Then Leach split from Mumme and joined Bob Stoops' staff at Oklahoma in 1999. He was there just a year before Texas Tech hired him.
In wind-swept west Texas, Leach went 84-43 and his teams went to 10 straight bowl games. One year, Tech scored 70 on Texas Christian and did it again three weeks later against Nebraska. The Raiders put up astronomical numbers, using what Mumme said is a spread offense heavy on BYU accent but with elements of the run-and-shoot, in which receivers and quarterbacks have options depending on the defense.
A few years ago, a coach at Fairfax High in Virginia named Larry Basalyga liked what Oklahoma was doing offensively, so he took a trip to the school's spring coaching clinic and spent time with Josh Heupel, the OU assistant whom Leach had helped coach. He prodded Heupel for more detail, and Heupel finally said, "You need to go to Lubbock."
So Basalyga did, in 2007 and 2008.
"Mike would answer any question you had," Basalyga said. "We sat there all night. He's just a very genuine person."
As Leach's career flowered at Tech, so did his reputation as somebody not interested only in football. He writes that he has read some 20 books on pirates. A 2005 New York Times Magazine piece on him noted that some offseasons, he'll fixate on one subject — whales, chimpanzees — and flesh it out thoroughly.
It was in a 2003 team meeting that he exhorted the Red Raiders to "swing your sword." Drawing on a pirate theme, Leach said they viewed swords like football players prize their bodies, and they needed to use them to their most efficient, ruthless best.
But Leach isn't for everybody. In 2008, he began to have a falling-out with Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance over a new contract, and it was that season when he was known to be exploring other jobs, including the vacancy when Tyrone Willingham was fired at Washington.
He signed a new contract in February 2009, but it did little to ease tensions. And Leach maintains that an $800,000 bonus due on the last day of 2009 was the underlying reason for his firing late that year, allegedly for mistreating player Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, by directing him to an equipment shed to treat a concussion during practice.
Leach sued Texas Tech, ESPN and a PR firm hired by James over the matter, and his book includes emails and deposition testimony backing his case.
Mumme recalled a recruiting trip he and Leach took long ago. Mumme said idly, "You know, there's some jobs coming open; I should try to get a bigger one. I think The Citadel's open."
Leach looked at Mumme.
"I don't want to play Army," he said whimsically. "I want to play pirate."
Mike Leach — the Pirate of the Palouse? The Bohler Buccaneer? — is coming to Pullman. Batten down the hatches.