Mike Leach's next job is right around some corner, because that's how these things work. Once he learns that there was something not quite right about him playing Strother Martin to Adam James' Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, he'll be hired again and by a high-profile program.
Why, you howl in mock outrage? Because Leach won games and made money for his partners, to steal from yet another movie.
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But before we go all Pauline Kael here, let's move to the next part of the plan. Leach gets his next job, and promptly hires Mark Mangino, just to show the fully barbed nature of his sense of humor.
You see, Leach's best sales point is not his willingness to throw the football 75 times a game, it is his extreme contrarian nature. He will, when confronted by a sensible solution to a problem, choose willfully instead to pick as many fights as he can manage simultaneously.
In this case, he was fighting to coach Texas Tech one last time before he was fired Wednesday afternoon. He was perhaps fighting to get that $800,000 bonus he was due to receive for coaching that game, the relatively pointless Alamo Bowl. But mostly, he was fighting because it is his nature to start a scrap. He is America's Provocateur, all the way down to the eyepatch-and-pegleg fetish.
So he has to hire Mangino, even if it works no better than Mike Singletary and Mike Martz did last year. Leach should even offer a job to Lane Kiffin, another glorious smack-talker, though we doubt he'd leave Tennessee to become a quality control coach, especially after having outlasted Urban Meyer.
Point is, Leach has to try. He has to take every opportunity to find every other third rail in college coaching and make the Coaching Staff Of The Future. The come-on is obvious: "If You Can Play For Us, Ain't Nobody Gonna Mess With You Ever In Life."
Now we don't know all the details of the Adam James story, except to say that this is shaping up nicely as one of those tales in which everyone looks small and venal. We absolutely believe every charge made by every one of the principals because seemingly conflicting stories can be equally true, because every charge seems eminently plausible, and also because it amuses us to do so.
But we know pretty much how it ends. Leach ends up leaving Lubbock, probably suing the school and athletic director Gerald Myers, who has to fight off angry fans and donors to save his job. Craig James, the ESPN analyst who sired young Adam and either did or did not take an unusually active role in the observation of his son's career, ends up looking like the sports parent from purgatory, spending too much free time trying to walk the boy through his college career. Adam James ends up freaking out lots of potential new coaches, either because of his dad, the distractions or his concussion history.
Yeah, sounds like a winner all around.
But back to Leach, because he's the one who will end up on his feet, college football being only slightly more amoral an industry than extortion. His next job will come with great fanfare, some protests, and with him running his first news conference like a cross between Blackbeard, George S. Patton and Larry the Cable Guy. He will even do a half-hour of improv on the difference between a garage and a shed if you'd like.
And then he has to bring out Mangino with a smile and an "It ain't just me, folks."
And it'll work, guaranteed. Because while Comrade Dodd asks the philosophical question, "What constitutes too much?" we know the answer is, "Depends on the coach, depends on the kid, depends on the record, depends on whether the AD wants to hire someone new."
If the coach has, say, Meyer's leverage, the kid can be sentenced to a full summer of cutting open bear carcasses with a butter knife and people will say it's character-building. If it's a coach who hasn't been in a BCS game, the kid can be given a birthday party at an Apple outlet and people will say it's cruel and unusual and a sign that the coach has no morals, perspective or understanding of young men's priorities or needs.
Leach was fired for being Leach, which one supposes can be considered the same as being fired for cause, but it doesn't mean he won't be Leach in his next job.
The only question to be answered is, just how Leachy Leach wants to be. I say he calls Mark Mangino with an offer and establishes a tone right away.
And his next athletic director can't say he wasn't warned.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.