a full recovery.