Latest Leach rant hits all the classic notes of coach’s oeuvre

Washington State head coach Mike Leach looks on in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

The five words rolled so nimbly off Mike Leach’s tongue that I wondered if I were perhaps the last person on Earth to have heard the phrase. I thought maybe “Fat, Dumb, Happy and Entitled” was a popular Netflix series that had somehow eluded my notice.

But if you Google those five words, with or without quotation marks, and even if you alter their sequence, the first few dozen items you get are indeed about Mike Leach’s latest harangue. It was delivered with typical deadpan matter-of-factness Saturday night in Salt Lake City during a news conference after Washington State’s 38-13 loss to Utah.

Eventually your internet search will take you to “Fat, Dumb and Happy,” an apparently obscure 2014 movie directed by someone called Banks Helfrich. So I leave open the possibility that the filmmaker is a cousin of former Oregon Ducks coach Mark Helfrich, and the phrase “Fat, Dumb and Happy” is tossed about with great hilarity whenever proponents of spread offense gather for summer bashes at, say, Leach’s favorite hangout at Key West. Maybe the Pirate always chimes in with “Entitled,” because he’s even more dismayed than his younger colleagues are by certain perceived traits of millennial and post-millennial athletes.

But, uh, probably not. The phrase probably popped into Leach’s head at the spur of the moment, the same way “fat little girlfriends” did in 2009, the “zombies” analogy did in 2012 and the reference to a “JV softball team” did in 2016.

Hang on tight, folks. We’ve got another Wazzu team that doesn’t quite meet with Leach’s approval.

The 2019 Cougars are not only fat, dumb, happy and entitled, they are “soft” – he used the word six times in three minutes, possibly a personal record – they’re “a bunch of free agents running around” and they respond to adversity by pouting.

As Leach rants go, this one ranks high in a number of categories.

There’s consistency. With seemingly every response to questions, Leach alludes to at least one of the Cougar traits mentioned above.

There’s an imaginative quality. He tries to envision exactly how his players negated their “incredibly hard work” during the offseason by sitting around their apartments and “talking about how great we’re going to be” until it eventually morphs into “how easy it’s going to be.”

There’s analysis of Wazzu’s lamentable defense. And however his assistants on that side of the ball view his commentary, it surely rings true to fans: “I think we go out there and play street ball and do our own thing. I don’t think we listen to the call necessarily.”

There’s wild exaggeration — a staple of every Leach diatribe worth its salt. But there are also moments of psychological insight. Leach makes some genuinely valid points about self-pity, about the disconnect between how a person views himself at solipsistic moments and how others view him.

There’s also obtusely stated Leachian philosophy: “What somebody is, or who somebody is, is what they think when nobody’s around.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson might have worded it differently, but it’s an interesting thought.

Finally, there’s context. Leach notes quizzically that many of these Cougar softies were members of last year’s 11-2 team, which seemed happy but was decidedly not fat, dumb, entitled or soft.

When HBO anointed the Cougars as one of four Power Five programs to be featured this season in a new documentary series, “24/7 College Football,” the network probably thought it was getting those unsoft Cougars of 2018. Cameras will roll in Pullman for a week, culminating in a home game against Colorado on Oct. 19.

In a trailer for the series, Leach refers to a maxim that’s posted on the walls of WSU coaches’ offices, most prominently his own: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

With that in mind, there’s one other good quality about the latest Leach castigation. There’s a moment of accountability.

“Collectively, starting with me,” he said of Cougar coaches, “we failed to get through to them. We’ve all let them evolve into a soft team.”

Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

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